Disney’s Park Pass system has become a very controversial part of the theme park experience.
Many fans have complained about the need to book a Park Pass (in addition to already having a valid ticket) to enter the parks and how it ruins the spontaneity that once existed with waking up and deciding what park you were going to that very same day. Some Disney executives have even recognized this downside to the system, and Disney is introducing some changes in the near future that’ll adjust Park Pass reservations (to a certain extent) for some groups. But just what does CEO Bob Iger have to say about Park Passes? We’ve got an update!
The last time we really heard current CEO Bob Iger speak about Park Passes was just days after his return to the CEO position when he held a Town Hall meeting for employees.
At that point, Iger didn’t share much about the Park Pass system other than to say that he had not used the system personally and wanted to speak with Josh D’Amaro, Chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences, and Products, before saying anything else about it.
D’Amaro has commented about Park Passes before. Back in 2021, he said “I don’t want to say we are going to go back to the way it was…I want to be really smart in the way we do this,” when discussing Disneyland’s park reservation system. In a more recent interview with D’Amaro, he also noted that the system is meant to help them provide a better guest experience, though Disney recognizes that it removes some of the serendipity of planning a last-minute trip.
He shared that the recent changes announced for the Park Pass system in Disney World, which will soon allow Annual Passholders to enter most of the parks after 2PM WITHOUT a Park Pass (with some exceptions), are “just the start” of changes being made to Park Passes. He shared, “Are you going to see more initiatives like you saw last week? I think you will.” So while D’Amaro seemed to indicate that Park Passes would be sticking around, he did share that Disney is working to improve the system and make the process as easy and flexible as possible.
Other Disney executives have praised the system and the way it helps Disney anticipate crowds, spread out demand, and reportedly provide a better guest experience.
So what does Iger have to say about it now? Well, on February 8th, during Disney’s earnings call for the first quarter of the fiscal year 2023, Iger didn’t directly address park passes, but he mentioned a few of the benefits that they’ve had from the operational standpoint.
Iger noted that the “demand in the parks is extraordinary right now” and that during the holiday season, Disney actually DECREASED capacity in order to help control the guest experience. (Fewer people in the parks typically equals happier guests.)
And even with cutting back on the number of guests, Disney was still able to meet the bottom line, substantially increasing revenue and income year-over-year.
They were also able to “manage capacity very very carefully and shift mix from annual passholders to those who may come once in a lifetime or just once.” These types of guests are “good customers because of their per capita spending when they’re there.”
So with this high demand for the parks…what will things look like going forward? Iger stated that they could increase capacity through reservations or they could raise prices to meet financial goals, but that neither of those things would be beneficial in the long run.
If they continue to increase prices, they’ll lose customers. Iger stated that “It’s clear that some of our pricing initiatives were alienating to our consumers. We were not perceived to be as accessible or as affordable as we probably should have been.”
Instead of raising prices or adding more park pass reservations, it seems that the long-term goal is to add more themed lands and offerings to the parks, thereby increasing the capacity of each park overall. This strategy worked well with the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge in Hollywood Studios and Disneyland Park, as well as Pandora — The World of Avatar in Animal Kingdom.
Iger noted that “We have opportunities to look at the great franchises of the company and see where we can invest in those in the parks and keep guest happiness up.” This includes the likelihood of an Avatar-themed experience at Disneyland Resort in the future, since the sequel film has been a box office success.
So, it seems as though Park Passes might not be going away for a while, considering they give Disney a fair amount of control over the parks. But with changes on the horizon, things may get better in the long term.
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What do you think about the Park Pass system? Tell us in the comments.
2 Replies to “Will Disney Get Rid of Park Passes Soon? Bob Iger’s Comments Could Give Us a Clue”
The simple fact for me is that when I now get that urge to book a last minute Disney trip like we used to do, I always push it aside due to knowing I probably can’t get decent park ressies. Hope this new system works for Disney, but they haven’t gotten any of my vacation dollars in the past 2 years after 40+ family trips since 1993.
Disney has touted the park reservation system as a way to control crowd size. What does that mean, exactly? Since attendance figures are never published, we have no idea how big the crowd sizes are. What is attendance today compared to , say, one, two, three, four years ago? We will never be told that. So I would tell Bob Iger this: You raised prices AND you started charging for things that were free on top of the price increase. You took away free stuff and you made a ton of money. This is like going to a restaurant: you go in and the place has raised it’s prices and made getting a table much more difficult, and you started charging for the glass of water and the bread and everything that comes with the meal like a salad, a potato, and a vegetable are charged for when they used to be included with the entree price. And the customers keep coming. It’s about time you started to realize that can’t go on forever. And you would have to have your head in the sand to not see Disney is using the Parks customers to compensate for bad business decisions in other ventures like your movies. So I suggest slow down and stop looking at Park guests as cash cows you can take advantage of. Put yourself in our shoes for once.