3 Reasons Wait Times are Falling All Around Walt Disney World

3 Reasons Wait Times are Falling All Around Walt Disney World

Here is a great article from our friends over at Theme Park Tourist regarding crowds and lines this Summer at The Walt Disney World Resort.

How do you feel? Have the crowds and lines been better thee so far this season?



3 Reasons Wait Times are Falling All Around Walt Disney World

For many, the thought of a visit to Walt Disney World immediately brings to mind amazing attractions, fun characters, and amazing shows. And even though a trip to a Walt Disney World theme park certainly entails all of that and more, there’s one part of every Disney vacation that absolutely no one likes: standing in line. Though Disney has worked very hard to create interesting, interactive queues for guests to enjoy while they are waiting, the fact is that shuffling for an hour or more with hundreds of other guests in a cramped space isn’t exactly fun, even if you have some cool stuff to look at along the way.

However, nearly a month into the busy summer season at Walt Disney World, we’ve noticed something interesting happening at Walt Disney World: wait times are going down. Like anything else, there are a number of factors likely contributing to this phenomenon, both intentional and unintentional on Disney’s behalf. Let’s break down exactly why this is happening.

 1. Guest levels are down this summer

Several weeks ago Disney shared via its financial results that overall attendance was down at Walt Disney World earlier this year. While Disney expected a bump back up this summer (after all, the resort is opening more than half a dozen new attractions), so far we simply haven’t seen very much of an uptick in attendance at the park during the month of June.

Though there are likely several causes for depressed attendance in general, one big contributor is declining visitors from South America (and Brazil in particular). Though throngs of Brazilian tour groups used to be a summer fixture all across Walt Disney World, this year simply hasn’t brought in crowds from this region of the world (possibly due to both Brazil’s economic troublesas well as the impending summer Olympics event), and the parks simply haven’t been busy as a result.

In addition to depressed international traveller levels, another contributing factor to the lower levels of attendance around the resort could be the ever-rising cost of a Walt Disney World vacation, which could be keeping away domestic visitors as well. Though everyone always bemoans the price hikes that come every year, 2016’s annual increases came with a big structural change: surge pricing.

The new demand-based model discourages visits during busy travel periods by increasing prices during the summer and holiday seasons. However, is it possible that Disney has been a little too successful with its new demand-based pricing structure?  Right now guest levels are pretty low, and if guests are indeed waiting for when ticket prices are cheaper, could we see the return of astronomical wait times in the fall, which was previously the “slow” season? It’s obviously too soon to know anything for sure right now, but we’ll definitely be keeping an eye on this as 2016 progresses.

Editor’s note: We know that some readers are likely to wonder whether recent events in Orlando have impacted on Walt Disney World attendance. It’s too early for us to speculate on that, but we noticed this trend prior to the horrific nightclub attack, and prior to the on-site tragedy involving an alligator.

Though smaller crowds this summer have certainly been a big contributor to lower wait times around Walt Disney World, that’s not the only reason why guests are spending less time in line this summer…

2. Better FastPass+ policies

We’ve seen in the past that FastPass+ has a profound impact on wait times, and while it may have driven up waits at first, a number of smart changes to the FastPass+ system have had an inverse effect on wait times. From being able to filter FastPass+ availability by time to the ability to roll through FastPass+ reservations right from your phone, and even a new FastPass+ “drop” time, Disney has made the FastPass+ line even more efficient, which not only helps those with FasPass+ reservations, but those in the standby line as well. Disney has also removed the second FastPass+ touch point from all attractions, which is also improving the speed with which guests move through this line.

3. Adding capacity across the resort

As home to the most popular theme parks in the world, Walt Disney World has impressive capacity. However, with attendance continuing to trend upwards (at least for the past several years), Disney has had to make some bold moves to ensure that their parks can handle as many guests as possible, as comfortably as possible. This has become especially important in recent months as construction has caused over a dozen closures in the past few years.

The first part of this plan has been to expand ride capacity at two of the most popular attractions at Walt Disney World: Soarin’ and Toy Story Mania. And with both of these expansions now open, the effect on wait times has been profound. While Toy Story Mania used to command wait times in excess of two hours (even when the park wasn’t crowded), this summer has seen this attraction return to wait times between 50-70 minutes, which is a huge improvement. And though Soarin’s third theater has only been open for a few days, Soarin’s wait time has plummeted, going as low as 20 minutes on the opening day of Soarin’ Around the World.

However, it’s not just attractions that are helping to increase capacity. One of the big reasons why it was so important for Disney to add nighttime operations at Disney’s Animal Kingdom was to help relieve some of the pressure on other parks after dark. Though guests haven’t exactly taken to this park’s nighttime attractions immediately, hopefully by the time the Rivers of Light nighttime spectacular is ready to go (and Pandora: The World of Avatar is open) this park will be holding its own and drawing just as many evening guests as Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Though plenty of guests try and avoid Walt Disney World during the busy summer travel season, this summer has been quite different from what we’ve seen in the past several years, as wait times have been very low throughout the month of June, thanks to a combination of smart moves from Disney as well as a general decline in attendance this summer. Have you been to Walt Disney World yet this summer? Have you seen much shorter waits around the resort as well?

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Don Korta
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