Do you think Disney still values repeat guests?

Do you think Disney still values repeat guests or are they okay with just getting by with mediocre/decent service, because they have more first time guests to fall back on? Incentives to comeback are few and far between. Over the years they have cut back on hours, especially extra magic hours. They have also lowered their room discounts. Guests now have to pay for premium spots to view fireworks and parades. The bounce back offer used to be in plain sight is now hidden inside a brochure, that may or may not be in your room. I still love coming here, I just wish Disney felt the same way.

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Therein lies the rub. They’re not just getting by. Disney keeps cutting quality and service while raising prices unashamedly. And people keep throwing money at them left and right. If they were just getting by we might have seen a course correction by now. But as long as people are lining up to pay more for less, and as long as WDW continues to be a profitable piggy bank with which to prop up Disney’s misadventures in other markets, Disney execs are going to keep testing the limits of what they can get away with.


If you consider Disney to be mediocre/decent service…what do you consider first class and worst class? Serious question, as I really don’t have much of a frame of reference when it comes to other destinations.

I am definitely biased, I realize that, but for all three times I’ve been to Disney World, it has been amazing and in no small part due to the customer service I’ve received and what I was offered for the money. Sure, there’s hiccups every now and again (monorail goes down without a suitable backup plan, a cast member is gruff with you, food is overpriced, reservations are lost, etc…), but there’s hiccups everywhere. However, I have not seen a real degrade in service or features. What I have seen is costs going up, but that is to be expected.

On a lark, I priced out a vacation up here in Hershey Park with roughly the same parameters of a Disney stay. and the cost was about the same (Disney came in cheaper if staying in a value resort (HP: 8days w/ stay & tickets: $4,059.42. vs WDW: @ AoA: $3,515.38 ), but the benefits were drastically in Disney’s favor (more to do, mostly). Hershey Park is nice, but it’s no where near on the level of WDW.

So getting back to the continually growing prices, to me this is a rather obvious plan of action from the Disney side of things. People complain about crowds (heh, we’re literally on a site dedicated to the managing of them), yet people all want the tickets to be dirt cheap – which has the exact opposite effect of curtailing crowds. To curtail those crowds a bit, naturally you charge a higher price. This reduces crowd size without impacting your bottom line. (side note, Do you know the amount of crap Disney gets for when they close the doors to a park when it’s at capacity? )

I disagree with that as that is factually inaccurate. The garden is NOT the only premium spot and you certainly don’t have to pay to see the fireworks, and there are tons of places to view parades that I feel are superior to where the “paid people” go (in fact I was shocked at how easy it was to see the parades when I was there). Heck, you don’t even need to pay park prices to see the fireworks as you can be outside the parks and still see them.

The only thing you’re paying for is the ability to not have to steak it out a viewing area ahead of time which crowds “force” you to do (not Disney). Is it expensive? Absolutely, but it’s another crowd-control maneuver. Make it expensive enough that not everyone can go for it and not everyone will. Yes, it eliminates some opportunities for those who can’t afford it, but it’s either that or you’re literally paying for the same experience “out in the wild.” Which would bring probably even more ire from guests “I paid $10 and STILL had to fight to see the fireworks! Unacceptable! Disney you owe me!!”


I’m with @Randall1028 on this one.

I’m impossibly hard to please. I often set unreasonable expectations that set me up for disappointment.

I found the service on my most recent trip — during which I had many interactions with many different cast members — to be uniformly excellent. Of the highest standard. These people weren’t just fake American nice, they actually went out of their way to be helpful. And they seemed genuinely friendly.

Well, OK, now I’m remembering one or two not great interactions with bell hops at GF. My view is only slightly coloured by the fact that not only do they expect tips, they show zero gratitude for receiving them and I was pretty generous, as in five dollars for two small bags generous.

I thought the room I had at the Poly was not remotely worth the money I paid for it. But, you know, convenience etc. The room at YC was much better and only maybe 25% overpriced compared with similar rooms at non-Disney hotels.

While I was there there were no ride breakdowns that I was aware of. Everything was clean. Oh, actually, that’s a lie. The mens room next to guest services at MK was a disgrace — and I went in there and told them so. (I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. If you want toilets, go to UOR. They’re amazing.)

As regards paying extra for fireworks etc — well, I’m the kind of customer these things are aimed at and I love them. I did the HEA dessert party twice during my last trip and loved it both times. But it’s not compulsory. And why not make some extra money?

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Depending on your frame of reference in might not seem so dramatic. Mine goes back to 1977. There used to be a particular Disney attitude that I see less and less of nowadays. I used to say that Disney was the world’s foremost expert at making people happy to give up all their money. Today they’re levying non-value added fees on resort hotel guests while expanding formerly exclusive benefits to guests of non-Disney resorts. There was a time in the not so distant past when you would never hear an on-stage cast member say anything critical of Disney in front of a guest. It’s not that uncommon today. It just doesn’t feel as unique and special as it did not too long ago.

