On Thursday December 8, 2011 Disney Vacation Club held its annual Condominium Association meeting at the conference center within Disney's Contemporary Resort. DVCNews.com was in attendance and posted a running commentary to our Twitter account. For the benefit of those who did not follow the Twitter-cast, following is a detailed look at the proceedings.
The meeting began with great fanfare as the Main Street Marching Band emerged to welcome guests into the ballroom. The band played several tunes in the conference center lobby as the crowd of hundreds streamed into the meeting venue.
New Disney Vacation Club Vice President Claire Bilby took the stage to host her first condo association meeting. Bilby's opening remarks covered her background and management philosophy for the program. She understands the passion members have for the Disney parks and Disney Vacation Club. Bilby stated that she knows members do not feel particularly apprecicated as Disney guests, and hopes to change that perception over time.
The meeting itself is divided into three distinct segments: the Board of Directors Meeting, Members Meeting and General Session. The first two segments are rigidly scripted and exist to meet the legal operating requirements of the Condominium Associations. Goals include the acceptance of resort budgets and association amendments for the coming year, as well as election of board members.
Resort budgets were discussed to some extent during the Members Meeting. For 2012 some resorts are seeing an annual dues increase in excess of 8%.
The primary driver of cost increases continues to be employee compensation. Employee salaries and benefits represent approximately two-thirds of all annual dues charges. For 2012 Disney projects that employee compensation costs will increase by 4%, largely due to raises built into union agreements and increased employee benefits costs (health insurance, etc.)
Disney has also increased resort staffing in some areas to improve the member experience. Cast Members have been added to help accellerate the room cleaning process, to inspect villa rooms prior to guests' arrival and to better match incoming groups with the requests noted on their reservations. Most Disney Vacation Club resorts also saw staffing increases for their activity programs.
The two resorts with the largest dues increase--Bay Lake Tower and Disney's Animal Kingdom Villas--fell victim to a shift in DVC guest volumes. At resorts where facilities are shared between DVC members and cash-paying hotel guests, some expenses are divided on the basis of guest head counts. The percentage of Disney Vacation Club members in a facility compared to hotel guests determines the percent of expenses DVC owners must absorb.
At Bay Lake Tower and Animal Kingdom Villas, the DVC member head count increased in recent years relative to the number of cash hotel guests. Therefore, the DVC budgets for those resorts were charged higher costs in 2012 relative to other years.
Meanwhile, owners at Disney's BoardWalk Villas benefitted from a shift in the guest mix. Recent numbers have shown the DVC head count dropping relative to hotel guests at the BoardWalk, resulting in a modest reduction in certain budget areas.
Steven Brettholtz, CPA of Myers, Brettholtz & Company, PA was on hand to present the results of their independent audit of the individual Condominium Associations. The firm represents over 250 timeshare associations across the country. For the year ending 2010, all DVC associations received an "unqualified" (clean) opinion. No internal issues discovered.
At the conclusion of the Board of Directors Meeting and the Members Meeting, Disney segued right into the General Session as eight memebers of the Dapper Dans took to the stage to perform for meeting attendees.
Karl Holz, President Disney Cruise Line & New Resort Operations--and Claire Bilby's boss--was present to discuss work on the Disney Fantasy cruise ship. Exclusive video footage and photographs were presented, along with an extensive demonstration of how the Fantasy's version of Animator's Pallete will integrate diners' own sketches into the nightly show.
Mark Kohl, Director, Project Management, WDI took to the stage to give members a look at the Magic Kingdom's Fantasyland expansion. The presentation encompassed all of the new attractions--Storybook Circus, Journey of the Little Mermaid, Be Our Guest restaurant, Belle's cottage and more--featuring photos taken less than 24 hours prior to the meeting.
Disney Studios trailers were presented for the upcoming films John Carter and The Avengers.
