Right now, summer is in full swing at Walt Disney World, with temperatures rising and guests packing the parks. However, something interesting is happening at the newly-opened Pandora – The World of Avatar area at Disney’s Animal Kingdom: wait times in this area are actually on the decline!
Though the first few opening days for this new area were incredibly busy with the land filling to capacity as guests rushed in to be among the first to travel to this alien world, in recent weeks, wait times have fallen dramatically with Avatar – Flight of Passage hovering around two hours most days and the Na’vi River Journey under 90 minutes regularly.
And while you may be tempted to think that this is an indication that this land isn’t the big hit Disney was hoping for, wait times are not diminishing because less people are visiting. On the contrary, so many people are visiting that Disney has actually run out of the ultra-popular Banshee souvenirs. So how then, is it possible for guests to be waiting less for attractions inside this land when guest levels remain high? The answer is more complex than you might think.
1. Getting the resort guests in early and late
Earlier this year Disney made the unprecedented announcement that resort guests would have daily access to Pandora – The World of Avatar after park closing for nightly Extra Magic Hours inside Disney’s Animal Kingdom. And while this offering was originally scheduled through mid-July, it has proven to be incredibly successful, and last week it was confirmed that Disney has extended this special offering into mid-August. In addition, Disney has added extra Rivers of Light showings during these nightly events as well.
When you add this special offering to the early morning Extra Magic Hours that are also regularly scheduled at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, resort guests are getting plenty of extra time to explore this new area, which means during regular park hours (which are still extended as well), the overwhelming majority of these guests are enjoying a ride of Expedition Everest or park hopping to Epcot. This is likely one of the biggest contributors to the falling wait times in this area, but there’s more at work here than just well-managed after-hours time for resort guests.
2. Non-resort guests are heading to this land first thing in the morning…and then going elsewhere
It’s no secret that the best way to see a new attraction at Walt Disney World (if you aren’t staying on property) is to arrive at the park an hour or two before opening, and then sprinting to your destination as fast as you can. And for the most part, this strategy has worked well for guests visiting Pandora – The World of Avatar, with both attractions sporting low double digit wait times early in the morning.
However, it looks like while guests are rushing into this area, they aren’t really sticking around after taking a spin on this land’s two attractions. Though Disney has purposefully built Pandora – The World of Avatar with tons of details for guests to explore, it looks like right now guests are not really taking in the scenery in this area, opting instead to experience the two rides and then leave.
Now how does this affect wait times? Well, without guests milling about and waiting an hour or two before going for re-rides, congestion at these rides can stay minimal. This is in sharp contrast to something like Ariel’s Undersea Adventure, which saw artificially high wait times when it opened as guests rode and re-road while exploring the expanded New Fantasyland area of the park.
And while this phenomenon may be helping ease congestion at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, there may be another reason guests aren’t flooding in now the way they did back in May. And we think we know why…
3. The summer may not be as busy as anticipated
Earlier this year Walt Disney World reported that for the first time in over a year, attendance was actually up at the resort, which had many forecasting that this summer would be a rebound year for Walt Disney World. However, it looks like with the rising temperatures and summer showers, guest levels have actually remained somewhat stagnant when compared with last year, even at other parks like the Magic Kingdom and Epcot.
While we’ll have to wait months before we see any kind of attendance projection or figure, just based on what we’ve seen so far this summer, it looks like this tourist season may not be as big as it once was, with more guests potentially looking at spring or fall for their Walt Disney World vacation. Which means that yes, wait times for the two attractions in Pandora – The World of Avatar may be down this summer, but they could very well rebound this fall.
-From Theme Park Tourist, June 19, 2017 by Amanda Kondolojy
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