Ask lovers of Disney’s theme parks whether they think what Disneyland Paris recently begun doing will be brought to the US parks this week to enrage them. Disney’s French resort is launching Disney Premier Access, an up-charge program in which customers may pay between $9 and $18 per person to enter a faster line for a certain ride or attraction using their cellphones. When you’re on vacation, time is money, but this handy tip may pile up over the course of a day at the park.
Until the parks closed in March of last year, the FastPass platform at Disneyland in California and Disney World in Florida was available to all customers at no additional fee. FastPass has yet to reopen at either resort, causing some to speculate that the previously groundbreaking technology was undergoing modifications. Following the introduction of a barrier for faster access at Disneyland Paris, fans and investors alike are asking if Disney World and, eventually, Disneyland will follow suit.
It’s possible, and there’s no better moment to implement a new system than now, when the old one has been out of commission for 16 months. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why Disney could opt against going this way.
In three months, Disney World will celebrate its 50th anniversary.
Disney World will be 50 in less than three months, and the Mouse House has planned an 18-month celebration. In some ways, launching a paid app upgrade makes perfect sense in current atmosphere. There will be a lot of people visiting Disney’s four theme parks in Central Florida, which means there will be plenty of people willing to pay to skip what should be long lines.
In addition, there are a slew of new attractions and experiences set to debut in October. In the frenzy of good media around the significant milestone, a potentially contentious action like this might be missed or pushed. Is Disney, on the other hand, willing to sully this success with a move that may be profitable in the short term but damaging to the brand in the long run?
If Disney boosts ticket pricing and on-site hotel rates ahead of the celebration, no one will be surprised. It’s possible to add a new layer of classism by turning every popular ride into a tollbooth, but the timing isn’t ideal at a time when the focus should be on honoring the past rather than cashing in on the future.
Disneyland Paris is not Disney World.
There is no other theme park resort on the planet that compares to Disney World. In 2019, the resort’s centerpiece Magic Kingdom was the only theme park on the globe to garner more over 20 million visitors, surpassing the combined attendance of Disneyland Paris’ two parks. Disneyland Paris, as the smallest of the fully-owned Disney resorts, has a bit more freedom in terms of monetizing the guest experience.
There are almost two dozen on-site resort choices at Disney World, which leads us to the lever that is more likely to be pulled here than a pure pay-per-ride revenue grab. Disney has already given a hint by stating that beginning in December, visitors staying at the resort’s most expensive luxury hotels would have access to special nighttime park hours. Disney may sweeten the deal by charging extra for high-end properties and offering additional FastPass options.
The boo birds will label it classist, and some Disney fans have already complained that the expanded hours are only available at premium resorts. However, there is one method for Disney to charge a premium for the FastPass service without having to charge a separate fee for each accelerated line.
Premium FastPass will be useless until yearly passes are reinstated.
In January, Disneyland canceled its yearly pass program. Existing passholders are still welcome in Disney World, but new passes are not being sold in a rush. To put it another way, rather than paying a few dollars a day for entrance to Disney parks, an increasing percentage of day visitors are paying full retail rates in the triple digits.
A premium add-on would be a fantastic way to level the playing field if we were back in the days when a bunch of seasoned regulars were cramming into lines and mastering the FastPass system. Premium FastPasses would offer more financially viable pass holders an advantage over less financially viable pass holders. Everyone, including investors in travel stocks, would get what they want since pay-per-ride riders would be supporting discounted pass holders. It’s not going to happen right now, but it’s just a matter of time.
Professor Tom Morrow was originally a spacecraft missions director who oversaw spacecraft travels from Earth to the moon, notably with the Moonliner space-ship. In later attractions, Mr. Morrow is the mayor of Tomorrowland and a promoter of the latest technological advancements.
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