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Creating Magical Moments!

By Jane Eckert

I recently returned from a summer trip to Disneyworld in Orlando, Florida, and I’m sure many of you have made the same trip with your families. We visited four theme parks in four days, and I came away with a few observations that show how closely a Disney experience might parallel a visit to a successful agritourism farm.  In fact, I know that some farm families have actually have taken classes at the Disney Institute for professional development to better understand and model the same philosophy at their farm businesses.

No doubt about it, Walt Disney was a man with a great vision.  He created a marketing brand that has positive name recognition around the world. While his early life had both successes and failures, his idea of creating a themed amusement park to “Make Dreams Come True” was a most innovative idea, and one he implemented with absolute perfection. His basic philosophy was to “create something for everyone,” because he didn’t want anyone to feel left out from a Disney experience.

Just like Walt Disney, agritourism operators around the world are now approaching their farm seasons in a way to create magical moments for their farm guests.  We all have seen that our guests have an insatiable appetite for fun and authentic farm experiences, and we are doing a better job of reaching out to all ages with memorable opportunities.   
What makes the Disney brand so very special is their attention to detail – even the smallest detail is worthy of review. Therefore, we all should take a lesson from their playbook and continue to evaluate and improve our agritourism endeavors on a regular basis.  Resting on the status quo is just not accepted by Disney, nor should it be for your farm.

The “magic” in the “Magic Kingdom” is not sorcery, it is a learned ability to look at your total offerings with a fresh new eye every single day, and a determination to find anything that can make it better.  Here are some examples of this attention to detail that I saw on our visit:  

  1. The entrance to each park was immaculate – from the bus pavilions to the parking lot to the entry way, the landscaping detail was colorful and very well groomed. I have often heard others say that you never see trash on the ground (or an overflowing trash can) at a Disney park, and that was certainly true for my visit. 
  2. The park signage, arrows and wayfaring stations clearly guide you from one area to the other. The signs are themed to remind you which area of the park you are visiting, such as Adventure Land or Fantasy Land, as well as the type of attractions that will be seen.
  3. The restrooms were always in immaculate condition.  No water on the floors, no extra water around the sinks, towel dispensers are working and there’s a pleasant fragrance upon your arrival. The permanent facilities were large and could certainly accommodate the crowds. (I didn’t see one port-a-john at Disney nor would I have expected to see one.)
  4. The food choices were plentiful, tasty and served by very pleasant people. Please notice I didn’t mention the pricing, because at Disney, somehow, the price didn’t seem to really matter because the experience was so pleasant.  Of course, the themed character drink containers were also available, and who could turn down an $11.00 drink from Olaf in the land of Frozen.
  5. People come to Disney and just expect to pay higher prices for their food and drinks. The outdoor food stations had plenty of clean seating, many were shaded and often located in great people watching locations. Whether eating from a food stand or food snack truck, we always found a bench or table to take a refueling break so we would have the energy to stay longer.
  6. Disney had the goal to create something for everyone, and no matter where you are in the theme park, there are plenty of options.  Whether you want to ride on Dumbo, take a seat on a train excursion, or travel by boat for a scenic water adventure, Disney has an attraction for all ages.  Sure, the Magic Kingdom has plenty of costumed characters and princesses for the young, but I noticed that the senior set seemed to be enjoying them as well, ah, the simple pleasures of “It’s a Small World.”
  7. The parks are laid out in such a way that at every turn, there is a perfect photo opportunity for your group. Cell phones were in everyone’s hands, and certainly staying busy recording all of the fun moments for the guests. The photos will be treasured and long remembered after the initial visit.
  8. The Cast Members (that’s what Disney calls their employees) were dressed in the theme of their area and wore a name badge with their city/place of origin, a frequent topic of conversation.  All were well groomed and always ready with a smile and a willingness to accommodate even the smallest of guests. There wasn’t any question or request for directions where I heard a response like “I don’t know,” because every employee so thoroughly knows the park and park policies.

In our own visit, the absolute best accommodation by a Cast Member was when they saw that the nine year-old girl in our group was all dressed up in her Princess Tiana dress and tiara, but we arrived too late for the last character greeting. Her saddened face said it all, when out of nowhere, Steve A. came up to us and asked us our problem and told us to follow him. We did just as he asked, and found ourselves at the entry door where Princess Tiana comes to enter the Magic Kingdom to take up her station.

Yes, Steve got us a private audience with Princess Tiana and Prince Naveen, and one little nine year-old girl will never forget her first trip to Disney. Steve was empowered to help us and to create our magical moment.

So we had a magical visit, making sure that we’ll be back, and that the young people with us will be back with their children some day.  Some call it “Disney Magic.”  But it’s really primarily an attitude, and a determination…you need to want to make this same kind of magic happen on your farm!  Yes, you can.

The Disney magic is an attitude that you and your staff must do absolutely everything you can to provide your guests with a perfect visit.  Here’s how I would start.  Step out to the street and start walking up to your farm?  What do you really see?  How are the grounds kept?  Is it landscaped?  Is there trash along the roadside?  Is the signage fresh and inviting?  
Keep this frame of mind throughout the day, and throughout the season.  Are your employees trained and empowered to deliver magical moments?  Are your grounds and restrooms at 4 p.m. as fresh as they were at 9 a.m.? Do you have plenty of spots for your guests to take pictures to record their day? Do you offer plenty of food choices and seating to accommodate even the most crowded of days?

Make yourself see everything for the very first time—and fix everything that isn’t exactly as it should be.  And tomorrow, start all over again, because tomorrow you’ll have new guests that deserve your very best.  And that’s…the magic!

Jane Eckert is the founder of Eckert AgriMarketing (www.eckertagrimarketing.com), a full-service marketing and public relations firm that helps farmers to sell directly to consumers, diversify operations and become tourist destinations. She is also CEO of www.RuralBounty.com, a search directory for agritourism farms and ranches in North America. Jane can be reached at 314-862-6288 or you may email her directly.