As reported by Theme Park Tourist:
It’s no secret that Disney parks have had an unusually quiet summer, but even though we’ve talked a lot about the thinning crowds all around the Walt Disney World resort, the fact is that this is not just a phenomenon happening in one place. All around Orlando at Universal Orlando Resort, SeaWorld Orlando, and even farther out in central Florida at places like LEGOLAND Florida and Busch Gardens Tampa, guest levels have been abnormally low for what is supposed to be the busiest time of the year next to the holidays.
Though there are plenty of factors likely contributing to this downturn in overall theme park attendance (softer international travel, rising costs of visiting a theme park, etc.), the fact is that 2016 so far has been rough for almost every central Florida theme park. However, the good news is that Orlando-area parks are now taking some very consumer-friendly measures to try and get guests (especially locals) back into the parks before the summer season finally winds down next month.
1. Block-out dates are being lifted
Earlier this year, Walt Disney World surprised guests who had seasonal annual passes by lifting block-out restrictions during the Spring Break vacation period. And while nothing has been announced, many are anticipating that Disney may lift block-out periods again later this year to try and bulk up its summertime numbers before the end of the season.
However, beyond Disney, Universal Orlando Resort has also announced that, effective immediately, all summer block out dates for its lowest-tier “Power” pass have also been lifted. This is great news for those hoping to see the new Skull Island: Reign of Kong attraction and the reimagined Hulk roller coaster, which is still projected to roar back to life this summer.
Not only is this good for guests who already have low-tier passes, but it could also encourage those who have let their passes lapse in recent years to purchase a lower-priced annual pass without fear of losing value due to summer block-out dates (at least in 2016). However, it’s not just annual passholders who are getting a deal thanks to the attendance slowdown in Orlando.
2. Deals on tickets, hotel stays, etc.
Though Orlando theme parks almost always offer a number of deals for certain guests during the year, this summer the parks have gone into overdrive trying to cut potential guests a deal to entice them to plan a last minute trip. From free tickets to LEGOLAND Florida to discounted stays at value resorts at both Universal Orlando Resort and Walt Disney World, if you are holding off on a trip to Orlando’s theme parks because of price, it might be a good idea to revisit your summer plans, as prices are going way down as the various theme parks and resorts in central Florida try and attract budget-minded guests during this slow season.
3. More limited-time events
It’s hard to believe, but between all of the major Orlando-area theme parks, over a dozen new attractions have opened thus far in 2016. However, if new rides, shows and other attractions aren’t enough to get you to visit SeaWorld Orlando, Epcot, or Islands of Adventure, it looks like Orlando-area theme parks are trying to use limited time events to get guests back into the parks.
From Pokémon GO-inspired events at Busch Gardens and LEGOLAND Florida to the recently-announced Summer Soak Party at SeaWorld Orlando (which includes a live DJ, sprinklers, rain curtains, and discounted snacks and treats), there are a lot of limited-time events happening all around Orlando during the final days of summer that will hopefully draw local guests looking for something fun (and new) to do at their favorite theme park.
4. Restructuring of in-park entertainment
In addition to hosting a number of limited time events, Orlando theme parks have also been restructuring their in-park entertainment in an effort to keep things fresh. From the numerouscharacter meet and greet changes happening at Walt Disney World to the addition of new “streetmosphere”-style shows at Universal Orlando Resort, these theme parks are trying to inject some new energy by restructuring their in-park offerings to make them as dynamic as possible to try and encourage local visitors to stop by to see what’s new at their park of choice.
5. Dining changes are also in the air
In the same vein, Orlando-area theme parks are also making changes to their in-park dining in an effort to attract mainly locals to stop in and grab a bite to eat or something to drink. Universal Orlando Resort recently announced a special deal on Coca-Cola Freestyle mugs for annual passholders, and Walt Disney World has been working on changing menus at some of its most popular eateries as well as introducing a new lunch deal at Tiffins, the newest restaurant at the resort. Walt Disney World has also been quietly expanding discounts on dining for annual passholders, including most recently at the Skipper Canteen, which opened less than a year ago at the Magic Kingdom. Disney has also announced a refillable popcorn deal that allows guests to purchase a single bucket and get refills all day.
Though there are a lot of changes happening around Orlando-area theme parks right now in response to the downturn in guest activity so far this year, one thing that probably won’t happen as a result of smaller summer crowds is permanent ticket discounts. While many fans have said that they believe that higher prices are to blame for this downturn, it seems unlikely that Orlando-area theme parks will reverse their price trends in any meaningful way beyond limited-time deals and promotions.
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