Disneyland Just Dealt a Blow to Its Most Frequent Visitors
Back in 2006, when I was a mere 20 years old, I remember walking through my local mall when I saw that the Disney Store was selling Annual Passes for Disneyland. By this point, my family and I were visiting the parks once a year or so, but each time was as exciting as the last for me. With the no blackout date pass costing just $360 back then, I ultimately decided to get a pass for myself and began taking ill-advised solo there-and-back trips to the resort from Arizona every few months. Cut to 2020 and the price of a similar no blackout date Annual Passport to Disneyland cost more than $1,000 per year — yet the parks were as busy as ever. Well, that was until mid-March when Disneyland, like many other businesses, was forced to close. As that extended closure now stretches into the new year, Disneyland has now announced that they will not only be refunding current passholders but also “sunsetting” their Annual Passport program altogether.
To the uninitiated, Walt Disney World and Disneyland may seem strikingly similar, but their business models are actually quite different. While Walt Disney World is the most visited theme park destination in the world and relies heavily on both domestic and international tourism, the Disneyland Resort has traditionally catered more to locals. Sure, Walt’s original park gets its fair share of tourists as well, but it’s the sizeable Annual Pass population that keeps the parks packed year-round. In fact, some of the busiest days aren’t those in the height of summer or around the holidays but, instead, those when passholders can return to the park after long periods of blackouts on the lower-tier passes.
Of course, even for those not in Southern California, it only took a few visits a year for a mid-tier Annual Passport to pay for itself considering that a one-day Park Hopper ticket costing as much as $200 (depending on the time of your visit since the resort utilizes a demand-based pricing calendar). Thus, this change in plans could deal a blow to families who counted on their Annual Passes to help them cut some of the costs for SoCal vacations. That’s because, in addition to admission, your Annual Passport also entitled you to discounts on select food and merchandise items. Sure, it didn’t exactly make the Disney Parks “affordable,” but it was often better than paying retail for frequent visitors.
Although the Annual Passport program as we know it is coming to an end, Disneyland did say that they will be introducing some sort of membership in the future. However, details on this are sparse at this time. Meanwhile, despite Walt Disney World currently pausing the sale of new passes due to the pandemic and capacity restriction, hopefully it will continue to offer Annual Passports to Florida Residents, Disney Vacation Club members, and others soon.
I realize that this news probably doesn’t impact many of you but, trust me, this is a huge deal in the Disney fandom. Presumably, it could also make an impact on Disney’s stock price as it will be interesting to see how Disneyland’s attendance figures perform after this upheaval (when they’re able to safely reopen, of course). On that note, I’d also watch out for changes to theme park ticket pricing upon reopening as well. With all that, if it weren’t already clear that your next visit to Disneyland would look a bit different than your last, now we know it will change even more than we previously realized.
Also published on Medium.