Disney’s Galactic Starcruiser hotel, called the “Halcyon” opened March 1st, 2022. It’s going to close barely 18 months later, shutting the doors at the end of September. The Internet (and talking heads on YouTube) immediately scrambled to find out who’s to blame for this mega-hotel closing down so quickly.
Well, my fellow geeks, I’m here to tell you…everyone is to blame.
In 2017, Disney got enough positive feedback about a “Star Wars” themed hotel that they gave the project the green light. Fans could imagine something similar to the Polynesian resort or the Art of Animation hotel with props, huge murals, and themed rooms based on famous destinations like Endor or Naboo. Yeah…that’s not what happened.
Disney’s to Blame!
This led to the first misstep when, at D23 Expo 2019, it was revealed that the hotel would be called the Halcyon and would be a two-night immersive experience where all guests arrive and depart together, similar to a cruise line. People were confused by this. I’m going to a Disney hotel for two nights, but not leaving that hotel?
Sure, you could just walk out and hit the theme park, but then you miss out on the “immersive experience” you paid so much for. Bob Chapek (chairman at the time) described the hotel as a “100% immersive” experience that “will culminate in a unique journey for every person who visits.” Those experiences included…
- Lightsaber training and dueling.
- Explore and pilot Star Wars spaceships.
- Go on “secret missions” that were specialized towards YOUR experience.
- Exclusive items to buy that weren’t sold anywhere else.
- You could travel to “Galaxy’s Edge” at Disney’s Hollywood Studios via “shuttle pod”.
- A wall panel “droid” in each room that was interactive. The more you spoke to it, the more tailored your experience.
- Micro-experiences that can change from group to group based on how you play your roles.
Notice how I’ve called this a “hotel” nine times so far? Well here’s a big bomb, nowhere on the Walt Disney World website does it call this a hotel. Not once, not ever. This isn’t a hotel, it is an immersive 48 hour experience that you just happen to sleep at.
But Disney didn’t do the best job in making that clear. The concept art is still on their website instead of photos of actual people enjoying actual experiences. When the Halcyon was revealed to the press, they had limited access and didn’t get to show a lot of the details. The marketing showed off the rooms and the meals, doing nothing to discourage the fans from thinking this is just a Star Wars hotel with cool stuff to do.
It wasn’t a hotel with an immersive experience and Disney didn’t communicate that well enough.
The Price is to Blame!
Yeah okay, that’s fair.
The cost for two adults and one child came to $5299 for the “voyage”. Yikes. Many people are roasting Disney because of the price and they have a fair gripe, especially if you went in not knowing what to expect. If you fully committed to LARPing around the Halcyon and spent as much time as possible enjoying the experiences (and not sleeping), then you could certainly get your money’s worth.
But for the casual family who just wanted to see a Star Wars hotel, that’s a serious chunk of change. That amount of money would buy 816 Dole Whips, 407 lanyards, 132 long-sleeved shirts, or seven nights at a standard room at the luxurious Grand Floridian Resort and Spa.
The Times Are to Blame!
Perhaps Disney was just ahead of its time, but also perhaps the time bit Disney in the pocketbook. The Halcyon was supposed to open in 2021, but COVID delays pushed it to March of 2022. At that time, the parks were definitely on the way back. For the fiscal year 2022, the parks brought in nearly $29 billion in revenue, up $12 billion from 2021. But it might have been too little too late.
Inflation was on a lot of people’s minds. The rate of inflation in March of 2021 was 2.62%, but when the Halcyon was opening up inflation had soared to 8.54%. By the end of 2022, 55% of Americans say that the inflation caused them financial hardship. 42% of those classified as “upper income” said they also suffered from inflation.
While the Rise of Revenue looks good to shareholders, it didn’t help Bob Chapek and it didn’t help the Halcyon.
The People Are to Blame!
Yes, Disney didn’t help with their lack of marketing or clear communication about what the Halcyon was all about, the people themselves didn’t exactly embrace the experience either. We wanted something different, something that we could call our own. When we got it, we didn’t flaunt it.
The Tron Lightcycle ride first appeared at Disneyland…in Shanghai.
A Ratatouille ride debuted at Disneyland…in Paris.
There’s a hotel with a massive aquarium that was home to an 11 ton whale shark…in Dubai.
Disney gave us a Star Wars fans dream. It was essentially a two-day Star Wars cruise ship where your imagination took off, instead of the Halcyon itself. We just weren’t prepared for what the Disney team had dreamt up.
But our expectations were far beyond what Disney had worked towards. The people expected a Star Wars hotel they could casually wander around in before heading to Walt Disney World. The concept art fired up the minds of millions of people, but didn’t change their perception of what they were in for.
One day, we might be ready for that dream, but not today, and everyone shares in the blame.