If your head is still spinning from all the recent Disney announcements — you’re not alone.
The Dining Plan is returning to Disney World, Park Pass Reservations are going away (mostly), and hotel perks are continuing through 2024. Not only that, but Disney dropped even more huge news — the Star Wars Hotel is closing, and the $1 billion employee relocation project to Orlando has officially been scrapped. This leaves the door wide open for Disney in multiple ways, so what’s coming next?
With Disney announcing the cancelation of two huge projects, many fans are wondering what might come next. The Galactic Starcruiser is equipped to be transformed into a different hotel — potentially just as immersive as its predecessor, while there could be endless possibilities for what once was the future home of Disney’s Lake Nona Campus. Disney is at a crossroads and is poised to create something new, we’re just not sure what that might be yet.
Star Wars Hotel
Disney opened the Star Wars hotel — officially called the Galactic Starcruiser — in March 2022. The experience offers a two-day, two-night itinerary. Disney has described the Galactic Starcruiser as: “part live immersive theater, part themed environment, part culinary extravaganza, part real-life role-playing game—and yet so much more.”
Throughout your stay, you’re given the chance to train with a lightsaber, interact with your favorite characters (and encounter new ones), and operate the ship’s defense systems! Meals are included on your voyage, along with a trip to Galaxy’s Edge at Hollywood Studios, and more.
But, just over two years after the Starcruiser opened, Disney announced that it would be closing the Star Wars hotel with September 28th-30th, 2023 being the final voyage (this is now sold out).
A Disney spokesperson released the following statement:
“Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser is one of our most creative projects ever and has been praised by our guests and recognized for setting a new bar for innovation and immersive entertainment. This premium, boutique experience gave us the opportunity to try new things on a smaller scale of 100 rooms, and as we prepare for its final voyage, we will take what we’ve learned to create future experiences that can reach more of our guests and fans.”
The news that the Star Wars hotel would be closing was shocking to pretty much everyone — it’s not often that Disney throws in the towel on something that has actually come to fruition like this so quickly (that’s not to say they don’t abandon projects — looking at you, Reflections!). But, there were a few signs that indicated the Starcruiser wasn’t exactly blasting off into new atmospheres when it came to success.
After a few sold-out months around the time of the hotel’s opening, we started to see voyages sell out less and less often, and Disney even reduced the number of voyages offered each week in response to the decrease in demand. Then, we started seeing discounts offered for Annual Passholders and Disney Visa Cardmembers.
So, although the news about the closure was surprising, it didn’t exactly come out of nowhere.
During a Q&A session as part of the JP Morgan Global Technology, Media, and Communications Conference, Disney Parks executive Josh D’Amaro was asked about the Galactic Starcruiser closure. Specifically, he was asked, “You’re closing Starcruiser — What drove that and how should we think about the impact?”
D’Amaro responded by stating that the Star Wars hotel is “a pretty stunning asset.” He said, “It’s essentially a spaceship that guests board, themed out to feel exactly like Star Wars. Our Imagineers did an incredible job pulling this asset together, and our guests gave it very high ratings.” But despite those high ratings, D’Amaro said, “It didn’t perform exactly like we wanted it to perform, so we decided that we’re going to sunset this in September.”
D’Amaro went on to say, “We did decide that, despite the fact that this was a never-before-seen type of experience, and I think it’s raised the bar from a creativity perspective on where we can go next, we thought it was time to sunset this beginning in September.” Disney has adopted this optimistic perspective on the Star Wars hotel’s closure, repeatedly emphasizing that they will take the lessons they’ve learned from the experience and apply those to future experiences.
Details on what will happen to the building and location have not yet been shared. Thus far, there are no current plans to announce.
But, that doesn’t mean Disney doesn’t have options. The Star Wars hotel is small — just 100 rooms — compared to the 30,000 throughout the rest of the resort. This makes it a “boutique” hotel and Disney could decide to still run with that concept, though that’s likely what contributed to its failure.
Disney could decide to somehow incorporate the land into Hollywood Studios, though it is a bit far away for a leisurely walk and would require some sort of transportation. Of course, there’s always the chance that Disney completely demolishes the hotel and builds something new there altogether.
One thing is for sure, the Galactic Starcruiser was quite the feat, and we certainly won’t forget it any time soon.
Lake Nona Project
Disney recently announced that the $1 billion project it had planned for the Lake Nona area of Orlando would not be moving forward.
Back in 2021, Disney purchased land in the Lake Nona area of Orlando to build a campus that would relocate thousands of Disney employees to Central Florida. Disney announced that this plan was delayed as of June 2022 and the move was later delayed for over 3 years before the official announcement was made pulling the plug on the project.
Now that Disney isn’t moving forward with the relocation, there are 60 acres of land ready to be developed. Disney bought the land from Tavistock Development Co. LLC, but it turns out that Tavistock may have some control over the land again now that Disney has backed out of building the new campus.
A deed posted to Orange County public records for the property sale to Disney in 2021 contains clauses about “rights of first offer and first refusal for the seller; the existence of a memorandum of repurchase option between Tavistock and Disney; a development agreement between the two entities; and detailed use restrictions about what Disney as the buyer could build there.”
According to land expert Trevor Hall, executive vice president of Colliers, real estate deal clauses like this could allow a seller to buy back property if the buyer doesn’t do what was intended with it. He said, “If they were a typical developer strapped for cash, it would be one thing — they’re not. They’re among the strongest developers in the world, so they have an interest in the ability to control the future of that property.”
However, a Disney spokesperson could not confirm whether such an agreement existed between Disney and Tavistock and said that Disney was “considering next steps for the property.” What those next steps might be though, we’re not entirely sure.
Disney could choose to keep the land and hold onto it to develop at a later date — which some believe to be the case. Folks in the Central Florida business community think Disney could eventually change its mind and decide to move forward with the relocation after all, depending on how the battle with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis shakes out.
There’s also the possibility that Disney could really abandon the project and sell the land altogether. With the $1 billion slated for this project already back in the company’s pocket, that money could be used to develop more throughout the parks and resorts.
Speaking of updates that could come to the parks, Josh D’Amaro recently shared more about the $17 billion that Disney is planning to invest in Florida. He stated that the number did not include the now-canceled Lake Nona project, but is more indicative of how the company wants to continue to build Walt Disney World in the coming years.
D’Amaro mentioned his appearance at the D23 Expo in the fall of 2022, saying, “I talked about some pretty ambitious plans that we have to continue to grow these theme parks” and noting that he’s excited about what’s in store for Florida.
Either way, you can count on DFB to bring you the latest updates from Disney World and beyond — so stay tuned!
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The post Disney Canceled Two Massive Projects Last Week. So What’s Next? first appeared on the disney food blog.