Disney Theme Parks Get Customers to Pay Extra (and Like it)

The theme park giant took away something that was once free, making people pay, and that has actually worked well.

Companies raise prices all the time. In the theme park business, it has become fairly normal for tickets, annual prices, food prices, and pretty much every other cost to go up each year. And in addition to that, it’s not uncommon for free perks to go away or become something that costs extra.

Walt Disney (DIS) – Get The Walt Disney Company Report has held the line on ticket prices at its Florida and California theme parks since before the pandemic, The company has, however, raised prices on pretty much everything else. You’ll pay more for food (or get less of it for the same price) and MagicBands, once a perk for passholders and people staying on property, now must be purchased.

The most egregious thing Disney has done — and it got phased In during the pandemic — was dropping its FastPass+ system. This used to offer faster access to three rides per visit (you could add one more based on availability after your three). People staying at Disney’s hotel could reserve these experiences (rides, shows, and character meet-and-greets were included) 60 days ahead of their visit. Passholders and ticketholders only got a 30-day advancer window.

It was a free service that allowed park visitors to know that they would be able to ride their favorite rides without much of a wait. Yes, there were limitations as you essentially only got one “premium” ride per day, but it was a beloved free perk until Disney dropped it in favor of the paid Genie+ and Lightning Lane system.

You would expect that change to anger park visitors, at least the ones used to the old system (and at first it did), but then something entirely different happened.


Here’s How Genie+ Works 

While FastPass+ had tiers as well, it was all one product where park visitors were guided through the available choices. Genie+ is a little different as it has two distinct parts.

First, there’s the Genie+ piece of the equation, a service that gives FastPass+-like access to some rides, attractions, character spots, and events for $15 per person, per day. Visitors can only make one selection at a time and select rides aren’t in the Genie+ system. The rides that are not offered on Genie+ (more or less the newest and most popular ones) can be booked through a standalone” Lightning Lane” system which has variable pricing based on demand.

It’s not all that different from FastPass+ except the one-ride-at-a-time booking system (which can only be made from the park on the day purchased) gives you less certainty than the old system where you booked three experiences. Disney only promises that “guests can enter 2 to 3 attractions or experiences per day using Lightning Lane entrances if the first selection is made early in the day.”

Of course, you can also pay extra for the premium Lightning Lane access which leads to many visitors paying more than one additional fee for something that was once free.

Amazingly, Disney theme park visitors seem pretty happy with this setup.

Disney Executive Shares Info on Genie+

Disney World and Disneyland vacations have gotten both expensive and exclusive. It’s pricey enough to buy tickets and pay for hotel rooms (especially if you want to stay on property). That has essentially made it so that most people who can afford a Disney vacation (and some who can’t but will take one anyway) won’t worry about extra costs as long as the added expense enhances their experience.

Disney Parks Chairman Josh D’Amaro speaking at a Bank of America conference on Sept. 7 said the Genie+ was doing “phenomenally well” and is doing better than Disney had originally forecasted, BlogMickey reported.

The executive said that “70% of guests who purchase Disney Genie+ intend to buy it again when they return,” according to the website.

About half of all guests to Disney’s theme parks pay for Genie+.

Disney has done something pretty impressive here. It arguably delivers a worse experience than the old FastPass+ and now charges not once, but in many cases twice or more for it, yet park visitors enjoy the experience. Few companies have the brand equity to pull that off. But Disney has built up so much brand equity with Disney World and Disneyland that it managed to charge more and have people say thank you for the privilege of paying more.  

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