I’m not saying it’s bad, but it’s not as good as it once was, and probably never will be again. Before this year I never considered another vacation spot. Nobody did things like Disney. Today Disney wants to do things like every other resort. Now I’m looking forward to my first trip to Universal next year, but in a way it makes me kind of sad.


I’m going to disagree on the Hershey Park thing for just a minute. If you are planning on buying tickets to HersheyPark, you are nuts if you are buying 8 days worth of tickets. You buy their season pass, currently $170, which pays for itself in 3 visits. Plus the season passes offer discounts on food, games, and souvenirs. The Hershey hotels do not compare to a Disney value. They are more along the lines of a deluxe resort, adding in free tickets to the Hershey gardens and the Hershey theater. There are other hotels in the Hershey area that would be equivalent to a value at Disney. I disagree that Hershey is more expensive than Disney.

Now I will say that we love Disney and prefer it over HersheyPark, but we live in the area of Hershey and are season pass holders and find that it does help with our Disney yearnings since we can’t go as frequently.

I have found that Disney typically has great customer service. There are times they could do better, but no one is perfect. And I do agree that there is money grabbing occurring, but I expect that from a business and I keep myself educated on what I need for my trip and what I don’t. I think that Disney is trying to rope in new and repeat visitors alike.


See, we are at disneyland here in Ca all the time. And I JUST took my first trip to WDW December 2017.

I am hooked.

It’s a different mindset for us, my DH HAS to take time off work to go to WDW, whereas if we are at DL and he gets called in? He goes in to work (and frankly for what they pay him for a call out? Yeah I fully support it)

Are there different levels of “vacations” at WDW? Absolutely. As I like to say “all magic comes with a price”, and we just happen to be blessed financially that we can buy into the magic of “whatever we want”.

Is my WDW experience going to be vastly different than the family on the $2000 (ballpark) “budget” vacation? Yes, yes it is.

But that’s ANYWHERE. Think about it, there’s levels of hotels and all-inclusive spots all over the world. I’ve stayed in hotels rated in the top 10 before. I’ve flown first class (oh boy, this is my downfall…first class airline cabins are an intense love of mine. I actually have started flying JetBlue because the temptation to upgrade isn’t there!), I’ve eaten in restaurants that make V&A look affordable.

But looking back on ALL of it? WDW is my favorite vacation destination. This last week we stayed off-site, and we had just as much of a wonderful time as we did staying on-site.

BUT, the caveat to that is, we paid for some very premium upgrades. The world is full of those who can afford “upgrades” and those who cannot. I do think Disney raises prices in an attempt
To weed out intense crowds. But the economy is pretty good right now, so people will pay more for less (I expect that will change eventually, and we will see deals again), not to mention this next generation would rather live in a camper van and take expensive vacations, vs the traditional home/car/kids route.

I find customer service at wdw top notch. I’ve had a few terrible experiences with CMs here in California, attitudes and just grouchiness. But we’ve always run into so many pleasant humans in Florida (we will exclude those wild teen tour groups though!!), I just cannot gush enough about it.

Then again, I don’t know any better, since my first trip was less than 8 months ago. :joy:

This last trip we experienced some amazing moments that just were pure magic. Did we pay for it? Oh yeah, we did. But it was worth EVERY PENNY.

I get to go back in 3 weeks!


My first visit to WDW was in 1974. I came back to Disney in 1986 as a young teenager. I introduced my husband to Disney in 1992 and in 2006 my son. We came annually from 2006 to 2008 and had to take a break due to loosing my job in 2007. We were able to start coming back in 2012 and have continued the annual trek. I totally understand the price increases from a business stand point. Just like you said, I too miss the Disney vibe of yesteryear.

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Don’t forget, nostalgia can be a real kick in the pants. Just because you never heard a cast member gripe about work while you were having a wonderful time certainly doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. When you’re visiting often enough that you’re no longer wowed by everything, it’s easy to start to see the darker surface underneath the glam. I’m not saying the feeling isn’t different, but that also comes with a society climate change too, I would think. In short “kids, today. I’ll tell ya.”

You mentioned exclusive benefits being expanded to non-Disney resorts… like what?

Right, but I was trying to do an “apples to apples” comparison. The quality of the hotel wasn’t really the point as it was more of a “ability to go and stay there on property” comparison. And for that, the cost difference is still not that drastic, and Disney still comes out ahead in offerings of things to do. If you start factoring in hotels to stay at “off property,” Disney has some substantial offerings too.

