Not expecting everyone to agree with me, but here is a letter I’ll be handing to Guest Relations folk during my upcoming trip. There are some details I’m skipping, but only because I want to keep it to two pages. One person’s viewpoint…
Some feedback on your soon-to-be-released Genie+ and the yet to be named pay-per-ride service. While you said the response when researching this plan was overwhelmingly positive, it is not for us, and I want to quantitatively and qualitatively explain why.
We are value conscious visitors focused on rides. When we visit, it is invariably a full ten-day trip. There is less travel expense per day of fun, but it is primarily driven by your park ticket structure. A single day is approaching $150, but the add-on for the last days is only $15/day. That is huge for us. We like staying on property given all the benefits but can only afford the value resorts. They may be currently $220+ per night compared to similar off-site motels charging under $100 per night, but you provide (or at least used to provide) a lot of benefits that directly related to enjoying more rides.
Here is our math for what these and other recent changes do to us.
- $150-ish ground transportation. Either Disney Magical Express or 10 days parking. About the same either way, no matter how you get to Disney.
- $600 for Genie+. $15 per person per day.
- $250-ish for E-ticket rides. A guess, I fear maybe a bit low for 4 people/10 days.
- $40-ish for Magic bands
That is over $1,000 extra for items that all used to be included before! That is in addition to regular price hikes for food/tickets/merchandise! That is around a 20% increase just to get back most (but not all) the benefits you included before. Particularly painful are the last days, Genie+ costs as much as the incremental park admission and we still must pay for faster access to the important rides!
If it were just about money, laws of economics are wonderfully self-correcting. If your plan works, great for you and we go elsewhere. If your plan doesn’t work, you will fix it and hopefully we can return. It’s just business and capitalism is great. I’m pretty sure value conscious guests are not as profitable and if you can replace us with more profitable guests, OK with that.
HOWEVER!!! The really scary thing to me is you are trashing the long-standing tradition that once in the parks, ALL GUESTS are equal. Yes, there are “the plaids”, but they are discrete. That equality is a huge part of what makes your kingdom “magic”. Whether a day guest, value resort guest, or deluxe resort guest, once in the parks we are all the same. A class system is bigger, scarier and much harder to undo as it changes the very nature of your parks.
This equality is especially true for waiting in line, the one thing everyone wants to minimize. With rare exceptions, all guests have the same access. You can’t buy more privileges. While waiting in a standby line I’m not grumpy at someone in the FastPass lane as I know we all have them, and that person didn’t get any more than me. I just chose to use mine elsewhere. That person wasn’t any more privileged than me. There is no “them and us”, we’re all equal.
Even with Extra Magic hours, all day-guests need to do is visit a park that doesn’t have Extra Magic Hours that day and they can be in the same rope drop rush as anyone. If you were a hotel guest, it was nice that all hotel guests had the same benefits. Such equality (real and imagined) I know was by design and part of your magic. That is one of two major reasons I’ve not visited the other Orlando theme parks for over a decade and have been exclusively a Disney guest. At those parks, who paid for privileges and who didn’t is in your face all day in almost every line. It bugged me immensely the first time and I’ve never returned. With your new system, no day-guest can ever enjoy the thrill of being first at rope drop, and now only deluxe resort members get evening extra hours, so the “value” resorts clearly aren’t as valuable anymore. In addition, no matter who you are, you still have to pay for Lightning Lane access to the E-ticket rides. Those are now the “rich people rides” for faster access.
COVID was (and still is) scary. We visited in September 2020. I truly felt like you were trying to make the parks safe and us intrepid guests and we were with you doing our bit to be safe helping to make it work. Indeed, it did work and I sung your praises on the forums I frequent! You do have to recover costs, but the way you are doing it prices me out. Even if it didn’t, devolving to the same Vegas style in-your-face “pay for privilege” class structure of other lesser parks in your area isn’t a Disney I will enjoy as much. You are better than them and I’m disappointed you have stooped to their level. I’m either going to be in a Lightning Lane knowing my money got me extra privileges over the person in the standby line or I’m in the standby line knowing that person in the Lightning Lane got there by paying more than me. Nothing inclusive or magical about that. Seems like you are addressing cultural sensitivity for the rides, but then creating a cast system between guests based on money. Some business analysts agree you can do this to make more money—just like other parks. The problem is they aren’t experts at magic. Your talent is making both magic and money, this is money at the expense of magic.
I do fully understand you need tiered guest levels and not objecting to that. You’ve skillfully limited that tiering to places other than the rides in the parks based mostly on hotels and restaurants. You have skillfully kept the parks fully inclusive and equal no matter how guests were able to afford to get in. Losing that spoils the parks—at least for me.
I purposely planned a late September trip a long time ago expecting it would be a good time to avoid crowds ahead of the 50th Anniversary, with the expectation of the next annual trip during the celebration. I wanted to delay this September trip a bit for COVID numbers to drop more but can’t as I fear I’ll run into the Genie+ rollout which would mean canceling the trip entirely. If you fix the equality issue, then I “just” need more money to return. With the Genie+ class system, not sure I want to return even if I could afford it. I come to Disney to escape the real world and enjoy an idealized one. This new class system is way too much like the real world—and why I stopped visiting Universal.
We have been regular and exclusively Walt Disney World visitors for about 10 years. My hope is that you will indeed find enough people willing to visit under this system to recoup your costs quickly and then go back to the more inclusive policies you had before. I’m pretty sure you are committed to this system for at least your fiscal year and probably the duration of the 50th celebration. I am pretty much resigned to sitting out your celebration. Please quickly find another way to recoup costs without killing the magic.
I’m delivering one copy of this letter to Guest Relations in each park on this trip, so you know it is from an actual visiting guest and hoping one letter makes it high enough to get noticed.
P.S. With Genie now a bad guy, the Aladdin movies aren’t as fun to watch anymore.