Calling myself an economist is like calling myself a tourist. I don’t want to be, I don’t think I am; but I’ve got the sore feet, a dorky outfit, and mild sunburn that say otherwise. So of course I have to do both at the same time. Here are a few observations from a recent visit.
Disney is the archetype of efficiency: Disney World has perfected the art of moving people. They make it easy to understand the movement from your bus or car or whatever into the park for people of any language using colors, characters, huge signs, and properly roped off areas. You never see employees coming and going. They use secret passages inside buildings marked like attractions and tunnels undergrounds to move about. You don’t see trash anywhere, but you rarely see anyone around cleaning. There is no peice of the parks that goes unused. Attractions are blended together using set peices and buildings. Every attraction is built around a story. There is no dead space, you can’t see other buildings used for services or cleaning. It’s quite brilliant.
Everyone looks miserable, but isn’t? Even in late October it’s still sunny and in the 80s in Florida. Park hours are long and everyone tries to squeeze in as much fun as possible. After a few hours and a long line or two, kids are sleeping in their strollers, crying and complaining, and dragging their feet as they follow their parents around the park. And yet it’s hard to find anyone that doesn’t love the place. People always want to come back, and everyone buys souvenirs. This is because Disney knows just how much fun you need (including how many rides you need to hit) to have in order to forget the crowds, heat, and cost. Disney’s first and only real focus, is making people just happy enough to spend a bunch of money and come back. If we ever start measuring the economy based on happiness instead of GDP or quality of life, Disney is who you hire to maximize happiness.
This is what foreigners want to see: When Americans go to Europe they want to see the culture and beautiful landscapes, eat the great food, and soak up history that stretches back hundreds of years (even thousands) compared the the US’s measly few hundred. But when they come over here they want to see two things: New York City and Disney World. They don’t care about our history, or food, and surely not our culture. Europeans seem to enjoy being outdoors, seeing large things (our hotels and even cars are huge comparably), and getting some sun. This makes Florida a good choice.