The most desired of Disney guests


This may come as a shock to the Disney fan faithful, but they are not the most desired guests. Nor are the Annual Passholders. Be they Premium or Premiere. And not the members of D23 either. Denizens of Internet message boards don’t make the cut as well.

Not that Disney disdains the members of these groups. The cash they bring, folding money or plastic, makes the Accountanteers smile. These folks tend to be just the gravy on the main dish.

The real meat? The folks for who a Disney theme park visit is the “once-in-a-lifetime” experience. That mythical family of four, who has been planning this special vacation for some time. The people who will take in the Park(s) for the first time.

They see Disneyland with fresh eyes. They aren’t focused on peeling paint or burned out light bulbs. Instead, they see Mickey and will quietly wait in line for their moment of quality time with him, in Main Street’s Town Square. It’s a good bet that they also buy that PhotoPass picture of the family with him, too. And that is simply the start of their adventure in the Magic Kingdom.

Despite all the numbers of folks who make up the groups mentioned above, the most desired guests will always be those who are in the majority every day. I know, shocking, isn’t it? The rabid fans who have to be seen with every character or can share that last bit of trivia about the Park at the drop of a churro really don’t matter as much as they would like to believe. Misplaced sense of entitlement and all, sadly disdained by some cast members and they are what they are.

So, why are the common guests more sought after? To start with, the disposable income they have to part with is more per capita than that of the repeat guest. If they are only going to be visiting the Park for a short period, they are far more likely to spend than their counterparts. Stay in an on-property hotel, eat at a restaurant inside the parks and purchase that multi-day passport. Thrown in those PhotoPass pictures, souvenirs and snacks and it all adds up. Bringing revenue that the folks in those groups won’t match.

Another great point for this choice demographic is that they tend to take the most important souvenir of all with them when they leave. Word of mouth. And with social media expanding as it is, they share with family and friends how wonderful their visit was. And Disney doesn’t pay anything for this free publicity, either. Again, smiles from the Accountanteers…

So, why does Disney court the special groups as it does? In the big picture, the effort to keep the repeat business is worth the cost. It does offer returns. And when have we ever known the company in the Eisner and Iger era to ignore any revenue stream? That gravy helps keep the bottom line happy. Which keeps shareholders happy. Happy, happy, happy.

So, the next time you visit any Disney theme park, thank the folks making that “once-in-a-lifetime” vacation. Without them, we would never have things like Carsland or any other expansion. Because what they bring are the true treasures that the Disney company likes best.

Buck up and make that monthly payment on your Annual Pass.

Posted in Disneyland, Ruminations | 3 Comments

3 Responses to The most desired of Disney guests

  1. Tim McRaven says:

    Excellent piece! Could not be more true…

  2. Leo says:

    Actually, I only partially agree with Roger on this one. If the once-in-a-lifetime visitor or even those who visit once every 3 to 5 years were a priority, then Disney would give them better perks — like access to 6 to 8 FastPasses per day, better deals on 3- to 5-day park hopper tickets, etc. They’d radically raise the price on annual passports and keep the price on a 1-, 3- and 5-day park hopper far lower than they currently cost to encourage tourism.

    No, Disney’s real gravy train comes from the annual passholders who live more than 250- to 300-miles away. Because of kids in school, work, holiday schedules and vacations, they’re most likely Premium Annual Passholders who visit on three-day weekends, school breaks, etc — maybe 12 to 30 days a year. They describe themselves as Disney fans and are more likely to stay at a Disneyland Resort hotel — or at least have a favorite Anaheim hotel where they’re a regular. They certainly eat some meals in the parks and probably are uber fans who’ve been caught up in some Disney collectible fad — plush, pins, popcorn buckets, Vinylmation, ear hats or antenna toppers. The spend as much or more in two or three visits as the once-in-a-lifetime guest and do it annually as long as they can continue to identify themselves as “middle income” or better households.

    • Roger Colton says:

      While I can appreciate what Leo points out, I must respectfully disagree.

      As much as this particular demographic has its merits, the first-time or one-time visitor is still the choice fruit hanging from the disposable income tree.

      Indeed, Disney can do better to provide for these guests. And hopefully with Harry Potter coming to Universal on both US coasts, the suits at the company will step up and take the measures needed to keep attracting this group. I’m not talking free (which it really isn’t) dining, but a better overall experience. The kind of thing that they hope to get from the Magic band.

      Ultimately, Walt’s words always come back to haunt the company.

      “I have blind faith in the policy that quality, tempered with good judgement and showmanship, will win against all odds.”

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