The stars are aligning at Walt Disney's (DIS -0.29%) largest theme park resort this week. Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser -- a richly priced and heavily themed lodging attraction -- opens for its first paying "passengers" on Tuesday. It's a bar-raising journey in terms of price points and immersive storytelling experiences, and that's saying a lot since a stay in general at Disney World in Florida isn't cheap or drab in its ability to spin yarn.
The two-night Star Wars-themed adventure will set a party of two back at least $4,809, with additional guests staying in the same cabin paying less on average if they're fine with twin-sized bunk beds. It's a lot of money, and naturally there's been a lot of bellyaching on social media since pricing was announced last year. The cadence of the boo birds stepped up on Friday when an embargo was lifted on coverage from a press junket where influencers and journalists got a taste of the simulated space journey.
This will pass. Paying customers will be more blunt when the "maiden voyage" takes off on Tuesday. It won't be everybody's cup of tea, but work the math and you'll see how successful Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser will be. It won't take much to make the next-gen interactive adventure a hit. Fans and investors alike will want to see what happens next.
There's no use crying over spilled blue milk
Why I am so confident about the success of a platform that has yet to officially launch? Let's run the numbers. There are just 100 smallish cabins available on Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser. Let's say they average three guests per room for the two-night experience. We're talking about 300 new guests checking in every other day, or less than 55,000 people experiencing the new lodging offering a year.
Disney World's four theme parks attracted an estimated 58.3 million visitors in 2019. If just 0.1% of them have the means and the desire to weave themselves into the two-day story arc at Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser it will be sold out. Even if we max out capacity, you're talking about less than 0.2% of the annual turnstile clicks.
One can argue that the industry estimate of 58.3 million guests isn't an exact count of individual visitors. It's how many guests entered a park, and naturally that includes people on multiday and annual passes making more than a single visit. OK, I have a better metric. There are more than 36,000 rooms on Disney World property. Tuesday's debut represents less than 0.3% of them.
All cabins for the first two months of operation are sold out. There is sparse weekday availability in May, with wider booking opportunities currently starting in July. This doesn't mean that the costly new venture is a lock. Paying customers won't be universally happy. Disney will also have to make sure the optionality expands and the experience evolves if it wants guests to come back again.
Your aim would still be worse than a Stormtrooper if you think Disney will fail. This isn't an experience for 99.7% of Disney World visitors, and I can assure you that it is in their best interest for the experience to succeed. Let a niche experience for the wealthy succeed, and the next immersive lodging experience can have a lot more rooms at a much more accessible price point. That will never happen if Disney has to shift this starship in reverse.
Disney is going to make a fair amount of money on Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser. We're talking about more than $80 million a year just in lodging revenue. There will be merchandising opportunities, and premium add-ons beyond the included meals and amenities. It's going to cost a lot to operate -- and it wasn't cheap to whip up -- but it's a foot in the sliding Halcyon door for the class act of leisure stocks. Root against Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser if you wish, but you will probably be better served dreaming of what will come next after it succeeds.