Disney Parks announced the cancellation of their annual pass program on Jan. 13. The parks will invent a new program to reduce overcrowding while it remains closed.
The cancellation has been implemented at all Disney Parks to varying degrees. Disneyland and Disneyland California Adventure Park in Anaheim, CA will be giving prorated refunds to existing annual pass holders while ceasing the sale of new passes. However, Walt Disney World in Orlando, FL will allow for existing pass holders to renew but will not be selling any new annual passes.
“Due to the continued uncertainty of the pandemic and limitations around the reopening of our California theme parks, we will be issuing appropriate refunds for eligible Disneyland Resort Annual Passports and sunsetting the current program. We are currently developing new membership offerings that will utilize consumer insights to deliver choice, flexibility and value for our biggest fans,” Disneyland President Ken Potrock said in a statement.
The decision to end the annual pass is based on the analysis of annual pass members and COVID-19 restrictions. According to the analysis, annual pass holders are predominantly made up of local residents. In contrast to out of state visitors, local resident annual pass holders spend less on food, merchandise and Disney affiliated hotels.
There are an estimated 1 million pass holders, though Disney has not yet released an exact number. Annual pass holders make up a large portion of the attendance at Disney parks, which contributes to overcrowding.
According to Potrock in an interview with the OC Register, the goal of the new program is to spread out the attendance to prevent overcrowding. There were issues with the annual pass program prior to the pandemic that resulted in the creation of the Disney Flex Pass, which required guests to reserve dates prior to visiting the park.
However, the Disney Flex Pass did little to abate overcrowding. Guests continued to flood into the park year-round. Although overcrowding has been an issue for many years, Disney decided to change the system in anticipation of California’s reopening and the necessary COVID-19 restrictions that will follow. Disney plans to reduce capacity to 35% or lower upon reopening.
The development of the new membership has taken feedback from past pass holders into consideration. Nonetheless, the announcement has been met with mixed feelings among fans.
“We’re trying to understand: What do people want in this new world? When do they want to access our parks? How frequently do they want to access our parks? With what level of spontaneity? With what level of value? All of those kinds of things and many more,” Potrock said in an interview with the OC Register.
Many industry experts for theme parks have predicted the new membership program to include the iconic five-tiered dynamic pricing model that previously existed. Lower-priced passes are expected to be more economically friendly but more restrictive whereas those with no restrictions will be more costly.
“This is not designed to limit choice and flexibility. It’s designed to enhance choice and flexibility. People may say, ‘Here’s how I’ve always used it.’ People may say, ‘Here’s what I bought, but I didn’t quite use it and optimize it.’ People may say, ‘I have a different family structure or my financial situation is different. I would love to do it a little bit differently than I’ve done in the past,’” Potrock said. “What we’re hoping to be able to provide is the choice and flexibility for all of those different evolving states.”
Information regarding the end of annual passes and refunds can be found here.
Amy Duong is a City News Staff Writer. She can be reached at email@example.com.