By now, it is no secret that the Walt Disney Company and particularly CEO Bob Chapek believe that the theme park reservation system is a success. Following comments from Chapek and other executives during quarterly earnings calls where Magic Key Holders (Disneyland Annual Passholders) were referred to as an “unfavorable attendance mix,” the company’s continued praise of the Park Pass Reservation System (and pause on Annual Pass sales) is not unexpected.
Still, Chapek has continued to defend both the reservation system and capacity limits in Disney Parks along with recent price increases by defining these moves as a method of crowd control that will ultimately lead to the best possible Guest experience.
During today’s WSJ Tech Live 2022 conference, Chapek was asked to speak about how the company’s stance on pricing and balancing demand with an extremely passionate fanbase has been managed. In response, Chapek has regularly referenced the possibility of a fictional family traveling from out of state, and how important it is to make sure they have a memorable experience in the Parks, and to ensure they are able to enter the Parks in the first place, which he attributes to the success of the reservation and capacity system.
Theme park reporter Scott Gustin shared a clip from the recent interview where Chapek discusses this strategy below:
Disney CEO Bob Chapek talks about pricing/demand at its theme parks and avoiding alienating the company’s most passionate fans. pic.twitter.com/IB0oNTMd8J
— Scott Gustin (@ScottGustin) October 26, 2022
Of course, whether or not the Guest experience is being managed to the level Chapek seems to be referencing may be up for debate. While the once-in-a-lifetime and once-every-five-years Guests may not often have issues securing a reservation to visit Disney Parks under the current system, the theme parks have remained crowded, at least depending on the week and time of year.
Moreover, the possibility of these Guests being denied entry at the gate seems unlikely as this scenario was rarely an issue before the pandemic, with the exception of some of the busiest days of the year like Christmas Day or New Year’s Eve. (And even then, Florida residents and Annual Passholders would be the first Guests denied entry, not visiting families.)
Earlier this year, an elderly couple was refused entry to Disneyland when the Park had been sold out of reservations for the day and they did not know they needed to make them, and later, an irate Guest lashed out at a Cast Member after learning that one of his family members needed to purchase a ticket along with the rest of the group because his Annual Pass had the date blocked out despite availability remaining for day Guests. And, all of these scenarios served as predecessors to the lawsuit currently underway by Annual Passholders against Walt Disney World due to the reservation system.
For now, prices have increased for most experiences at Disneyland and Walt Disney World from theme park tickets, to souvenirs, food and drinks inside the Parks, and more. And, sales of new Annual Passes remain paused while the theme park reservation system is likely here to stay.
We will continue to monitor updates on the company’s current view of what the Guest experience should entail and will report back here on Disney Tips if any changes are made.