Visitors are the key factors of the theme parks and therefore the management must take into consideration the major influencing factors. Theme parks in Europe receive over 60 million visitors annually but this number is considerably low compared to U.S. This is attributed to geographical factors and national appeal. In addition, there is considerably high competition from the local museums and historical parks.
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In order to gain competitive advantage new theme park must get it right on it’s marketing and staffing strategies. Disneyization is used to describe the process through which Disney Company has been able to penetrate different markets globally and forms parts of its marketing and human resource strategy.
Clave (2007) defines theme park as a gated attraction that includes rides and shows in a themed surrounding, offering ticket price for its visitors and attracts at least a half a million visitors annually. A more comprehensive definition of theme parks was given by Economic Research Associates (2008, p. 5).
They define a theme parks as a capital exhaustive, highly developed, self-sufficient space which charges admission invariably. Theme park facilities are normally arranged in a thematic fashion and may represent physical or historical features.
These themes are important to the operations of the park since they generate a feeling of attachment in a setting which is a complete contrast of the real world. However, it should be noted that there is a distinction between the commercial theme parks and the outdoor museums or historic theme parks.
The latter focuses less on commercial aspects and there main goal is to preserve historical/national heritage and for public education. Theme parks are more intricate than the normal city parks or recreational spots. Theme parks have a blend of attractions which can be classified into a number of categories.
They include ecstasy rides, family rides, water attractions, dark rides and roller coasters. The main source of revenue for the theme parks comes from the gate charges. There are also standard admission for pay-one-price Park and charges for some services excluded from the admission charge (Davis, 1996, p. 400).
Visitors are the key factors of the theme parks and therefore the company must take into consideration the major influencing factors. The most frequent visitors in the theme parks are normally families and friends (Clave, 2007, p. 5). According to Jafari (2000, p. 683) Theme parks in Europe recorded more than 60 million attendance which represented a 3 percent growth compared to the previous year.
However, these European parks are stagnant compared to their counterparts in U.S. This is attributed to geographical factors and national appeal. Each European country has a unique park and a lead market. Besides Disney parks, European theme parks are local ones.
Brief Account of the Disney Company
The company was established in 1923 in Burbank as a cartoon studio by the two Disney brothers (Walt Disney and Roy Disney). Three years later the company created two movies and purchased a studio in Hollywood, California. Logistic problems nearly led to the demise of the company but it was saved by the designs of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck.
Later on the company managed to secure merchandise licensing, complete animated pictures, TV programs, live action movies and ,of course, one of the company’s grand project, a theme park by the name Disneyland (Bryman, 1995, p.3).
The first Disney Park was opened in Anaheim in 1955. The company maintained its success and became under the control of Roy after Walt died. In the past few years, the company has expanded its market through cables and creating subdivisions such as Touchstone to make films instead of the typically family-oriented fare.
During 70s and 80s the company was on the edge of being taken over but everything got well thanks to the team of experts who have ensured that the company maintains its traditions of brilliance to date. Walt Disney is a global company operating four major commercial divisions: Media Networks, Studio Entertainment, Parks and Resorts and Consumer products (Bryman, 1995, p.5).
The company’s main challenges are: exceptionally large workforce, repeated change in leadership and towering operating costs. Company’s expansion means increased number of employees and complex structure. This becomes even more complicated with the company’s tendency to change its corporate officers now and then (Davis, 1996, p. 403).
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Even though there are very many positive elements associated with expansion and change is leadership, this can also result in too much struggle and massive expenditure. Large number of workforce and fixed assets normally leads to increased operating costs and this cost is passed to the consumers.
No visitor will be willing to pay for a ticket price that is above $35 and therefore the company must strictly regulate their operating cost to match the price customers are willing and able to afford for their goods and services (ERA, 2008, p. 16).
Walt Disney Company has experienced abundant external opportunities, for instance, governments’ attitudes towards their operations, barriers of entry, massive number of loyal visitors and the entertainment industry. Officials and government forces have been identified through experience as being part of the negative external aspects of the company (Weinraub, 1995, p. 12).
However, some governments have even helped to fund a number of the company’s project; for instance, French government donated $1.2 billion to help the company build transport facilities and even offered it tax reliefs (Smith & Clark, 1999, p. 59).
The purpose of the Report
The main purpose of this report is to come up with a staffing and marketing requirements needed to create a new Walt Disney theme park in Slovakia to attract more tourists from Eastern Europe. The report will act as a guide during staff recruitment and deciding on the best marketing strategies.
Marketing Disney Theme Parks in Eastern Europe
The term ‘Disneyization’ has been used to refer to the process through which principles of the Disney theme parks dominates all aspects and different sectors of the society. Disneyization is presented as encompassing four facets: dedifferentiation of consumption, merchandising, theming the society and emotional staff. The origin of Disneyization in theories of consumerism and consumer culture is the concept of McDonaldization.