However, even if you factor in the season passes (which is the only way to get 8-days of tickets at Hershey without rebuying them), the difference in number is still only a few hundred dollars (I think the new total came out to be $3,315 for HP when it was all done? It was in the $3K mark, I know that. I closed the window now and don’t remember).

My main point was Disney isn’t as obscenely expensive as other destinations, as this is mostly a discussion about value for money.

I think the difference for us, is travel expenses. Those I see as tourists to just Hershey is within a few hour radius( not including those touring other parts of PA). Disney gets people visiting from all over the world. Travel expenses are what makes it difficult for us. Driving has come out as more expensive than flying for us and airline tickets aren’t cheap. Disney is not as bad as what people make it out to be as far as tickets and resorts, but I can see where people see it as expensive. And everyone’s opinion of value for their money is different.

My standard is based on how cast members conduct themselves around guests. Over the years I’ve become more observant. This past June, we had a cast member/skipper on Jungle Cruise, who missed his lines on over half of the ride. His delievery of the few jokes, came across like it was a job, and that he couldn’t wait for his next break. All I kept thinking was if this was someone’s first time, would they be ok with this? Would they even notice or would they be caught up in the dream of being at Disney World.

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But you’re picking out isolated cases and comparing them to how you’ve experienced them before. These aren’t robots, and having the “lightning in a bottle” experiences repeatedly is extremely unlikely.

For example, my Dad, Brother and I took a vacation to Gettysburg and we had the best time (we’re nerds.). Everywhere we ate was awesome, each dish was cooked to absolute perfection. Everything we did was awesome. From the battlefield tours to the walking down the streets late at night.

The next year, we went back for a shorter stay and they wanted to eat where we did before but we could only do one place due to time constraints. I asked them flat out “which one do you want to remember better? Because, wherever we go, it won’t be as awesome as before, it won’t be BAD, just not as good as it was.” And sure enough, the place we chose was good…but not like before(so we ended up remember the other restaurant more fondly). It was the confluence of events that made the original visit amazing.


EMH and early fastpass right off the top of my head.

I know nostalgia’s a b…how’d you put it?..kick in the pants. Believe me, I hate the way I sound sometimes because it used to drive me up the wall to have to listen to it when I was younger. For that reason alone I try to check myself to be sure I’m being objective and not just grumpy because I’m not in my 20’s anymore. There has definitely been a drift in standards, however one chooses to characterize it. It probably hit me a little harder because there was a pretty good slice of time where I wasn’t able to visit (or vacation at all). If, like the proverbial frog, I had been able to gradually adjust I might not have noticed it as much.


It isn’t really a fair comparison. We did Hershey Park as part of a 5-park, 6-day trip a couple years ago. Hershey Park has, in one park, the same number of rides that Disney spreads across 4 parks. As such, we were able to hit almost every single ride at Hershey Park in 1 day. You could never come close to doing that at Disney. So, really, it isn’t fair to price out a trip to Hershey Park for, say, 4 days and compare that to Disney because you really only need 1-2 days total at Hershey, but you need 4+ days at Walt Disney World to accomplish the same. We actually originally planned two days at Hershey, but decided to skip the second day and head over the Six Flags Great Adventure instead.

Cedar Point has close to 30 more rides than Disney all in one park at a price that is about half a single-day ticket. To get through all those rides would probably be doable in 2 days. We can plan a 3-night, 2-day trip to Cedar Point for our family at about 1/3 the price of a trip to Disney.

All told, we hit Six Flags Great Adventure, Six Flags Great America, King’s Island, Hershey Park, and Cedar Point all in a single trip. It was a week long vacation. The number of rides we hit was probably close to four to five times as many as WDW in the end, and we paid significantly less. That’s comparing to our Disney Trips where we don’t actually stay on property, which saves a LOT Of money over even the cheapest on-Disney property.

Now, having said all that, the truth is, we still head back to Disney every few years because it still holds a magical place in our hearts. Granted, some of that magic has diminished over the years due to some of their changes. Much of the magic really comes from nostalgia.


We’ve been going almost each year since '94 and I haven’t had any ‘bad’ experiences. Any inconveniences were dealt with promptly and with courtesy…and there hasn’t been anything crazy either. We are always greeted (via phone and in person) by CMs with ‘welcome back’ and they mention how many times we have visited. As far as the word ‘value’, yes, I feel they value my coming back each year. We have been upgraded many times, once to a suite…which was fantastic!


