Park Passes are CHANGING at Disney World.
We’ve already seen some Park Pass changes made in the past few months, including a reveal about BIG adjustments coming for Annual Passholders. But what other changes could be made to the Park Pass system in 2023? We’re taking a close look at some of the statements from Disney’s own CEO (Bob Iger) and other executives to figure that out. Let’s break it all down.
Before we begin, we just wanted to do a quick refresher. Park Passes are currently required for ALL Disney World theme parks. Basically, having a valid ticket is no longer enough to get you into the park of your choice. Instead, you’ll need a valid park ticket AND a Park Pass reservation for the park you want to visit first on any particular day. To see all of the ins and outs of the Park Pass system, click here.
Alright, now let’s get into the changes.
1 — Annual Passholder Park Pass Change (Confirmed)
We’ll start with a Park Pass change that has already been announced and confirmed. In January 2023, Disney announced that Annual Passholders will be allowed to enter the parks after 2PM without a Park Pass reservation. The exception, however, will be Passholders seeking to go to Magic Kingdom on Saturdays and Sundays — reservations will still be required in those instances.
Unfortunately, Disney has not yet revealed when this change will take place, but Josh D’Amaro, President of Disney Parks, Experiences, and Products, previously noted that it would begin within the next several months. So Passholders can expect to get at least a little easier access to the parks on most days after 2PM in the coming months.
Click here to see our original post on this change
2 — A REDUCTION in Park Pass Availability During MORE Times (Possible)
So that’s a confirmed change, but what other changes could be made to Park Passes? Well, for one, we could see a REDUCTION in Park Pass availability as Disney reduces capacity in the parks during more busy seasons.
During the Disney earnings call for the first quarter of the 2023 fiscal year, Christine McCarthy noted that at Disney’s domestic parks, they were able to get significant revenue growth despite “purposefully reducing capacity during select peak holiday periods by approximately 20% versus pre-pandemic levels in order to prioritize the guest experience.”
Yes, you’re reading that right, Disney REDUCED capacity during certain holiday periods in the first quarter of fiscal year 2023 (which covered from around October 2nd to December 31st, 2022) by 20% compared to pre-pandemic levels.
Iger commented on this change too. He shared, “if you looked at our results this past holiday season, we actually reduced capacity, certainly improved guest experience, and were able to maintain profit — not just profitability, but a very, very successful or robust bottom line.”
He continued, “We’re going to continue to look at opportunities like that, which is essentially to simply get more creative in terms of managing the capacity that we have.” So it looks like those reductions in capacity worked well from Disney’s perspective, and as Iger noted they’ll be continuing to “look at opportunities like that” where Disney can be “more creative” in terms of managing capacity.
What could this mean for the future? Well, it could mean that Disney may seek to REDUCE capacity (compared to pre-pandemic levels) during other holiday periods or times when the crowds in the parks are usually shoulder-to-shoulder. Could we see reduced capacity during Spring Break, the Fourth of July, parts of the summer vacation, and other days? It’s possible.
If Disney does decide to reduce capacity that would (presumably) reduce the number of Park Passes available for each day during the affected period. That could make it MORE difficult to snag the Park Pass you need for that holiday trip to the Most Magical Place on Earth. Right now, most of the Park Pass calendars for the remainder of the year are looking pretty good, but that could change.
Our recommendation? If you’ve already got your vacation planned and can grab your Park Passes early, it might not hurt to snatch them up NOW rather than wait and see if/how significantly Disney reduces capacity during certain periods.
Will Disney World get RID of Park Passes in 2023?
3 — An INCREASE in Park Pass Availability Due to Expansions (Possible)
Another possible change is that we could see an INCREASE in Park Pass availability as new expansions to the Disney World theme parks open up.
During the earnings call, CEO Bob Iger said, “we have learned that when we invest in increasing capacity, the Star Wars Lands would be a good example of that, Pandora was a great example of that, we can grow our business.”
He continued, “I’ve talked to Josh D’Amaro about this very recently, like this morning, again, to really look at all the great franchises of the company and see where we can invest in them in the parks to increase capacity while — by preserving guest satisfaction.”
When expansions open within the existing Disney theme parks that can often increase the capacity of that park. If a bunch of square footage, attractions, etc. has suddenly been added to Magic Kingdom (for example) it means Magic Kingdom can thereby hold more people as they have more places to spread out. An increase in capacity could mean more availability of Park Passes for that park.
And it seems Bob Iger is ready for more expansions. We already know about certain areas that will open soon in Disney World. Magic Kingdom will soon get TRON Lightcycle / Run, while at EPCOT the remainder of World Celebration and Journey of Water — Inspired by Moana will both be opening in 2023. The opening of these new attractions and spaces could impact capacity. If Magic Kingdom and/or EPCOT can hold more people, then that could (in the long run) make Park Passes for those parks more readily available.