Back to Disney Vacation Club discussion, Claire Bilby noted an overall member satisfaction rating of 89% according ot their internal surveys. Bilby claims a timeshare industry average satisfaction rating of 57%. Satisfaction with the Member Services branch is at 93%, which is up 1% from a year ago.
Free wireless Internet service is now available at all Disney Vacation Club resorts.
Resort renovation and maintenenace projects scheduled for 2012 include:
- Animal Kingdom Lodge: linen replacement
- Bay Lake Tower: resurface pool slide, replace vacuum cleaners
- Beach Club Villas: begin design work for future guest room refurbishment
- Hilton Head: Beach House refurbishment including exterior painting and pool resurfacing; replace mattresses and box springs
- Vero Beach: refurbish minigolf and pool
- Grand Californian: replacement of patio and pool furniture
- Saratoga Springs: Soft goods (linens, drapes, etc.) refurbishment to run approximately 13 months beginning in February 2012
New vacation planners are presently being mailed to members. The planners will not include point charts for the 2013 calendar year. Similar to 2010 and 2011, Disney Vacation Club is in the process of adjusting the point values for 2013 due to shifts in member usage patterns. The results of this latest reallocation will be posted to DVCMember.com in late January 2012 and mailed to members in February '12.
Beginning January 19, 2012 members will be able to make reservations on-line via DVCMember.com. Disney plans to monitor traffic on the website and limit access to guard against server overload. As a result, the on-line booking link may be available some times but not others as dictated by overall site traffic.
Starting in September 2012 members will be able to book hotel rooms at Disney's Grand Californian Hotel using points. This should increase availability at the sole west coast DVC destination. Currently only 48 villas are available for member points bookings, along with exchange destinations in the Disneyland Hotel and Paradise Pier.
New television channels will be added to resorts starting in January 2012. Included in the additions are the History Channel, the Food Network and Fox News.
Also in 2012 DVC members will be able to purchase the Tables in Wonderland dining discount card. Tables in Wonderland offers a 20% discount off all purchases at most Walt Disney World restaurants--including alcoholic beverages--for a fee of $75-100. The card is valid for one year from the date of purchase and can be used for up to 10 diners in a single party. Exact availability date and pricing has not been revealed.
Finally the eagerly anticipated announcement was made as Claire Bilby confirmed plans to build 147 Vacation Club villas at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. Construction work recently began and the projected completion is late 2013.
The General Session concluded with a member question & answer period. Following is a summary of topics addressed during the Q&A:
- Several complaints were raised regarding the quality of Walt Disney World transportation. Bus dispatchers are used to help reduce delays but they are continuing to work on addressing problems.
- The Top of the World Lounge is not heavily utilized by Bay Lake Tower guests. Any plans to expand access rights to other DVC members? DVC claims that there are some nights when it is "quite full" but will look into the possibility of opening it up to others.
- The annual pass monthly payment option is not available to DVC members because framework only in place to offer to Florida residents.
- Are there any plans to put a king size bed in Studio villas? No. In fact, when surveyed members typically respond that they want room occupancy increased rather than decreased. DVC has even investigated the possibility of adding twin sleeper chairs to Studio villas.
- Will the free valet parking ever return? No plans at this time. The "free" valet parking was partially funded by member dues and the decision was made to remove the dues component and charge only those actually using the service. There has been some discussion of discounted rates for members but nothing to report at this time.
- Any plans for an on-line webcast of the annual meeting? Not at this time.
- Any plans for a mandatory minimum stay when using DVC points? No.
- Any plans to eliminate the $95 exchange fees? No. Those fees cover administrative expenses involved with exchanging into non-DVC destinations.
- There was a request for some sort of FASTPASS perk for members, in which those staying at DVC resorts would receive a certain number of immediate use FASTPASS tickets for their party. There are no current plans to offer such a perk.
With no further questions, the meeting adjourned shortly after 4:00pm eastern. Claire Bilby and other managers stayed behind to field questions and comments from members.