Guests are often told to speak with their dollars. Some are of the belief that if you didn’t like your experience at Walt Disney World you should wait to return until you’ve heard things have improved. Well, for the first time in five years Walt Disney World did not meet their quarterly expectations for park attendance, and the Walt Disney Company and its shareholders shouldn't take that news lightly. Revenue did increase in the quarter by 2%, which is due to higher ticket prices, higher resort hotel prices, etc, but if the attendance numbers continue to deflate, then Disney is going to have a big problem on their hands as revenue will soon follow.
According to Sandra Pedicini from the Orlando Sentinel, Disney CEO Bob Iger said Disney is changing their “pricing approach, sometimes in part to moderate attendance so the park experience is a little bit better, but all designed with the effect of essentially raising revenue." But I say be wary of these comments by Mr. Iger because Disney has just announced a slew of discounts and special offers for Walt Disney World. These discounts and special offers are extraordinarily generous, and it is plain to see that Disney wants people back in the parks. Disney knows that they can’t continue to lose guests like the way they did last quarter no matter what Disney executives tell you. Annual passholders can now buy 1-day park hopper passes for family and friends for $79 dollars through September 30th, there is a free PhotoPass Day on August 19th, and many other special events and promotions that are extremely rare at the Disney Parks keep popping up. These promotions are basically begging guests to come back. So when Disney executives say that they planned the attendance numbers to slip it is reasonable be skeptical.
So, why could this slip in the numbers be a good thing for the consumer? Well, when Disney isn't invincible they might realize it is smart to listen to their consumers. It has felt for the last few years that Disney simply didn’t want to listen to the advice of their guests. If you didn’t like something, Disney really didn’t have reason to care because they had another potential guest waiting to take your spot.
Disney is out to make money, and we as Americans live in a capitalistic society, so good for them, but Disney’s feelings of invincibility made the company do some tactless things. For example, earlier this year in February Disney’s Hollywood Studios saw prominent Streetmosphere cast members have their jobs cut, and DisneyQuest cast members saw a decrease in their hours, and then literally a week later Disney went on to increase park ticket prices. Guests look at these two incidents that happened a week apart and realize that Disney is slapping them in the face by intrinsically saying “pay us more even though we are currently worsening the guest experience.” This is the action of a company that has a wealth of consumers. They disregard the fact that the guests are disappointed in actions like this because they used to know that for every guest that left they had another waiting to take their place. Well with quarterly attendance down, maybe, just maybe Disney has realized that the flow of guests isn’t endless.
Does this mean Disney will never do anything that upsets their consumer base ever again? No, of course not. Disney is out to make money, and they are going to continue to do so, but maybe this quarterly report will make them realize that their consumer base will only put up with so much, and that at the end of the day they aren’t invincible.