That is, of course, after the initial period during which these attractions/spaces open up. When these new places open in the parks, they’ll likely draw in some big crowds. That could make Park Pass availability tighter initially. But they could help capacity and Park Pass availability as a whole once the initial busy phase is over.
This is particularly interesting in light of the Coco, Encanto, Moana, Zootopia, and Villains-themed lands teased for Disney World. If built, these new spaces (some of which would be part of expansions to existing parks or rethemes of current areas) could also increase capacity. Could Iger’s statements make these expansions and rethemes more likely? Only time will tell.
Click here to see what’s HIDING in the new lands teased for Disney World
4 — A Change in the Mix AWAY from Passholders (Possible)
Another possible change has to do with altering Park Pass availability (more) away from Annual Passholders. During the earnings call, Iger noted that he had taken a look at ticket pricing and discussed Disneyland specifically. Though the cheapest tickets at Disneyland used to be available on only around 15 days of the year, the new pricing strategy will mean that Disneyland’s cheapest ticket will be available on MORE days of the year. As Iger put it, “we greatly increased accessibility to our lowest price.” But, Iger also noted that they’ll be managing “capacity very, very carefully.”
But some of that isn’t just due to changes in ticket pricing. Some of it has to do with Annual Passholders too.
Iger shared that some of their recent changes have “enabled [Disney] to essentially shift [the] mix…from annual pass holders to people who may come just once in a lifetime or once.” Iger went on to discuss how those once-in-a-lifetime guests tend to be good customers from a financial perspective because they spend more money in the parks while there.
He continued “Some of the things that we put in place to manage basically annual pass holders was done to help us manage capacity without…doing too much damage to the bottom line.”
In other words, Iger echoed what other executives have said about how people who visit Disney for 5-7 days as regular ticketed guests are more valuable to the Company compared to Annual Passholders who may stay for fewer days and spend less. He also echoed what Bob Chapek once discussed as a balancing act between making room for Passholders and making space for families that visit much less often.
It is interesting, however, to see these comments made in light of the lawsuits that have been filed regarding the park reservation system at Disneyland and its impact on Disneyland’s Magic Key passes, and a related lawsuit regarding Disney World’s Passholders.
And it’s even more interesting that his comments come after Disney actually revealed its plans (outlined above) to allow Passholders to enter the Disney World theme parks after 2PM without a Park Pass reservation on most days.
So what does this all mean? Well, in light of Disney’s apparent desire to “shift [the] mix…from annual pass holders to people who may come just once in a lifetime or once,” more changes could hit Park Passes as they relate to Passholders in the future. Perhaps Disney will more greatly restrict the number of Park Passes made available to Passholders during certain popular periods (like holidays or summer) to favor those once-in-a-lifetime visitors. At this point, that hasn’t been confirmed but it seems like something Disney could consider.
Click here to see our full analysis of Iger’s words regarding shifting the mix away from Annual Passholders
5 — Make the System More “Easy” and “Flexible” (Confirmed)
Finally, Disney appears to be working on changes that’ll help the Park Pass system be easier and more flexible. D’Amaro discussed the Park Pass system and its benefits during an interview with DFB and other media outlets. But D’Amaro also admitted that the system causes guests to lose some “serendipity.” So, he said, Disney is “trying to create ease” while also making sure the guest experience is good.
According to D’Amaro, the changes announced to the Disney World Passholder requirements are “just the start” of changes to Park Passes.
D’Amaro even said that people are currently planning how to improve the process. He shared that they are working to “make that reservation process as easy and flexible” as possible. D’Amaro shared, “Are you going to see more initiatives like you saw last week? I think you will.”
So what could this mean for the future? Well, it could mean that there will be adjustments and modifications made to the Park Pass system that might make the process more simple from a technical standpoint (maybe with some software upgrades). Or Disney could increase the number of Park Passes they set aside for those last-minute, spontaneous trips. Or we could see an expansion on the changes announced for Passholders. Maybe one day in the future ALL guests will be able to enter the parks after 2PM without a Park Pass, or at least they’ll be able to enter after a certain point without a Park Pass on certain dates or during certain slower periods at the parks.
See D’Amaro’s full comments on the Park Pass system here
So that’s a look at just some of the changes that could be made to Park Passes in 2023. How do YOU hope the system changes? Let us know in the comments.
And stay tuned for more Disney news!
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How do you think Park Passes will change in 2023? Tell us in the comments.
The post The Five Biggest Changes To Disney World Park Passes in 2023 first appeared on the disney food blog.