Over the past two years, many changes have been made that impact the typical guest experience at Walt Disney World. The most notable change being the launch of Genie+, the app-based feature that costs $15 per person per day to skip the standby lines on most attractions. Other changes include charging fees or totally eliminating services that used to be free to guests: like Disney’s Magical Express bus transportation to and from Orlando International Airport, MagicBands, and parking.
According to the article, “Disney’s theme-park pricing is determined by ‘pure supply and demand,’ said a company spokeswoman. ‘No different than airplanes, hotels or cruise ships.’ In the quarter that ended Jan. 1, Disney’s domestic parks set records in both quarterly revenue and operating income, then broke both of them six months later. For the quarter that ended July 2, the business unit that includes the theme parks also posted record revenue of $5.42 billion and record operating income of $1.65 billion. Josh D’Amaro, the chairman of Disney’s parks, experiences and products division, said that the changes have given visitors more choice about how to spend their time and money at the parks, while at the same time making the parks ‘extremely commercially successful.’”
The article goes on to follow guests like Sara Suvada, a Starbucks shift supervisor from Auburn Hills, Michigan, who spent “around $5,000” recently to visit Walt Disney World. For Sara, “the memories are worth more than gold,” she said. “Even if I did suffer from overdraft fees once I got home, when the reality set in.”
The memories are worth more than gold. Even if I did suffer from overdraft fees once I got home, when the reality set in.
Walt Disney World guest, Sara Suvada
Meanwhile other guests like Renea Warren believe that “because of the astronomical expenses, I definitely think the magic is being taken away.” Although Warren owns a timeshare about 20 minutes away from Walt Disney World, her family has started considering visiting rival Orlando-based attractions like Universal Studios Florida and SeaWorld since “returning to Disney every year is no longer an option.”
Disneyland annual pass holders like David Arone, a 50-year old gym teacher and volleyball coach from Redondo Beach, California, aren’t as ready to keep spending. “I just really resent the nickel-and-diming,” said Arone. Arone is pass holder who visits “more than 100 times per year”, mostly because of the fond memories the park induces for him personally. But on a recent trip, Arone wore a homemade t-shirt with the phrase “Chapek Killed the Magic” on it — referring of course to Disney CEO Bob Chapek, who Arone blames the rising prices and other changes on.
Although Disney reported record profits earlier this month, they also reported that prices increases were offset by an “unfavorable attendance mix”, which many fans interpreted as a reference to annual pass holders. According to the article, some annual pass holders have begun visiting the parks wearing shirts that read “Unfavorable” in protest. Meanwhile Disney says that “unfavorable mix” is financial parlance meant for investors, and “not a consumer term.”
While the good will that many fans have for Disney Parks seems to be on life support, profits continue to soar. As long as guests are willing to come home from vacation and suffer from over-draft fees, it’s hard to see things changing anytime soon.
What do you think about the new, more expensive version of visiting Disney Parks? Will you stop visiting due to price? Let us know in the comments.