Guests are Flocking Back to Walt Disney World in Insane Numbers. This is Why.

-Being reported by Them Park Tourist – 

Though attendance has been down pretty much all year at Walt Disney World, we’ve noticed a very interesting trend in recent weeks at the resort: a massive uptick in guest levels at virtually every park! Epcot in particular has been a guest hotspot in recent weeks, and actually had to close its parking lot this past weekend due to capacity issues. This is already a rare occurrence in the middle of October, and certainly strange considering the well-publicized resort-wide attendance woes recently confirmed by Disney.

So what is going on here? Has Disney finally recovered from its recent guest level slump? Or is something else happening that is contributing to these massive crowds? Let’s take a deep dive into some of the factors likely contributing to the insane guest levels we have been seeing at Walt Disney World thus far this fall.

1. Annual passholders have returned to Walt Disney World in a big way

When Walt Disney World announced both price hikes and new pass tiers for annual passholders last year, many annual passholders elected to renew their passes at either the Gold or Silver level (which both have blockout dates), as the cost of the no blockout pass skyrocketed to $649 per person, up over $100 from the previous price point.

Though not explicitly stated, many speculated that one of the reasons behind the steepening cost of the no blockout annual pass option was Disney’s desire for an easy way to get summertime crowds under control by encouraging annual passholders to visit during other times with the promise of saving money on passes that do not include these busy dates. While this type of move is certainly a gamble, judging by the slow summer we witnessed in 2016 followed by the massive crowds that have been showing up at Walt Disney World in droves this fall, this tactic may have actually been a little too much of a success.

However, though annual passholders are likely a big part of the picture behind the late fall attendance swell of 2016, they are far from the only driving force behind the increasing numbers of guests coming to Walt Disney World in recent weeks…

2. Walt Disney World has released a ton of new deals for the fall

In case you haven’t noticed, Disney has been taking some extreme measures recently to discount the cost of a Walt Disney World vacation. From half-price tickets for friends of annual passholders to deep discounts on dining, merchandise and even hotel stays at the resort, Disney has been cutting costs for guests almost everywhere that is feasibly possible. Even guests who never set foot in a theme park have been able to take advantage of some pretty incredible deals at Disney Springs this fall as well. And with so many ways to save around the resort, it’s no wonder that guests are showing up in large numbers to take advantage of the unprecedented savings around Walt Disney World.

3. Non-peak season just became peak season

Earlier this year Walt Disney World changed how it handled one-day tickets, implementing a variable pricing model that categorized each day of the calendar year into three different tiers: value, regular and peak. And while you might think to yourself that not a lot of guests probably still purchase one-day tickets to Walt Disney World (which are well known to be a poor value when compared to multi-day tickets and annual passes), the fact is that one-day tickets are still a popular option with locals as well as those traveling through Orlando and wanting to take a quick trip to the most Magical Place on Earth.

However, with a nearly 20% difference between the cost of a peak and value ticket to the exact same park, it looks like the math for those interested in a short trip to Walt Disney World is a lot more complicated than it was previously, which could be holding guests back from a summertime visit. Though we’ll likely never see specific data about how the implementation of the tier system has affected the sale of one-day tickets, with such a large price gap it seems likely that guests who are able to schedule their visits to Walt Disney World around the value and moderate seasons and away from the peak season are electing to do just that. And this phenomenon is already having an interesting effect on attendance, as the parks are now more crowded on off-peak days than they are on the days when they are supposed to be the busiest!

4. Seasonal events are becoming an even bigger part of the Walt Disney World experience

If you’ve found yourself feeling like Walt Disney World’s seasonal events have been never-ending as of late, you can take heart in the fact that you’re not imagining things. This year’s Epcot Food and Wine Festival is tied with last year’s event as the longest ever, and 2016’s edition of Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party has the most party nights in 2016 in the event’s history. And it looks like this trend towards longer seasonal events isn’t going away any time soon, as it has already been confirmed that 2017’s Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival next spring will run an astonishingly-long 90 days as well.

Seasonal events have certainly been a big part of what keeps Walt Disney World guests coming back to the resort year after year, and it looks like Disney is going to keep ramping up all of these events as much as possible to keep guests returning again and again, as this year’s International Food and Wine Festival is proof that if Disney has an event, guests will show up, even if it’s just for one day.

Have you been to Walt Disney World yet this fall? Have you noticed higher than normal crowd levels around the resort? And if so, what factors do you think are behind this trend? Let us know what you think in the comments below!



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Don Korta
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