Ah, yes… the inevitable annual price increases at Disneyland. As the modern era of stockholder value demands that double digit profits continue, who can be truly surprised when these come along?
But, wait! There is a bit of a wrinkle this year. Those wily folks in the offices at Disney have decided to suspend the sales of the Southern California Annual Pass. Depending upon who spins the tale out here in the blogosphere on the Net, this can be read as a simple adjustment or the oncoming rush of doom for this class of Disneyland Annual Passholder.
How about a few minor niggling details to cloud the view? For example, once upon a time, there was only one type of annual pass to the Park. That’s right! Only one. Good for admission and all attractions, excluding the Shooting Galleries in Frontierland and Adventureland. Including parking and good during all normal dates and times of Disneyland operation.
During a period when attendance numbers dipped, a bright solution was seen to be the local populace. Those folks who lived close to Disneyland, in the Southern California area. One way to attract them was to offer a lower priced Annual Pass which allowed admission to the Park during off-peak periods. During the busy summer months, those Southern California AP’s were blacked out – meaning you couldn’t use that AP for admission then. As the pass system matured, many Saturdays were added to that black out calendar. Still, a good value with Sunday’s available. As many of the folks who came from out of town used Sunday’s as a travel day, even during peak time of year, guest numbers in the park were not crushing.
Funny thing, Disneyland has suspended sales of this class of Annual Passes once before, in 2001. And when the numbers fell off, they resumed sales. It may be in the small print but on the Disneyland web pages, you can find this text: “Pass types are limited in quantity, and may not be available.”
In other words, Annual Passes are not unlimited in number. And a minor point? Disney is not eliminating these passes. Folks who currently have them or event those who had passes expire in the last 90 days can still renew their passes. Disney is just not selling any new ones, right now.
I know I have said this before, but the truth is that while the number of guests with Annual Passes is good, this is not the most desirable guest demographic. That honor lies with the mythical first time family of four, spending more per capita than the AP’s. To be sure there are some AP’s, such as the Premium, who may spend more than the rest of the AP world on their visits. But the problem are those AP’s who don’t spend, who may just visit Disneyland to hang out. Socialize with others, just even to take in being at the Park. Those folks who camp out for fireworks, Fantasmic or World of Color.
Overcrowding at Disneyland seems to have become an issue. You could expect it during those summer/holiday peak periods. But when the gates to the Park have to be shut because capacity has been reached? Those unusual occurrences have become more in number. When even parking lots are closed and there is simply no where to park all those autos. Those times are happening far too often. And that creates a conundrum for the folks at TDA.
Yes, stock holder value is being served. Profits are good. But the quality of the guest experience? Not what is should be. When lines for food/beverages are too long – even at an outdoor vending location – people tend to become discouraged and will not wait. And when the lines for a restroom rival some attraction waits? Not “good show” by any means.
So, what to do? Suspending the sales of the Southern California Annual Passes is a good start. Fast Pass Plus? Still to early to tell if that experiment will ever come to Anaheim. The return of ticket books? Less likely than the return of the People Mover.
Disneyland is just too popular. As long as people continue to pay the prices for all of the experience, don’t look for price cutting. If things continue so well, could the suspension of the Southern California Select AP be next? Perhaps.
Lest anyone think otherwise, there are people inside the management of Disneyland who do have a clue or three. They understand that the draw of the place is magic to guests. And they do want to know what guests think about their visits to the Park. As odd as it may seem, the suspension of sales of new Southern California AP’s is a positive step in the improvement of the overall guest experience. That concept, a positive guest experience, still drives the best publicity/promotional effort that Disney can hope for – the good word of mouth. If I have a good time during my Disneyland visit, odds are pretty good (especially in today’s world of social media) that I will share it with family and friends. Who will likely come to visit the Park and have their own positive guest experience.
Somehow, it seems to work. Because in the words of Mister Willy Wonka, “they’re certainly not showing any sign that they are slowing!”