Why Did Galactic Starcruiser Fail?
We’re witnessing history made before our eyes.
In all future “worst Disney decisions” stories, the Star Wars Hotel project must be mentioned.
Over the course of its theme park history, Disney has rarely failed as dramatically as what we’ve witnessed here.
After a spectacular first ten months in operation, this resort collapsed seemingly overnight.
Now, we’re all left joking about the epic blunder and debating what went wrong.
Why did Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser fail? Let’s talk it through.
Let’s skip straight to the subject that matters the most.
Then-CEO Bob Chapek sought a new clientele for Walt Disney World. Many of his decisions reflected his desire to attract the one percent.
For example, many of the changes at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa occurred because Chapek believed that the prestigious hotel wasn’t fancy enough.
During the pandemic, Chapek also prioritized the completion of Galactic Starcruiser to entice these same higher-paying guests to visit.
Here’s something you may not know about Disney, though. On an average day, Disney operates maybe 100 VIP Tours.
Even presuming ten guests per tour, that’s like 1,000 people agreeing to overpay for a better Disney experience.
In other words, less than one percent (!) of daily Walt Disney World guests willingly consider that lofty upsell option.
Chapek priced a 100-room hotel specifically for these people. And we should acknowledge that it worked at first.
Ultimately, Disney ran out of one-percenters wanting to pay at least $1,200 per night for the experience.
At that point, management faced a choice. Disney could lower the price or shutter the place. The fact that officials chose the latter option is fascinating.
Lack of Familiar Characters
During the climactic moments of Galactic Starcruiser’s dinner show, some familiar faces from the most recent trilogy appear.
Guests go wild when this happens because they’re so excited to see some of their favorite characters.
However, Disney made a specific storytelling choice with the Star Wars Hotel.
Many of the interactions involved a new cast of characters, most of whom live and work on the luxury starship Halcyon.
Also, Disney time-locked the setting for Starcruiser to tie it into the new trilogy.
In the process, the hotel lost its opportunity to show other, arguably more familiar characters like Darth Vader or his twin children, Leia and Luke Skywalker.
Star Wars has attracted new audiences across three different trilogies of fans.
Disney negated two-thirds of its potential characters with the time-lock.
The Claustrophobic Setting
In an odd way, the Galactic Starcruiser experience mirrored an escape room.
Disney stuck you in a thematic, immersive setting and then wouldn’t let you leave until you completed your quest.
The lone exception occurred during the second day, when you briefly visited Batuu, aka Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
Still, this excursion ended with your return to the Halcyon, a “luxury spaceship” that was actually a windowless hotel.
Notably, the early drawings of the Star Wars Hotel project displayed windows and a pool.
We may never know why Disney changed its mind on those two subjects. But the decisions played a part in the distinct “no escape” vibe.
That’s an odd aesthetic for a luxury vacation experience. It’s like paying big money to be imprisoned for two nights.
Where’s my robot butler?
Disney promised me a robot butler in my hotel room! I thought I was getting BB-8 or R2-D2. Instead, the room comes with Intergalactic Alexa instead.
The reality is that Disney cut corners during the pandemic. Social distancing requirements prevented a full construction team from working on the build.
Meanwhile, fewer people were available to test various ideas, including that promised in-room butler droid.
Chapek wanted Galactic Starcruiser earning money as quickly as possible. So, Disney made the best out of a frustrating situation.
Still, some parts of the Galactic Starcruiser experience didn’t match the pre-release promises.
Among the failures we’re discussing, I believe this one matters the least, though.
The guest experience surveys for this hotel remained extraordinarily strong from its opening to its announced closure.
So, none of Disney’s unmet promises damaged the experience significantly.
The Lack of Repeat Business
Believe it or not, plenty of people returned to Galactic Starcruiser for a second visit.
When they did, these Star Wars fans, many of whom are critics and influencers, quickly learned a harsh truth.
The hotel experience doesn’t change much during repeat visits.
Yes, you can choose a different quest path by picking the other team (The First Order vs. The Resistance), but everything else is largely the same.
You’ll meet the same characters, watch the same show, and witness the same storyline resolution.
Out of all of Disney’s mistakes, this is probably the one that hurt the most financially. And it explains the hotel’s closure.
As mentioned, Disney ran out of customers…but it didn’t have to do that!
The company failed to create an experience that encouraged repeat business.
Something as simple as telling three different stories each week could have worked.
Remember that Galactic Starcruiser offered three weekly itineraries at the start.
Setting one in each Star Wars timeline would have tripled repeat business.
Would that have delayed the inevitable? Possibly. But that’s just one of several approaches the company could have taken in diversifying the experience.
Instead, Disney took a one size fits all approach, and we all know that one size NEVER fits all.
Unwillingness to Change
After years of planning and stunning early success, you quit at the first sign of trouble? What the Hell, Disney? WHAT THE HELL?
How many of your classic stories tell about protagonists who struggled, only to find their courage and emerge victorious in the end?
How many Star Wars movies involve a plucky group of rebels willing to fight for what they believe in, no matter the odds?
Y’all did how much surveying of guests before this place opened? And you’re gonna ignore literally YEARS of data because things got hard for a while???
That’s not the Disney I know.
Ultimately, Disney’s biggest cause for failure here isn’t as much price as an unwillingness to change.
The company plotted Galactic Starcruiser as a boutique hotel with high prices and even higher margins.
Once those margins dropped a bit due to flagging attendance, executives gave up the ghost on an idea we know would be successful if done well.
I mean, Star Wars Weekends alone proved that Star Wars fans will flock to the parks to celebrate The Force.
Similarly, all the box office records and tens of billions in merchandise revenue indicate that there’s an unquenchable appetite for all things Star Wars.
A few pre-opening miscalculations shouldn’t kill this idea.
Instead, Imagineers should repurpose the small hotel into something better but with the same underlying principle of fully immersive entertainment.
This idea could work, and it should work. Disney shouldn’t allow the shortsightedness of Bob Chapek to ruin this dream for loyal Star Wars fans.
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Feature Photo: Disney