History of Disney Vacation Club
Disney Timeshare History
Disney has been a brand name synonymous with excellence in the entertainment industry since the 1930's, with the company's entrance into the tourism industry through the opening of Disneyland in 1955 forever changing how people plan their vacations.
However, the success of the Disney World franchise, which began with the 1971 Orlando opening of the Walt Disney World theme-park and adjacent Contemporary Resort, launched the company into the stratosphere of tourism destinations. It was through this success and the expansion of the Disney theme park empire that gave birth to Disney Vacation Club in 1991.
Disney Vacation Club
Is the timeshare arm of The Walt Disney Company and is operated by subsidiary Disney Vacation Development. The company, responding to feedback from its theme-park visitors, identified a need to develop larger on-property accommodation options which met the demand for longer-stay visitors. Disney research showed that many guests did not want to leave the Disney property and wanted to remain on-site, but they stayed off-site because of the additional space provided by resorts not located on Disney property. So Disney created their timeshare program to meet the needs of those guests.
With over 420,000 member families spanning all 50 States as well as 100 countries, the Club has become a true vacation ownership success story. Members access their club resorts by purchasing into a points system - receiving an annual allotment of vacation points that can be used in a variety of ways for different types of accommodation. The flexibility of the points system allows members to travel on their schedule, as often as they like and for however long they choose, according to the amount of points they accumulate.
How Disney Timeshares Began
The program began in December, 1991 when, 20 years after the opening of Disney World, the Disney Vacation Club came into existence with the opening of The Old Key West Resort at Walt Disney World. With 558 two-bedroom equivalent units, the Key West-style resort created a new accommodation niche for guests with its waterfront village of colorful, clapboard-sided vacation villas. For the first time, guests had access to on-property accommodation with multiple bedrooms, several pools, a general store, various children's play areas and outdoor barbeque grills, providing the larger units and flexibility guests had been seeking for years.
Additional resorts quickly sprang up to meet the demand, with the creation of Disney's Vero Beach Resort in October, 1995 becoming the first-ever timeshare resort built off Disney property. Located on Florida's Atlantic coast about a two-hour drive from Disney World, Club guests could now vacation at a beach location but with the high standard of accommodation provided through the Disney brand.
Disney's Hilton Head Island Resort in Hilton Head, South Carolina came online in March, 1996 as the group's first non-Florida timeshare property; located on a 15-acre island at Shelter Cove Harbour and nestled in the wonderful natural setting of the Carolina low country.
Later in 1996, the company focused its attention back to Orlando with the opening of Disney's BoardWalk Villas in July - bringing 282 two-bedroom equivalent units into the Club pipeline. The group's second Orlando-based timeshare, the resort features an Atlantic seacoast theme with a boardwalk featuring shops, clubs, restaurants and a village green.
Expansion subsided until November, 2000 with the opening of The Villas at Disney's Wilderness Lodge, providing guests with the romance of the Old West. The pioneer spirit is alive and well with a nod to the 19th century American railroad industry. Exclusive features are the railroad artifacts, including a special exhibit on loan from the Disney family - two of Walt Disney's personal scale model train cars.
New resorts opened throughout the decade, with Disney's Beach Club Villas welcoming guests to Orlando in July, 2002. The resort takes its cue from the mid-Atlantic seaside homes of the early 20th century with beautiful pastel colors and intricate wooden accents.
May, 2004 saw the opening of Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa, the largest of the Disney timeshare resorts with 924 two-bedroom equivalent units. Near Downtown Disney, the resort reveals colorful Victorian architecture and the historic influence of horse racing as it reprises the renowned country retreats of upstate New York in the late 1800s. A later addition to the resort, in June 2009, saw Treehouse Villas bring "treehouse living," to the timeshare world through 60 three-bedroom vacation homes elevated 10 feet off the ground on pedestals and beams designed to blend into the forest environment. Leave it to Disney to create a category called "cabin casual."
In July, 2007, Disney took guests into an African safari with the debut of Disney's Animal Kingdom Villas. Here, Disney timeshare guests relive the adventures of 19th Century Africa through Jambo House, with two floors dedicated to Disney Vacation Club accommodations at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge, and Kidani Village, a new building complete with its own pool, water-play area and sweeping views of an expanded savanna inhabited by a variety of African animals.
Bay Lake Tower at Disney's Contemporary Resort came onto the scene in August 2009 as the extension of the iconic Contemporary Resort, once considered the flagship resort of Disney World. With some of the most fantastic views of the Disney complex, this resort features modern artwork, outstanding views from the rooftop lounge and deck to view the fireworks, plus easy access to the monorail station.
Disney turned its attention west beginning in 2009 with The Villas at Disney's Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, celebrating California's arts and crafts heritage of the late 19th century. Just a stone's throw from the Disneyland theme park outside Los Angeles, the resort has studio and one, two and three-bedroom villas with all the modern conveniences, and great views of the California Adventure Park.
In 2011, Disney said Aloha to its members with Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa in Ko Olina, Oahu, Hawaii. Disney's first purpose-built timeshare facility outside the continental U.S., the 480 unit complex is located on 21 acres of oceanfront property just west of Honolulu and features the superb white sand beaches and turquoise waters which are legendary to the island. Offering a wonderful blend of Hawaiian culture with the excellence of the Disney brand, this latest addition to the Disney timeshare family is in high demand with Club members.
Future of Disney Timeshares
Now, anticipation is building for the October, 2013 opening of the newest Disney timeshare resort, the expansion of the Grand Floridian resort aptly named The Villas at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. Following the style of its sister hotel, the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, the resort will harken back to the 1890's - an era when those of privilege traveled the world and stayed only at the grandest of hotels.
And rumor has it that the famed Disney Polynesian Resort may be welcoming in timeshare through an expansion in the next couple of years, so stay tuned...