Disney (DIS) has announced long-awaited updates to its parks reservation system and annual passholder program following intense backlash from consumers over lengthy wait times and sky-high ticket prices.
The updates represent the first major changes within the parks division following CEO Bob Iger’s surprise return to the company in November. Iger had reportedly expressed concerns regarding significant price increases at the company’s parks implemented by former CEO Bob Chapek.
Although unlikely Iger will reverse the price hikes in 2023, Disney fans could possibly see a reduction in the number of increases, in addition to more incentives for parks members.
“As we step into this bright future it is important that we continuously evolve to help deliver the best guest experience possible,” Josh D’Amaro, who leads Disney’s parks division, wrote in an email to employees on Tuesday. “And while this doesn’t address everyone’s feedback, these changes will increase flexibility and add value to our guests’ experience.”
Changes include more incentives for premium programs for parks members, like opportunities to secure its lowest-priced ticket option of $104 per guest at California’s Disneyland Resort.
Other new offerings include increased complimentary services like free parking for resort guests and free digital photo downloads for members of the Genie+ app, an optional paid service that allows guests to skip the line and head to the Lightning Lane entrance on select attractions.
Prices for the Genie+ app range from $15 to $29 per ticket per day, depending on the park.
Additionally, Walt Disney World annual passholders will be able to visit the theme parks after 2 p.m. without needing a park reservation (except on Saturdays and Sundays at Magic Kingdom). Annual passholder membership fees currently range from $749 to $1,399.
Disney’s parks business remains an important element of the company’s bottom line, hence the need to keep customers happy. Revenue for the parks division came in at $28.7 billion in fiscal 2022, a 73% year-over-year increase. Operating income also increased to $7.9 billion in its fiscal 2022, representing 65% of Disney’s total segment operating income of $12.1 billion.
In a new note published earlier this week, Guggenheim estimated domestic park attendance will grow 13% in Disney’s first quarter, with the firm noting increased travel volume at TSA checkpoints, along with more downloads of the park experience app.
Iger has been quick to undo elements of his predecessor’s strategy, including firing Kareem Daniel and restructuring Disney’s Media and Entertainment Distribution (DMED) division — one of Chapek’s first big swings.
Additionally, Iger told Disney’s hybrid employees on Monday they will be required to be in an office at least four days a week beginning March 1.
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