Does Disney actually value their Annual Passholders? Do they value any kind of loyalty to their parks that have over a million people shelling out up to $1200 per year for their parks (at Disneyland)? Or is each person who walks through that turnstile just another dollar sign that Disney can tout to it's shareholders? We'll try and figure that out.
Written by Gregg Condon
Like so many of these opinion pieces this came about through an interaction on Twitter, so shout out to Matthew Gottula (@DLThings on Twitter) for starting off this great conversation.
And the way this came about was a new Disney survey that asks about "would having blackout days around the opening of new attractions impact you getting an Annual Pass".
An obvious reaction to the Frozen debacle at EPCOT earlier this year, but possibly more for the potential opening of the new Guardians of the Galaxy Tower of Terror and Avatarland (whenever that actually opens).
But to be fair, with the amount of online anger surrounding Frozen at EPCOT (and now surrounding Guardians of the Galaxy) you could probably forgive Disney for being surprised that so many people who hated the idea showed up to ride it on opening day.
And there will be 4-5 hour long waits when Guardians of the Galaxy opens at DCA as well ... don't let the online hate fool you.
As a long time Annual Passholder (1998 to 2013) I always felt that I didn't need anything "extra" from Disneyland in order to make what I paid for my Annual Pass worth it. The joy of being able to go to Disneyland (and later DCA) was all I needed. But our first AP cost $199, and that pass had zero blackout days. And there was probably under 100,000 of us at the time.
That was a different time, a different social environment, a different Disneyland.
Not to say that Disneyland was better or worse, that's a topic for an entirely different article, but it was different. You could go on the first Sunday in November and have the park pretty much to yourself. The year at Disneyland wasn't filled with special event after special event designed to get people to use their AP's and more importantly, spend their money.
You came to the park, you rode some attractions, had a meal or two, maybe bought some beanie babies and then headed home.
Today's Disney designs events specifically geared towards AP's, which makes AP's expect more than they did even 10 years ago. And when Disney doesn't deliver on those things? Watch out Social media (which also didn't really exist 10 years ago).
Here's the thing, Disney has tried everything it can think of to reduce the amount of Annual Passholders over the past few years.
Raising prices. Check.
Taking away AP privileges. Check.
Increasing blackout days. Check.
Taking away fan favorite rides. Check.
The problem? It hasn't helped. Because people can defer their AP's by using payment plans it makes it easier for people to justify keeping their AP's even though they've seen benefits change and even though they take to social media to make their displeasure known.
It hasn't helped so much that in a big slap in the face to many Annual Passholders they've thrown in the towel and brought back the Southern California AP which will once again make Sunday's pretty much unbearable.
You aren't going to hurt Disney by going on Social Media and bad mouthing a change. Their fanbase is too large!!
You see Disneyland post a video about Tower of Terror closing or the band leaving ... you go on that status and complain about the change or you make an "angry" face instead of liking it. Guess what ... Disney doesn't care. Why? Because you've already given them your money, and you are continuing to do so.
Going to tell a sad truth here:
Disney, as it exists today, doesn't value your patronage. They don't value the "casual" visitor either, so we're both screwed.
Sure, they value your money, but you are a faceless Annual Pass number. They are in the business of making money. They don't need to add anything new. They don't need to give you any extra benefit for your patronage. They've already got your money.
And look, I'm not saying I don't love Disney, I'm not saying I don't love visiting once every few years (been almost 2 years since we've been to Disneyland as of this writing) and I'm not saying I'm not going to enjoy spending time at WDW when we go next year. I'm saying that the desire I once had to spend a significant amount of time at Disney Parks is gone. And it's not ALL me.
The ONLY way Disney is going to change is to see a SIGNIFICANT decrease in the amount of annual passholders. And by significant, we're probably talking half for it to make any difference and change the current model that Disney is using.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying you can't complain if you have an AP, by all means, you have more right than I do since I don't give money to the mouse anymore. I'm saying that instead of complaining with your fingers on social media, complain with your wallet.
And maybe then Disney will notice you.