There has been a lot of Disney Vacation Club developments in the last couple of weeks, so we thought we’d cover the latest stories from Walt Disney World and Disneyland in this DVC news round-up. In this post we’ll cover progress on the next resort, status of Moonlight Magic, Imagination Lounge’s return, sales & ROFR trends, and more.
Let’s start with Moonlight Magic. In an unsurprising move given that Villains After Hours, Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, and virtually ever other special event has been cancelled at Walt Disney World, DVC has followed suit and done the same. All Moonlight Magic events scheduled for the remainder of 2020 have been cancelled by Disney Vacation Club.
This year’s Moonlight Magic events had already occurred at Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom prior to the closure (you can read our report from the latter in “Our ‘Last’ Night in Magic Kingdom“), with Disney’s Hollywood Studios slated to host in September and October. Normally, the Moonlight Magic schedule for the following year is released in the fall–2020’s dropped in October of last year. While we’re hopeful that the event will return in 2021, we don’t expect dates to be released this calendar year…
On a positive note, the Disney Vacation Club member lounge has reopened in Epcot. Located above Journey into Imagination in the old upstairs ImageWorks, this is one of our favorite spots in all of Walt Disney World. It brings back a lot of great memories, and we normally spend a decent amount of time up here.
That hasn’t been the case since Walt Disney World reopened, both because it’s an enclosed indoor space and the wait times have been long–among the longest for anything in any park. While Walt Disney World attendance is down considerably for obvious reasons, DVC members are a major exception to this (and even that’s only partially true). That plus reduced capacity due to physical distancing plus the miserable summer weather explains wait times at the Imagination Lounge.
Out of curiosity, we’ve checked in with the DVC lounge podium several different times, and the wait has usually been prohibitive. Finally, on a random weekday afternoon there was no wait, so we opted to head upstairs. Not only did we want to check out what had changed, but we’re hopelessly addicted to caffeine and strongly prefer it in “free” form.
Upon entering the lounge, a Cast Member seated us in the far corner between the stairs and Coke Freestyle machines. Not an ideal location in normal times, but perfect given the circumstances. The seating has been rearranged into physically distanced tables able to accommodate a variety of party sizes. I’m not sure what the modified capacity is, but in eyeballing it, I’d say slightly less than half of the norm.
Cast Members are circulating to clean tables, remind guests to wear their masks (and, presumably, their shoes), arrange tours, and more. Snack service is not presently available, which is a big bummer since that’s normally how we recoup our annual dues. Coffee is also unavailable right now, but fortunately, Coke Freestyle is. It works slightly differently, with a Cast Member stationed at the machines, getting drinks for guests.
We grabbed a couple of vanilla cherry Cokes (the best Freestyle drink and that’s not up for debate), and quickly bounced. Anecdotally, we’ve found the longest waits for the Imagination Lounge to be in the early afternoon and on weekends. The closer to 6 pm you go, the shorter (or non-existent) the wait.
Let’s jump over to California, where the New Disney Vacation Club Tower at Disneyland Hotel inches forward and is likely to be the next proposed DVC property that’s actually built. The City of Anaheim Planning Commission approved the conditional use permit, site plan, and parcel map for the project. The package now has been sent with the recommendation for approval to the Anaheim City Council, which will almost certainly rubber stamp it.
Prior to this meeting, a 198-page info packet about the Disneyland Hotel DVC tower was uploaded to the City of Anaheim’s website. We’ve only skimmed this, but there were some interesting revelations. First, that 253 of the tower’s 350 rooms will be Deluxe Studios and 38 will be Pod (or Tower) Studios. Second, neither of these studios will have balconies (unsurprising given the normal rooms at Disneyland Hotel and the concept art). Finally, that there will be an inkblot Mickey Mouse styled pool and interactive water feature.
I think the proposed tower looks boring and generic, but it’s not as if Disneyland Hotel is the paragon of themed design. This is essentially an upmarket mixed use development you’d see in Orange County or Los Angeles–superficially aesthetically appealing, but not creatively uninspired. Aside from the Mickey Mouse pool, not a whole lot distinguishes this from something like the proposed ocV!BE project that’ll be built around the Honda Center.
Nevertheless, another Disney Vacation Club property at Disneyland Resort is a no-brainer, slam-dunk concept. The Grand Californian Villas are the most difficult to book resort, and also the most costly via resale. There’s a ton of unsatisfied demand for another California DVC property, and by the time this goes on sale, the economy will have (hopefully) fully recovered.
