New plan from Disney, not all customers the same

Okay, we’ve always known that VIPs get a higher level of service at the theme parks. It’s as much for their protection, as it is for the smooth operations of the park. It’s also so the celebrity doesn’t become part of of the show.

However, now Disney has admitted on the record that there really are two tiers of guests. Those who stay on the resort and those who visit from the outside.

Walt Disney World spokeswoman Lissette Campos said the Disney parks were crowded but did not reach capacity. "It’s been very, very busy," Campos said. "We’ve watched the numbers
closely. There is no need to close it to that second tier of guests."
(via)

This second tier are the ones who are barred from park entry when theoretical capacity is reached. So far there are few other differences. Guests staying on property get admission to a park early or extra hours at night every day of the week. This sort of perk is okay, because if you’re a non-resort guest, you can play the system by going to one of the parks that doesn’t have extended hours to escape the resort crowds.

In California they’ve experimented with giving Disney Resort Guests extra fastpasses. That’s where I think this trend starts to go too far. This creates a second tier of guests inside the park. Where some guests get a better experience because they’re paying Disney additional money for it (in this case, resort room charges). I think it is crucial to the Disney themepark experience that guests not be made to feel that if they had just spent more they could have had a better time as a family. This will lead to many guests deciding to spent a whole lot less and just vacation at the theme park or amusement park closer to home. This is especially true since guests often save up for years to visit Walt Disney World; to show up and feel that your $3000 vacation isn’t enough to get you the same treatment that Disney Resort Guests pay for, really sucks. Disney should want this guest to return home and tell all their friends how magical that $3000 vacation was, not that if you can’t afford to stay on property you shouldn’t go.

This doesn’t even begin to discuss the third tier of Disney guests – locals. Each Disney park around the globe has a unique mix of locals and tourists. But programs like fastpass or advanced dining reservations make locals a third tier of guests. Dropping in during the evening hours to ride a few rides and eat dinner is not as enjoyable because all the fastpasses are gone for the best rides many of the good restaurants are all booked and not accepting walk-ups. Yet, locals help keep the park busy during the off season and act as ambassadors to potential guests. More needs to be done to adjudicate the uneven experience locals sometimes get.

I think Disney needs to continue fine-tuning these tiers, eliminating the barriers between them. At a minimum they should be careful not to do what Lissette Campos did and out-right tell the world that they exist. Guests who are planning to visit the theme parks don’t want to feel like second class citizens just because they chose to stay at a non-Disney hotel or live close to the parks. In-park programs that serve one tier disproportionately to another should be rethought so everyone can share in them equally. If you can’t do it right for all guests, then maybe you shouldn’t do it at all.

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7 Responses to New plan from Disney, not all customers the same

  1. Right ON! You know at DLP they’ll give you an UNLIMITED Fastpass if you book into a suite at the top-tier hotel? When I saw that I nearly blew my stack — what a crummy way to run a themepark.

  2. Random04 says:

    I think Disney needs to continue fine-tuning these tiers, eliminating the barriers between them. At a minimum they should be careful not to do what Lissette Campos did and out-right tell the world that they exist. Guests who are planning to visit the theme parks don’t want to feel like second class citizens just because they chose to stay at a non-Disney hotel or live close to the parks. In-park programs that serve one tier disproportionately to another should be rethought so everyone can share in them equally. If you can’t do it right for all guests, then maybe you shouldn’t do it at all.

    Why? Because you can’t afford (or don’t want to afford) the extra perks? What’s wrong with this inequality? What about the 99th tier of guests who are too poor to even go to the park in the first place? Isn’t Disney’s desire to make money treating them in a discriminate manner as well? Should we have to Blue Bayou still? I mean, not everyone can afford it? And what about Club 33?

    Disney is a for profit corporation, and the more money they make, the longer they’ll stick around, which is a good thing for everyone. And don’t try to outthink them and say “this scheme will end up costing them money in the long run.” I can promise you that they are (on average) smarter than us when it comes to running their business, and if it turns out that this scheme hurts them, then they’ll change it.

    I generally agree with your rants here, but this one is certainly a rant for the sake of ranting.

  3. John Frost says:

    Random, sorry you disagree with me on this one. You see it’s about show. Not just show, really. But quality show.

