Sometimes, it feels like it takes a Disney Ph.D. to figure out how to navigate the parks. What’s a Lightning Lane? Why does everything suddenly have a plus sign in front of it? Why on Earth is the line for Journey into Imagination with Figment over 5 minutes?
Oh, and on top of all those changes, you might also want to consider the crowd level during your vacation. Back in 2022, we saw some BIG crowds in the Disney World parks. The theme parks were reportedly in higher demand than ever before and attractions and restaurants were finally starting to operate like they did before the pandemic. Fast-forward to 2023, and things are looking a little different. Could the crowds finally be subsiding in Disney World? Let’s talk about it.
While we may not have a Mousters of Science in Disney World park attendance, we do visit the parks often enough to spot some trends. Based on previous patterns and the general attitude of Disney fans both in the news and on social media, we can make some educated guesses about Disney World’s park attendance. Of course, we’re just speculating here, but based on what we’ve seen (and heard) so far this year, let’s discuss five reasons Disney World might be empty this summer.
First, let’s look at a pretty surprising piece of news that even DISNEY didn’t predict correctly.
Annual Pass Availability
In April 2023, Disney resumed Annual Pass sales. The passes were brought back with a word of warning from Disney itself; the same day that Annual Passes went back on sale, Disney added a statement to its website informing customers that Annual Passes could become unavailable (sell out).
If you read down to the last line in Disney’s message, you can see that Disney itself predicted, “We anticipate a pass or select passes may become unavailable for purchase later today (April 20th, 2023).” Well, weeks later, all Annual Passes are still available for purchase.
Note that the Sorcerer, Pirate, and Pixie Dust Passes are available exclusively for Florida residents, and the price varies based on blockout dates and park pass reservation availability.
This is significant for two reasons. First, it’s interesting that Disney resumed Annual Pass sales this year. When Annual Passes were unavailable between 2021 and 2023, many speculated that Disney paused Annual Pass sales to assist with park capacity. Now that APs are up for sale, did Disney’s recent decrease in park capacity reignite new Annual Pass sales? In theory, more Annual Passholders equals more people in the parks, so perhaps Disney wants higher theme park attendance this year.
Second, it’s telling that all four types of Annual Passes are still available. Per Disney’s statement, it seems like many people expected Annual Passes to sell out almost immediately, so the fact that passes have not sold out could indicate that demand is not as strong as people may have initially thought. (Or, on the flip side, Disney could have been using that type of language to intentionally create a sense of urgency to buy — we’ll never know for sure!)
Park Pass Availability
Now, let’s talk about what we’re seeing in the parks. Over the past few months, besides a few MAJOR holidays, Disney’s Park Pass availability has been wide-open at all four theme parks.
Even the attraction wait times have been unusually low compared to last year. In fact, virtual queue availability for Magic Kingdom’s newest ride, TRON Lightcycle / Run, has remained open even HOURS after the queue opens.
Thinking back to the grand opening of Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, guests had to work hard to secure a virtual queue spot in line; meanwhile, TRON seems to be (relatively) easy to ride!
Of course, we see lulls in crowds pretty much every year, but if the current trend continues, we could see some EMPTY parks this summer.
Park Pass CHANGE
Speaking of Park Passes, did you know that they are going away for most guests in 2024? Disney shared that Park Pass Reservations will not be needed for those who have date-based park tickets. This change will take place starting January 9th, 2024.
This HUGE news bomb could be attributed to softening crowds, as Disney might not feel the need to restrict park capacity due to large anticipated crowds.
Earnings Call Revelations
Next, we can use a primary resource to determine the summer crowd level: Disney itself! In a recent earnings call, Disney CFO Christine McCarthy discussed theme park growth and park attendance. In reference to the Disney Parks revenue, she said, “Per cap growth was more moderate this quarter as we are comparing against the first full quarter of offering Genie+ and Lightning Lane at both parks in the prior year.” It sounds like things are slowing down.
McCarthy also said, “Please keep in mind that in the back half of this fiscal year, there will be an unfavorable comparison against the prior year’s incredibly successful 50th-anniversary celebration at Walt Disney World,” adding, “We typically see some moderation in demand as we lap these types of events, and third quarter-to-date performance has been in line with those historical trends.”
In short, Disney basically said that demand in the parks is slowing down (and will continue to slow down) now that the 50th Anniversary is over. Shortly after the earnings call, the Disney stock price dropped quite a bit, proving that theme park attendance is a key indicator of how Disney is doing financially. As the year progresses, we’ll have to wait and see if park attendance jumps back up!
Finally, we can also look at the current deals and discounts to gauge how busy Disney anticipates the parks to be this summer. Currently, we’re seeing deals for pretty much EVERYONE, including Florida Residents, Disney Visa Cardmembers, Annual Passholders, and theme park guests.
When we see promotions like these, we usually assume that Disney wants more people in the parks and resorts, so they start lowering the price to entice more visitors.
We may not have a crystal ball, but it’s safe to say that summer 2023 will be pretty different than summer 2022 and 2021 in Disney World. In the meantime, we’re always on the lookout for the latest Disney news, so stay tuned for more!
NO MORE PARK PASS RESERVATIONS For Most Disney World Tickets Starting in 2024!
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The post 5 Big Reasons You Might See an EMPTY Disney World This Summer first appeared on the disney food blog.