For 11 days recently my family and I were engulfed in the allure called Walt Disney World. We took our RV, making the trip down in three days and then making the return trip in three days with close to a week in Fort Wilderness (the camping resort at Disney).
There are definite pros and cons when it comes to evaluating one’s “magical” Disney experience. Among the cons: long lines to the attractions (my daughter Karlyn and I got lucky — the wait for the Tower of Terror ride was only two hours). Also, there seem to be no places for dogs to “walk,” even though dogs are welcome. Also again, something that Disney has not yet managed to control: the weather. It was incredibly hot and humid the whole time we were there, but, hey, whatcha gonna do, right? Just sweat it out and thank the good Lord that it cuts down on restroom visits.
On the pro side: Disney has honed hospitality to the nth degree. Every cast member (employee) smiles, speaks pleasantly, and evokes the feeling that even they, in the midst of the unbearably hot temperatures, are having a good time. On our way thru the entrance gate the young lady who welcomed us asked if we were there for any special occasion. I told her that Evelyn and I were celebrating our 50th wedding anniversary, so she wrote “50 Ears” on two buttons that already had, “Happily Ever After” printed on them. From that point on, every cast member who caught sight of our buttons congratulated us!
There is so much to take into account when it comes to how finely Disney has perfected the art of hospitality. My older son pointed out (words chosen intentionally) that when a cast member is giving directions to someone, s/he will point using at least two fingers. The idea is that when a person uses just his/her index finger to point, someone might think they were the “pointee” and become uncomfortable. Uncomfortable? Can’t have that! Disney wants you to have such an extraordinarily wonderful experience that you will immediately plan a return trip.
Suffice it to say that we did have a very good time, and I picked up more ideas for how to incorporate Disney’s attention to hospitality detail into our local church (for example, making sure the facilities are kept clean and attractive, reminding the weekly congregation to extend a friendly welcome to visitors, creating signage so those visitors will know where to find such important locations as the child care room and the rest rooms, etc.)
Disney may be a world unto itself, luring us into its fantasies and making a concerted effort to accept those fantasies as reality for a brief period of time, but there is much that other businesses, churches, and people in general can learn about the power of basic hospitality and gentle kindness.