    Outside economics may create tiers (like your 99th tier, those who can’t afford to even dream of vacationing at a Disney park), but that is not in Disney’s control. What is in Disney’s control is to make sure that every guest who passes through those gates is exposed to the best show possible. You can’t meet that goal and discriminate between tiers of guests. Those are forces working against each other.

    Do I believe that Disney will make more money in the long run by putting on the best quality show they can afford then by playing to the whims those guests who wants to stay on their property, you bet. You can show me all the MBA forecasts you want, but when faced with the fickle attitudes of the paying public, quality will out. Everytime. A very smart man once said that. I believe his name was Walt Disney.

  4. Jeff H. says:

    At Universal in California you can buy a Front of the Line pass for and additional $25… from their site:
    All day admission, plus… Priority access to All of our attractions.
    Reserved seating at All of our most popular shows.

    I have done this and while I felt weird walking past lines to a special entrance the overall experienece for my out of town guests was great… ride any ride they liked as often as they wanted because there was never a wait. The bonus for us was a shorter day at the park because they got to do everything they wanted, much quicker. I guess it works because everyone had a chance to pay more money and do the same and if you decided not to, you just think the VIP people are crazy for spending the money?

    Not saying this would be good for Disney, the fastpass system feels a lot more fair… just that this type of system exists elsewhere in their competition. I also think perks for resort guests are good, encourages resort stay.

    Locals are a great point, would like some sort of preferred status almost for locals… maybe a web site that you access with your annual pass that tells you park % of capacity, or emails you when it looks like a light day? Or maybe have a season pass get you more fastpasses?

  5. Random04 says:

    “Outside economics may create tiers (like your 99th tier, those who can’t afford to even dream of vacationing at a Disney park), but that is not in Disney’s control. What is in Disney’s control is to make sure that every guest who passes through those gates is exposed to the best show possible. You can’t meet that goal and discriminate between tiers of guests. Those are forces working against each other.”

    First, the affordability for the 99th tier IS within Disney’s control. Do they not set the price of a Disney vacation? At the very least they set the price of tickets, which are quite high and certainly deter some amount of potential visitors.

    Second, you never responded about the current discrimination they do engage in: priority seating/viewing for certain events (i.e. Fantasmic), Club 33 membership, the fact that different restaraunts cost differing amounts of money. The Blue Bayou has an amazing atmosphere, but not everyone can afford it, so that is part of the Disney quality that Disney is keeping away from the average guest. Should a Monte Cristo at the Blue Bayou cost the same as a hot dog on Main Street?

    P.S. I appreciate your response.

  6. amy says:

    I’ve done Disney many ways. Growing up, I was a local. I’ve stayed with friends, in an Econo-lodge type motel, in a time share, in an upperscale “downtown Disney” hotel, in an all-star value class Disney property resort, and in a moderate-level Disney resort. I always enjoyed Disney, no matter how I went.

    That said, I was surprised by how much more I enjoyed staying on Disney property. The difference just between the perks of staying in a moderate Disney resort and a value priced Disney resort were considerable. I don’t think it’s at all wrong for Disney to offer different levels of perks to resort guests. (Last time we went to Universal – Disney’s biggest competitor in Orlando – resort guests staying on property got inclusive fast passes with their tickets). With all the competition for hotels and dining around Disney, I think the Disney folks are smart to ensure that people that pay extra for Disney resorts feel like the money they spent was worth the experience they received in return.

    Even as a local, I heard about how nice the Disney resorts were. As a kid, I always wished I could stay in one. I knew it was special. I’m glad that when I finally did save up and spend the extra money that I was not disappointed. I would not visit Disney any other way now. (In fact, we came home and booked a resort vacation for the following year). I am guessing that that is the type of response Disney wants resort guests to have. In my opinion, they are succeeding.

  7. Scott Fisher says:

    I think that you are right when you say there are “three tiers”. I always thought there were just two, “on property” and “off”. Actually, you could even add a fourth, “DVC Member”. We pay a fortune and don’t get many more perks than those staying at the resort. I really like that the fastpass system is available to “all tiers”, I would hate Disney to change everything to how much money you spend. Visitors should not feel like there is a “class system” at “the happiest place on earth”

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