In case you haven’t noticed, the parks do not seem that crowded right now. I know that kids are back in school and most vacations have already been taken, but even with that, there are not as many people in the parks as there were two years ago. There are also a HUGE amount less than this previous Summer. Standby lines in Magic Kingdom have been averaging around 15-20 minutes since September 1, while between the beginning of May and the end of August they were around 35-45 minutes on average.
Our theory contains several factors…
- Like we said, kids are back in school and the vacation season is over. This may be true, but, in the past, attendance numbers have not dropped to the extent that it is at right now. Years ago the parks used to experience “slow seasons” which were usually Mid-September until the beginning of November and early January until the second or third week of February. That has not been the case over the past ten or so years with the addition of Halloween Parties at Magic Kingdom and Different Festivals at Epcot along with various Marathon Weekends that were held during that time period.
- We are still in a pandemic and Covid numbers throughout the country, Florida in particular, are skyrocketing. But it was this case during the Summer too and all the parks were packed.
- Disney prices are keeping away those casual visitors that would normally visit during this time of year.
We think that a combination of the three items in the list above are the factors that attendance and wait times are much lower now.
We think that the biggest factor for the drop in attendance since the Summer is when the pandemic hit in March of 2020 all of the Disney Parks were shut down. This meant that there were thousands of visitors that had already purchased park tickets and hotel rooms that were going to need to have refunds given to them which would have been a huge financial burden on Disney. What Disney Parks did was to extend the expiration dates on purchased ticket to September 1, 2021. Some airlines also extended credits to customers that were good through September 1, 2021 rather than having to refund millions of dollars of already purchased tickets.
We think that Disney, as well as most people, thought that the pandemic would be over by the Summer of 2020 and those tickets that were supposed to have been used between March and, say, June would have been spread out over the next year and that the parks would be able to handle the slight influx of visitors over the next twelve months. Well, that didn’t happen.
As everyone knows, the pandemic is still with us, but there was the hope that everyone would be safe with the introduction of a vaccine at the beginning of 2021. With this new hope, all of those that had tickets for the previous year were now booking vacations for the Summer of 2021. With the increase in visitors, and not revenue (those tickets that had been purchased were counted on Disney’s books for the fiscal year 2020), Disney could not open all of the park attractions without financial losses, so that is why hotels hadn’t been opened for the Summer of 2021, but are now opening in September and October.
So now that it is September and all of the extended park expiration tickets have been used or have expired we are seeing the true attendance of the parks. Even with sold out Halloween seperate tickets, the daytime attendance of each park has been very low.
There have also been rumors that the Magic Kingdom Christmas show has not been sold out for a single day as of yet (Halloween shows sold out the first day that tickets went on sale.).
So it looks like visitors are staying away either due to the COVID-19 virus or the rapidly increasing costs to visit the Disney Parks in both Florida and California.
What do you think Disney will do about the drop in attendance? Do you think that they will lower ticket prices or do you think they will start cutting even more customer perks and services?