McDonalization is a term that has been used to refer to how the McDonald restaurants managed to incorporate their culture in the U.S. society and the rest of the world (Ritzer, 1993).
According to Ritzer (1993) McDonalization comprised of four dimensions and these are efficiency, calculability, predictability and control. These dimensions were drawn from Disney parks and other theme parks. However, the idea of Disneyization was introduced to reflect and build upon the proposition that there is more to theme parks than McDonald institutions (Ritzer, 1993).
Theming is the first and obvious element of Disneyization and involves theming different areas of economic life. There are numerous themed recreational facilities, which draw on famous and accessible cultural themes as hip-hop and other types of music, sports, movies, personalities, geography and history.
Examples of the theme restaurants include Hard Rock Cafe, Planet Hollywood, Harley Davidson Cafe, and Fashion Cafe among others. Most of these themed restaurants are not sought after because of their food, but because of the sounds ands sight that are constitutive of the themed environment (Ritzer, 1993). Themed pubs and restaurants are very popular in U.S., Europe and a number of Asian countries.
Theming can also be extended to famous landmarks in the country, transport facilities, shopping malls, supermarkets, schools and other social facilities. These have helped to incorporate Disney principles and culture into the society and can be adopted in Slovakia and other countries in Eastern Europe to market the company’s theme park (Davis, 1996, p. 399).
The company’s founder used theming as a device for differentiating his vision from tasteless and mucky amusement parks to which he had taken his children. He noticed that many parents like him visited these parks just to appease their children. As a result of this, he felt the urge to create a park that would also accommodate adults.
As a matter of fact, he was more successful to this regard since the number of adults who visits the park at the moment has more than tripled the number of children. Therefore, the goal of the company’s founder and his successors was to use theming as a mechanism of appealing to both adults and children and to differentiate Disneyland from amusement parks.
For that reason the New Disney Park in Slovakia should lace many of the attractions and environment with captivating nostalgia that would have direct appeal to both adults and children (Bryman, 1995, p. 15).
Theming accomplishes two major things. First, it creates a connection between the park facilities and attractions and the environment in which it is located. Second, the designs of rides and attractions are placed on their themes instead of the thrill factor which was common in the traditional amusement parks.
Disney ‘lands’ (distinctive subdivisions in the park) should be presented through structural design, scenery, costuming, live entertainment, attractions, products and food and beverages that reflects the local/regional cultures and historical/national sites. In each land, theme intrusions and distractions should be minimised to ensure visitors becomes totally submerged in its ambience (Davis, 1996, p. 404).
Dedifferentiation of consumption denotes the broad-spectrum trend whereby the forms of consumption and institutional principles are interlocked together and increasingly become very hard to differentiate. The new Disneyland can be used as vehicle for selling food and several goods. It should not only act as a house of attractions but also a context for shopping.
This will help to market the theme park far and beyond Slovakia (Bryman, 1995, p. 16). Disney theme park concepts have been used to optimize the mix of goods in stores within the theme parks and are highly profitable and can achieve the maximum sales per square metre for retail stores. Therefore, tendency for shopping, eating, hotel accommodation and theme park visiting should become inescapably entangled.
Dedifferentiation of consumption should encompass main terminals, national museums and heritage attractions where visitors are forced to exit through miniature theme parks with Disney products and services.
The company should also engage local restaurants in a form of dedifferentiation, for instance linking there range of foods with Disney Cartoon characters and films. Some of them should attach themselves to the opening of the new Disney theme parks by offering free gifts to the visitors (Davis, 1996, p. 410).
Merchandising is also another marketing strategy that can be used by the company. Merchandising refers to the marketing of products in the form of or bearing patent images and logos of Disney Corporation. This is a realm in which the company has been most excellent and can be replicated in Slovakia and the whole Eastern Europe.
Instead of using Disney cartoon characters, the company can chose to promote some of the products and services offered in the theme park in this manner (Davis, 1996, p. 408).
Merchandising is one of the most effective marketing tools since it enhances the emotional attachment among the Disney funs and has long term advertising effect. Disney merchandise range from clothing, to books, sweets, watches, and other domestic products (Johnson, 1991, p. 40).
The company’s Studio and Entertainment division can also play a significant role in marketing the new theme park. They can produce and distribute animated action films, music recordings, home entertainments with local and regional contents. Use of local and regional scenes, music and culture will make the Slovaks and other citizens of the Eastern Europe to feel like being part of the larger Disney family.
The company can also resort to the conventional advertising and marketing strategies to complement Disneyization. These include the use of billboards and other local and international mass media (Jafari, 2000, p. 685).
Staffing On New Disney Theme Park in Slovakia
The changing nature of the global economy requires new innovations and strategies in organizations so as to continue with competitive advantage. These comprise training and development of the human resource to enhance productivity and overall business performance.
Organizations are taking huge risks by spending greatly on human resource training and development. Business executives analyze innovation as one of their top most challenges. Innovation in this case refers to upgrading the human resources to meet the new challenges posed by the dynamic global economy (Dessler, 2008).
