As reported by Theme Park Tourist…..
By Amanda Kondolojy, Monday, August 29, 2016 06:00
Walt Disney World has made a lot of changes to its annual passholder program in recent months, and it is no secret that not all of these changes have been popular with fans. Though Walt Disney World doesn’t have the same huge reliance on regional visitors as the west coast Disneyland Resort does, the annual pass program at Walt Disney World is still one of the biggest ways the resort gets local residents to visit its theme parks again and again every year, and is instrumental for the success of special events like Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and Epcot’s Candlelight Processional.
However, with last year’s implementation of a tiered pricing structure for annual passes, plus rising prices, and diminishing benefits, it looks like many annual passholders are either downgrading their passes to save money, or are cancelling them altogether. The Orlando Sentinel recently published a report that details this emerging trend (especially among local Orlando residents), and while Disney has not issued any official statement on their passholder program, with so much negativity seemingly brewing among annual passholders its hard to imagine that Disney’s recent attendance issues might not at least partially be due to declining admissions from annual passholders in 2016.
Although comments made in the Orlando Sentinel article seem to indicate that annual passholders are already frustrated with the current state of the annual passholder program (the tiered system seems to be a particularly salient point of contention for those interviewed for the article), it looks like more changes could be on the way in the very near future, and unfortunately one of them may bring more restrictions to an already diluted pass…
1. An expansion of block-outs
Under the current tiered system employed by Walt Disney World, guests have to weigh the ever-growing price of an annual pass with the various block-out dates that each pass (with the exception of the uber-expensive Platinum and Platinum Plus tiers) comes with in order to figure out which of more than half a dozen different pass types works best for them. However, according to the Orlando Sentinel article referenced above, the math involved in deciding which kind of annual pass to purchase may be getting even more complicated in the near future.
One source quoted in the story said that they had received a survey that asked them about potential further restrictions to the annual pass program that included “blocked access a couple of months after the opening of a new attraction, parade or show at a theme park.” The survey then went on to reportedly ask whether or not the guest would theoretically be willing to pay additional admission costs to gain access to the new attraction, pay extra to upgrade their pass permanently to ensure continuing access to new attractions, or wait until the restrictions were lifted to experience new attractions.
Now, while it’s true that not every question asked on a survey translates to actual action, considering the idea of tiered passes was first floated in a questionnaire several months before it was actually implemented, fans have been paying much more attention to these surveys since, and it’s not like further erosion of the annual passholder program would be that farfetched of an idea.
Then again, Disney could go the other way and try and recapture those annual passholders who have let their passes lapse or are considering not renewing with a completely different tactic, which may also be on the way soon:
2. New benefits for annual passholders are confirmed to be coming soon
A Walt Disney World official who spoke with the Orlando Sentinel regarding the increasing dissatisfaction among annual passholders with the program said that Disney will be unveiling new passholder benefits as well as another Florida resident ticket offer later this fall, and will also be giving annual passholders access to 2016’s special holiday events early in the season.
Now while this all sounds like good news (if light on detail), we don’t quite know what this means. The last time Disney offered a “perk” for annual passholders, it was simply the addition of PhotoPass downloads to higher tiers of annual passes, which many passholders didn’t want, and didn’t feel like justified the massively inflated renewal cost associated with getting a higher-tiered pass with fewer block-out dates.
However, though we don’t exactly know what kinds of perks Disney will be offering guests this fall, there are plenty of ways that Disney could “make good” with its annual passholders. After all, Disney expanded the Tables in Wonderland programearlier this year to include nearly half a dozen new discounts, and it doesn’t seem unreasonable that Disney could add some additional discounts to the annual passholder program as well.
Walt Disney World could even follow Disneyland Resort and Universal Orlando Resort’s lead, both of which have recently announced special events just for their annual passholders that included complimentary souvenirs, limited-time entertainment, and special activities. Recently, Universal Orlando Resort has also lifted blockout dates for its lowest tier of pass, which is another perk that Walt Disney World could offer to its non-Platinum and Gold passholders (which would have the added benefit of boosting attendance as well!)
No matter what happens with this mystery benefit that is coming to annual passholders, it has at least been confirmed that Walt Disney World is planning something for this group, and we should know more about it in the coming weeks. Are you a Walt Disney World annual passholder? How do you feel about all the changes that have come to the passholder program in recent months? Have you been thinking about downgrading or not renewing your pass? And if you do still have your pass, what kind of perks would you like to see Walt Disney World introduce to keep passholders happy? Let us know your thoughts the comments below!
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