The History of DVC — The Riviera and What Comes Next
In the previous discussion about the history of the Disney Vacation Club program, I concluded with an obvious statement. Over the past 15 years, DVC officials have prioritized properties near Disney theme parks.
Those of you who have read the other History of DVC articles know this wasn’t always the case. The initial plan for DVC called for more of a “Disney in other places” strategy.
Then, projects collapsed in California and some other cities. Meanwhile, DVC members voted with their wallets and favored properties close to the parks. And that reality leads to the final installment of History of DVC. Let’s talk about Disney’s Riviera Resort, what it represents, and what comes next.
Bringing the Parks to the Resort
Once Disney completed the DVC conversion of some longhouses at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort in 2015, it lacked viable options for the next project. By this point, DVC executives had committed to placing properties as close to theme parks as possible.
However, Disney lacked developed land at Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, or Disney’s Hollywood Studios where it could slot another DVC resort. So, Disney as a whole pivoted. At the time, the parks were enjoying an explosive growth phase, which opened Disney’s notoriously tight purse strings enough to consider a daring build.
If Disney couldn’t put a resort next to a park, it could create a method to bring the parks to the resort…sort of. Disney officials plotted an expansive new transportation system, one that could evade Central Florida gridlock on I-4.
Disney wasn’t in a position to stop everyone from driving to Walt Disney World, nor would it want to do that from a business perspective. Maintaining efficient bus routes was becoming more and more challenging, though.
So, Disney chose to take to the sky with its latest offering, one that took old-school theme park fans back to the future. Some of us are old enough to remember the former Skyway system that carried guests from Tomorrowland to Fantasyland and back.
Disney closed this attraction in 1999 as a ride. But Walt Disney World strategists took a different approach. What if the parks used the Skyway to carry guests to and from hotels? I’m not exaggerating when I say this concept is as ambitious as Disney gets, at least in the 21st century.
The Riviera and What Comes Next
In 2019, Disney unveiled a new gondola system connecting guests to five hotels and two theme parks. And it promptly crashed during the first week, leaving guests stranded in mid-air for two hours.
Still, the proof of concept worked immediately, and we have tracked only three incidents of note in more than four years. More importantly, DVC members treasured the convenience. If you’ve ridden the gondola system, you know what I mean.
The system is efficient, the ride is smooth, and the view is otherworldly. You gain an unprecedented view of Disney parks and resorts as you travel through the sky. It’s mesmerizing, and it serves a secondary purpose.
You can relax and recuperate when you ride the gondola from EPCOT to Hollywood Studios or from a hotel to a theme park. Also, the novelty of the experience enhances the allure of owning at Disney’s Riviera Resort.
For a time, rumors persisted that Disney would add a DVC interest at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort. Instead, park officials reclaimed some of that hotel’s campus to build something new. While Caribbean Beach technically hosts the main Disney Skyliner station, the one at the Riviera is only one short ride away.
So, the new DVC resort’s logistics rival those of Disney’s BoardWalk Villas. At the older DVC property, you can walk to EPCOT or Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The latter stroll is fairly long and adds to the large amount of walking you already perform at the parks. The Riviera provides superior transportation logistics to the same two Disney parks.
DVC members showed so much support for the Riviera that DVC officials took the hint. Rather than building entirely new properties, Disney has converted Big Pine Key at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa into DVC inventory.
What do these properties have in common? You can ride a boat from either one to Magic Kingdom. Yes, you can take the monorail from the Polynesian as well, but that’s part of the same point. In the wake of the Riviera’s success, Disney has built other properties with convenient transportation to and from the parks.
DVC members have decisively indicated that they prefer to stay near theme parks. So, that’s what the future holds for DVC expansion. As the saying goes, “You’ve got to give the people what they want.”