Finally, the latest on the Disney Vacation Club transactions. As reported by our friends over at DVC Resale Market, Disney had not used right of first refusal (ROFR) on any contracts since March on over 1,200 sales. That is, until last week, when Disney once again began exercising ROFR.
For those unfamiliar with the term, right of first refusal is the option Disney Vacation Club has to step into the shoes of the buyer and purchase the property themselves at the terms agreed upon by the seller and original buyer. Disney can elect to purchase (or not) during a review of every pending DVC transaction.
There are a few plausible reasons why Disney would exercise ROFR despite direct sales being anemic the last several months and the future outlook not being great. First, it potentially stabilizes the resale market, sending a message to potential buyers and sellers that transactions will actually be scrutinized going forward.
There is some value it sending this signal, even if it’s fairly hollow. It might discourage some buyers from going the resale route and could prop up prices to a degree. However, if the bottom is going to drop out of DVC resale prices, it’s unlikely that Disney has the ability or appetite to buy back enough to make a meaningful difference.
Second, right of first refusal gives Disney Vacation Club guides options for sales at Walt Disney World outside of Riviera Resort. With all of the modifications to everything, DVC tours right now are commonly occurring wherever guests are staying.
If someone falls in love with Bay Lake Tower or Villas at Grand Floridian and the idea of being within walking distance of Magic Kingdom (soon!), it may not be an easy pivot for guides to instead pitch Disney’s Riviera Resort. (I’m biased as a Riviera Resort-hater, but I’d like to think that the legacy resorts are also easier sales.) Disney has a waitlist and no points at some of these properties, necessitating ROFR in order to make a sale.
While selling points at newly-constructed resorts is a more lucrative (and higher margin) option than exercising ROFR and reselling those points, something is better than nothing. At a time when Disney Vacation Club might be a tougher sell in general, Disney is likely looking to take what it can get.
This ROFR route is a viable near-term sales strategy, and one with less downside risk. Plus, with Reflections – A Disney Lakeside Lodge almost certainly cancelled, there’s nothing in the pipeline for newly-constructed resorts at Walt Disney World after Riviera Resort sells out, anyway.
My view is that Disney’s resumption of ROFR is driven more by the second point than the first. Think of Disney Vacation Club like a hyena: the ultimate opportunist. They’ll hunt or scavenge as the circumstances dictate–whatever is most efficient. At present, it’s efficient to exercise ROFR for a specific purpose–having inventory for motivated but picky buyers.
It’s inefficient to buy back otherwise random contracts to send a message to the market. It’s also inefficient to build more resorts in Walt Disney World with so much uncertainty–in terms of the economy, Riviera Resort’s popularity/sales going forward, buyer perception, marketing, tours, and more. (Disneyland is a different beast–that tower will sell itself.)
With that said, I’ll admit that my perspective here is colored by my strong belief that a ‘correction’ is in order. (I’m also very pessimistic about the state of the economic recovery, in general–a lot is being propped up right now.) While average resale prices have been rising for the last couple of months, I do not anticipate this trend continuing unabated. To the contrary, I think there will be a lag before the brunt of the recession and new travel landscape has a significant impact on Disney Vacation Club.
This is a topic addressed at length in last month’s Disney Vacation Club Deals…And Why You Should Wait post. We are interested in adding on, but won’t be looking at resale listings until February 2021 at the absolute earliest. My personal expectation is that’s around the time when there will be more clarity–both in terms of price trajectory and how DVC’s Point Pool Problem will play out. The latter has become an even bigger issue since that post, as DVC occupancy rates remain low for the rest of 2020, even with the resorts now open.
Thinking about joining DVC? First be sure to read our Ultimate Guide to Disney Vacation Club. This covers the pros & cons, resale v. direct, how much money you’ll save, and other important things to know before taking the plunge. If you still can’t decide whether membership is right for you, “try before you buy” and rent points from DVC Rental Store. If you are convinced a membership is for you, check out the discounted options at DVC Resale Market. Planning a Walt Disney World trip? For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know.
Have you been to the Imagination Lounge since Epcot reopened? If so, how long did you wait? Excited for the DVC Tower at Disneyland Hotel, or does it look too uninspired for your tastes? Thoughts on DVC exercising ROFR again? Predictions about resale market prices? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? If you’re an existing Member, what do you think about all of this news? If you’re not a member, are you planning on joining soon, or holding off? Share any questions, tips, or additional thoughts you have in the comments!