Walt Disney World’s Proposed New Plan Could Be Very Bad News for Some Guests

Walt Disney World’s Proposed New Plan Could Be Very Bad News for Some Guests

-Reported by Theme Park Tourist..

Though high attendance is something that theme parks love to tout as a measure of success, Walt Disney World has struggled in the past with overcrowding, which is an issue the resort has tackled head-on in recent years with substantial price hikes, the implementation of the tiered annual passholder system, and even special perks for guests visiting in the “off” season. However, it looks like Disney may be considering another measure to control crowds that would be its most dramatic yet.

A survey started making the rounds a few weeks ago that suggests that Walt Disney World is considering implementing a new policy that would include expanded restrictions for annual passholders. Under the proposed new system, annual passholders at lower tiers would not only be subject to admission blackouts during specific times of the year, but would also potentially lose the ability to access to new rides and attractions unless they paid to upgrade their pass.

Though we’ve already gone over some of the details regarding this rumored plan (you can read all about it here), in recent weeks more and more fans have been wondering about why Walt Disney World would even be considering a plan like this and if Disney is serious about their proposed plan to block access to specific new attractions for some of its most loyal fans.

With price hikes coming soon, we figured we’d take a closer look at this rumor and how plausible a scheme like this really is.

This idea is directly tied to the opening of Star Wars Land

Image: Disney

Walt Disney World has a lot of new attractions opening up in the near future. However, though we’re sure Pandora: The World of Avatar will be amazing and Toy Story Land will be interesting, these new lands aren’t expected to the be the same draw that Star Wars Land will be. And that could potentially be very bad for Disney’s Hollywood Studios. To explain why, let’s jump back in time a little bit.

Orlando theme park fans may recall the opening day for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter back in 2010, when thousands of guests showed up at Universal Orlando Resort, causing traffic jams and forming a massive queue through Islands of Adventure that stretched far out of the park gates, spilling over into CityWalk. Right now Disney is anticipating those kinds of crowds for Star Wars Land, and wants to ensure that such a nightmare scenario doesn’t happen at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, which doesn’t have the park capacity to support such a giant crowd. And here’s where their brilliant plan comes in.

By blocking annual passholders out of Star Wars Land during its first days (whenever those are), Disney would theoretically be able to instantly eliminate a good percentage of guests who would ordinarily show up for opening day, thereby (hopefully) avoiding a super-crowded situation like the one we saw at Universal in 2010. This would also allow Walt Disney World to give preference to guests who bought a ticket especially for this grand opening date as well as on-property guests, who would likely be encouraged to experience new attractions during Extra Magic Hours.

Of course, Star Wars Land won’t be open for at least three or four years, and a lot can change in that time period. In fact, with this land barely just breaking ground at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, you’d be forgiven for wondering why we’re talking about this now anyway. And while we don’t know for sure about why Disney is circulating this survey now, we’d guess that if Disney does decide to go ahead with this plan, they will likely be testing it out with Pandora: The World of Avatar (perhaps specifically with the Flight of Passage E-ticket attraction), and will then will use the results from this test to decide how to move forward in the years before Star Wars Land opens.

Could this even really happen?

When reports about this possible annual passholder restriction first surfaced, fans balked at the notion of attraction-specific blackout dates. Would Walt Disney World really risk alienating some of its most loyal fans by locking them out of new attractions for an unspecified amount of time unless they paid more for their pass? It sounds ridiculous. However, if we take recent events into account, this idea looks at least plausible, especially when you look at it from Disney’s perspective.

Consider the following: until last year, blackout dates weren’t offered for most annual passholders. However, 2015 brought the tiered annual pass system for Walt Disney World guests into existence, and now these guests have to decide between the expensive Platinum pass (which offers 365 days of admission) the more reasonable Gold pass (which only blocks out the holidays) or the more economical Silver Pass (which restricts admission in the summer). Though fans jeered this development at first, in the months since it was first introduced, they’ve adapted to this new system quite well, and from what we can tell, Disney’s goal of reducing guest levels in the summer has been achieved (perhaps a little too well, in fact).

With this in mind it becomes clear that Disney doesn’t mind upsetting the status quo in the name of crowd control, and with a system like MyMagic+ already in place, it would be very easy to restrict access for specific attractions for annual passholders, as a simple MagicBand tap would reveal whether or not a guest had a pass type that permitted entry for a given attraction on a specific day.

While such a system wouldn’t exactly be the friendliest to annual passholders, it does make some sense from Disney’s point of view, and while some might be quick to dismiss this idea as just something in a survey, it would be wise to remember that the current annual passholder tier system was also first brought up in a survey almost a year before it debuted as well.

How would you feel if Disney started blocking specific attraction access for annual passholders when they first opened? In the survey, Disney implies that a more expensive annual pass option could be added that would include access to new attractions. Would you pay extra to add such an option? Let us know your thoughts below!

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Don Korta
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