I don’t think there is another theme park that you can really do an “apples to apples” comparison. We love Hershey Park, Six Flags Great Adventure and Disney World, but for very different reasons. We have season passes to Great Adventure. We go for the big coasters and we enjoy their waterpark. Food is meh, but we have the premium dining plan so we pay for one day of food and drinks, but eat and drink for nothing all year. We bring friends along and get more than our money’s worth out of it. Plus we are a 2 hours drive from 2 Six Flags parks. Win for us. We will spend 3 days at Hershey Park just 5 days after we return from Disney. We go there for the rides as well. Again food is meh, but we will pack a cooler and eat outside the park. The only extra we pay for at Hershey is the game packs because my 13 year old loves to play the games and that’s the only place we get our money’s worth out of the games. So if anyone in the NY tri-state area wants some Hershey plush, please raise your hand, we’ve got plenty to share. We only stay at decent, but cheap hotels will a free breakfast because we only sleep at the hotel. Disney is a destination trip for us. But our cost and experience also changes as our girls get older. We stayed a Port Orleans French Quarter when they were little and they loved it. We splurged on the Deluxe Dining Plan, carriage rides, the Pirate and Princess Parties, all character meals and princess costumes galore. As they got older we switched to deluxe resorts and signature restaurants, plus the character breakfasts. We enjoy the whole Disney bubble experience. You can’t find that anywhere else. We now visit Sea World, Discovery Cove and Universal Studios on top of our park days. Have things changed at Disney? Sure. But I find the staff attitude change a reflection of the more self entitled guests that are part of the crowd now. You see a lot of that on a random day on Chat. Every mishap requires a Fast Pass or gift card or the trip is ruined. But those are the people that are paying for the extras, so Disney will cater to them. But the cast members will reward the guests that show gratitude and look genuinely happy. I say that because we received so many free extras, ice cream, slushies, pretzels, extra FP and more during our Spring Break trip in 2016. My girls were just happy to be there, despite the crowds, and the CMs saw that and treated them like princesses. I think what you see is a reflection of what you are portraying. I have friends that pay twice what I’m paying for an 11 day Disney World trip to sleep in a fancy house on a northeast beach and sit on a beach where you can’t see your feet in the water. When it rains all week, they have nothing else to do but watch TV and play games. I don’t worry about rainy days in Florida.

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Part of the issue is trying to compare a theme park “WDW” with an amusement park. I think of places like Cedar Point as amusement parks and places like WDW as theme parks. The experience at a theme park is more immersive.

This is true, to a point. But while theme parks have better, well, theming, amusement parks have better all around ride experiences (generally).

In the end, you can’t fully compare any park to another. Even the experiences we had at two different Six Flags parks on the same trip were really completely different. Not just different ride experiences, but different landscaping, different customer service, different clientele, etc. We choose to go to each for different reasons.

So my comparison was purely addressing the cost aspect of it. You can experience pretty much any amusement park for WAY cheaper than anything even close to comparable at WDW, theming or not.

it does bring it back around to the original question of this thread…and actually, I think Disney cares MORE about repeat guests than they do about first-time guests. I feel that first-time guests probably spend less overall. But what they want is to get the first time guests to feel an experience unlike anything else so that they will come back…and then, when they DO come back, spend more than the previous trip.

Perhaps a better question really isn’t what Disney values more (first time versus repeat) but if they are being successful at CREATING those repeat guests they long for. Up to now, it would seem so, otherwise we wouldn’t see such a growth in DVC resorts (which, frankly, surprises me, since DVC resorts rarely actually benefit the investor).

Amusement parks keep guests coming back over and over again by offering more thrills for your buck, and then creating new ride experiences. They also tend to appeal more to the local crowd than having to draw in people from across the country/world. They expect guests to have single-day or perhaps two-day visits (perhaps a third day if there is a water park…maybe). Most of those guests are not “destinations” where you stay on site. You drive, ride, and go home. As such, there just isn’t a need for the hotel infrastructure that Disney needs to keep people on-site for visiting 4+ parks. And in order to keep guests spending more, they have to build unique hotels with unique themes, to complete against the myriad of much cheaper options just outside the gates.

I think Disney definitely VALUES repeat guests more since it means more VALUE to their bottom line. I’m not just convinced they are fully on the right path for creating repeat guests from FIRST TIME guests in the same way they used to. I know too many people who quite literally see Disney as a “once in a lifetime” experience that is priced so far out of reach that it can take years and years (I know one family that hopes to take their family for the first time before the kids graduate from high school…that’s how long the dream is taking them). Why is it so expensive? Because Disney isn’t really about the first time guests, but in getting repeat guests to want to come back and spend more.

To give a more or less direct answer to the basic question, I think Disney still values repeat guests - as long as they are rich. Disney is self-branding itself as a “luxury” brand and as such charges pretty much whatever it wants - and there are enough people who can afford the ever-increasing costs to keep the parks and resorts mostly full.


I completely agree with you. I was trying to express this in my posts, but I don’t think I explained it as clearly. If you want to compare prices of Disney to something, it should be different vacation destination, not a regional amusement park. And I think Disney wants new and repeat guests alike.