It may seem like Disney vacations sell themselves, but there’s much more to selling Disney Destinations than booking theme park tickets (and there's no magic wand that comes with being a Disney travel agent).
Disney offers vacations around the world that extend far beyond the brand’s theme parks — and authorized Disney vacation planners need to be well-versed in it all. That means knowing the ins and outs of Walt Disney World Resort in Florida and Disneyland Resort in California, but also Disney Cruise Line, Adventures by Disney tours, National Geographic Expeditions, and Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa in Hawaii (which falls under the Disney Signature Experiences umbrella). Not to mention, there’s Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort in South Carolina, Disney’s Vero Beach Resort in Florida and the international Disney resorts in Paris, Hong Kong, Tokyo and Shanghai.
That’s a whole lot of Disney magic (and quite the mouthful).
“Disney travel professionals have the unique opportunity to help clients plan memorable Disney vacations across a variety of exclusive destinations,” said Jodi Bainter, director of travel agency sales for Disney Destinations. “From theme parks to cruise ships and tropical getaways to global adventures, the possibilities are endless.”
We asked Disney experts and advisors who specialize in the brand for their top advice on how to best sell a Disney vacation.
Take Help From the Mouse
Disney’s dedicated travel agent booking platform provides valuable information, marketing tools and professional development opportunities — including the College of Disney Knowledge, a comprehensive course to learn about all things Disney.
The platform also offers assets for each destination, like e-brochures, web banners and flyers, as well as on-demand webinars and a network of helpful business development managers, according to Jennifer Novotny, owner of authorized Disney vacation planner Upon A Star Travel & Concierge.
Disney Destinations’ Bainter points out that because there’s always a lot going on across all the Disney destinations, the company wants to ensure it empowers travel professionals with the best tools and resources available.
“Our teams have been hard at work expanding social media assets to help Disney travel professionals reach a broader audience in engaging new ways,” she said.
Bainter notes that advisors can experience Disney destinations firsthand through familiarization (fam) tours, hands-on training programs and even opportunities to visit with friends and families at special rates.
Do Disney Agents Charge Extra Fees?
Clients expect to spend a lot for a Disney experience, yet some advisors still charge additional booking fees. It’s a decision that depends on the agency and its model, says Susanne Hays, owner and president of authorized Disney vacation planner Fairytale Journeys Travel. She chooses not to add extra costs to an already expensive vacation.
“We’ve been a fee-free agency since 2009 because commission is already built into the price,” Hays said. “If clients book directly through Disney, they’re already paying the commission, so there’s no reason for them not to receive our personalized service and planning for the exact same price."
Upon A Star’s Novotny agrees that charging fees is a hot topic for debate among agencies.
“There’s really no right or wrong answer about whether to charge fees,” she said. “Many agencies do because there’s a lot of specialized work involved, and the number of hours spent planning a trip can be more than for another sort of vacation. Others may choose not to because of their market, they don’t feel the need for extra on top of the commission, or they just don't feel comfortable. At the end of the day, both business models are valid.”
A Magical Match
Certain advisors are better suited to sell certain types of travel — often based on their own travel experiences — so it’s not surprising that many agents who specialize in planning Disney vacations started by planning their own.
“If you love something, you’re going to sell it with your whole heart, and it helps your clients be excited about it,” Novotny said. “People who want others to experience that moment of magic on Main Street, U.S.A.; to see a child's eyes light up when they meet Mickey Mouse; to have a carefree playfulness even as an adult — those are the people who should absolutely consider this niche."
People who want others to experience that moment of magic on Main Street, U.S.A.; to see a child's eyes light up when they meet Mickey Mouse; to have a carefree playfulness even as an adult — those are the people who should absolutely consider this niche.
While it’s important for anyone selling Disney Destinations to study up on the brand's offerings (and have a love of magic), planning a successful Disney vacation can still be complicated, says Hays of Fairytale Journeys, who notes that attention to detail is equally important.
“There are many agencies that specialize in Disney Destinations, but not all provide the same levels of service,” she said. “Our goal is to ensure the vacation experience will be unforgettable from start to finish, and we work hard to ensure every client feels valued throughout the process.”
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Novotny, too, acknowledges that a Disney trip can be one of the more time-consuming and complex vacations to plan — especially for advisors who assist clients with details including dining reservations and park strategies. However, successfully navigating that complexity has its upside, she notes.
“I had happy Disney clients who wanted to utilize my services for other destinations,” Novotny said. “As I learned about other destinations, I got more and more excited about travel in general, and it sparked a love of the industry as a whole.”
In the end, what it takes to be a Disney travel professional is best summed up by Bainter: It’s “a passion for creating memorable experiences for clients — and a little bit of pixie dust.”
Selling the Mouse, a New Mini-Series Podcast From Travel Weekly and TravelAge West
Jamie Biesiada, Senior editor at Travel Weekly, and the co-host of the Trade Secrets podcast, is hosting a new mini-series, “Selling the Mouse.”
Over the course of five episodes, Biesiada will chat with travel advisors about theme park news, the business of selling Disney (and Universal) and more. Selling the Mouse will automatically appear in the Trade Secrets feed. Find it wherever you listen to podcasts.
For more information on TravelAge West podcasts, visit our Podcasts page.