Strategic human resource management is considered as a method of management which aims at managing the employees with the motive of achieving an efficient competitive advantage.
Strategic human resource management is considered as the supervision of the contributions of the employees to the organization in order to accomplish a desired objective, therefore, an organization with well organized and reliable staff members is in a good position to achieve a competitive edge.
Cortese (2003) recommended that organizational strategies must take the form of a process of continuous learning, in which at the limit, preparation and execution becomes impossible to tell apart.
He proposes that organizations should generate, develop and maintain excellent business designs capable of taking advantage of its strategic landscape and business environment beyond the lifetime series of changes in an organization. This can only be achieved through self-organizing process of the individual employees.
He acknowledges the role of strategic planning and the formation of networks since individual errors may have severe impact in the organization as a whole.
The resource based theory, also known as the resource based view of the firm, is one of the latest strategic management concepts to be enthusiastically embraced by marketing scholars (Dessler 2008). This theory focuses mainly on the resource base a firm has other than the finished products of the firm. A firm gains competitive advantage by suitably employing its resources in production.
Competitive advantage here refers to the state where the firm adopts strategies of production which add value to the resources and these strategies are not common in the competing firms. Hill et al (2006) confirm that resource diversity and resource immobility are the two main hypotheses that the resource based theory of the firm are based on.
Many authors have been relatively silent about the nature of work in Disney theme parks. But it clear from Ritzer (1993) that since the company incorporates scientific management and principles of the Ford Corporation, working in the theme park tend to be dehumanizing and isolating. He emphasized that there is more to theme park jobs than simple clerical jobs found in many industries.
Ritzer drew attention to the fact that besides the normal desk skills, service work also entails self control through emotional labour, which he defines as ‘an act of articulating socially desires emotions during service transactions’. According to Leidner (1993) besides controlling how these workers interact with the clients, the company should also control how they view themselves and their feelings.
However, there are still uncertainties on how far emotional labour is associated with theme park jobs. Leidner (1993) stress that service sector such as theme parks demands employees who are amusing, jovial, ever smiling, and courteous and those who take pride in their work. Therefore, this type of job requires overt behaviours and less of introverts.
Emotional labour should be epitomized by Disney theme parks. The character of employees in the theme park should be managed in many ways and regulated through a scripted interactions and promoting of emotional labour should be one of the principle aspects (Davis, 1996, p. 412). Friendliness and helpfulness among the Disney theme park employees is well-known all over the world and has been praised by many visitors.
The conduct coupled with distinctive language of the company is intended among other things to express the impression that the workers are also having fun and therefore are not taking part in real work. Therefore, the new Disney theme park in Slovakia should ensure that the staff hired have the attributes typical of the Disney employees and satisfactorily trained to master and improve on the necessary skills.
Walt Disney University was specifically built to inculcate the essential training and teaching of Disney vocabulary to the new recruits. According to the founders of this institution, the fundamental element of the early training approach was to inculcate friendly phrases in addition to a friendly smile (Clave, 2007, p. 6).
Visitors are the principle component of the theme parks and therefore companies must ensure all the influencing factors are taken into consideration. Sustainability of the theme parks can only be ensured if they maintain the existing clients and attract more visitors. Theme parks in Europe receive considerably high number of visitors annually but this number is relatively low compared to U.S theme parks.
This is attributed to geographical factors and socio-economic factors. In addition, there is considerably high competition from the local museums and historical parks. Therefore, marketing and staffing policies for the new theme park must be set right.
Disneyization is used to describe the process through which Disney Company has been able to penetrate different markets globally and forms parts of its marketing and human resource strategy. In addition, the company can use the conventional marketing strategies to complement Disneyization. These may include use of billboard, wall paintings, printed fliers and advisements through local and regional mass media.
Clave, A. (2007). The global theme park industry. Oxfordshire: CABI.
Cortese, A. D. (2003). The critical role of higher education in creating a sustainable future. Planning for Higher Education, 31(3), 15-22.
Bryman, A. (1995). Disney and his Worlds. London: Routledge.
Davis, S.G. (1996). The theme park: global industry and cultural form. Media Culture and Society, 18, 399-422.
Dessler, G. (2008). Human resource management. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs.
ERA. (2008). Theme Park Attraction Attendance Report 2007, Burbank, p.16.
Hill, C.W.L. Jones, G.R., & Galvin, P. (2006). Strategic management: an integrated approach. Milton, Australia: John Wiley and Sons.
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Johnson, R. (1991). A strategy for service-Disney style. Journal of Business Strategy, 12, 38-43.
Leidner, R. (1993). Fast Food, Fast Talk. Berkely, CA: University of California Press.
Ritzer, G. (1993). The McDonaldization of Society. Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge.
Smith, D., & Clark, S. (1999). Disney: The first 100 years. New York: Hyperion, 59-60.
Weinraub, B. (1995, April 9). Clouds over Disneyland. The New York Times, p. 12.