Universal is eating Disney's lunch

I think Disney is making a very big mistake and this pandemic
has been the perfect storm to accelerate the shift of a lot of dedicated Disney followers over to Universal Orlando. Universal has decided to make some shrewd decisions during the reopening from the pandemic and it is really showing in attendance numbers. There are some major differences that Universal has implemented vs. Disney reopening plans and after reading a lot of articles and blogs written it is very evident that it has paid off. The big differences are:

  1. Universal gave big discounts right away vs Disney taking months to finally offer some (tickets and hotels…Disney still doesn’t discount tickets)
  2. Universal did not require Park Pass, not limiting its Annual Pass holders, daily ticket buyers and resort guests like Disney did to one park per day and extremely low inventory
  3. Universal kept their Express Pass option vs Disney shuttering Fast Pass, eliminating the main perk for hotel guests to book rooms
  4. Universal kept early morning park entry for hotel guests vs Disney eliminating EMH, the second best perk to booking a hotel room
  5. Universal continued to offer their Haunted House
  6. Universal just leaked that they will offer a nighttime fireworks spectacular where Disney has had no mention of any perk
  7. Universal opened their very popular water park Volcano Bay where Disney’s remained closed

Disney should know how this feels. The governor of California is not listening to them and it’s very frustrating. It’s kind of how Disney fans feel of WDW right now.

When you factor in that Universal top end hotels are around the same price as Disney moderates (Hard Rock hotel was excellent), the Harry Potter rides, the new rides like Hagrids, discounted park tickets, unlimited rides with Express pass, etc, etc ,etc, Universal is doing a great group catering to their guests and listening to what people want while Disney is lagging way behind resulting in a lot of people at least trying Universal over Disney. I know, because my family of 5 is one of them…

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I have been thinking all this for months now. I got an AP w/ the deal of 15 months for the cost of 12 and didn’t have to activate it right away. I can go whenever I want and not have to check to see if there is availability. Disney won’t let me buy APs but I can buy all the tickets I want; I’m a local I don’t want to have to keep buying tickets so it means I won’t go and spend money there. Honestly I think Universal has given the locals more love than Disney has too. It’s why I bought an AP w/ Universal for the first time. I wanted to give/show them my support and gratitude.

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I tend to agree with you. Back in August, we felt overall Universal had the slight edge over Disney even in COVID protocols. It is showing. Universal is doing better than Disney right now.

Disney likes to play things cautiously out of fear for alienating their guests…but in the meantime, I think they had successfully alienated a lot of guests.

Having said that, the dynamic at Disney is entirely different. Much larger, more parks, and handling of transportation between resorts alone is a whole other beast than Universal.

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I agree with your last point. But why would Disney risk losing its most loyal followers? We have 3 kids, 15, 13 and 12. I am a DVC owner at BLT and was about to lose points due to expiring Dec contract. DVC would not extend my points. We looked at what was offered by Disney vs. Universal and decided to sell our DVC points and take that money and book the Hard Rock. My kids LOVED Universal. They asked if we could go there on our next trip vs. Disney. I am debating selling my DVC now since I can book through renting points if we ever decide to go back. If the rumors of FP+ being eliminated are true then there are very few incentives to stay on a Disney property, especially for those prices. Disney gave us the opportunity to explore this by making an already expensive offering worse with no perks, fireworks, discounts, etc…

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Fair points. I think it’s about 50% UOR’s scope and business model being more conducive to succeed more quickly in this environment vs WDW, and about 50% the management decisions and understanding its customer base. Disney seems a bit more hesitant and worried about making some big ‘mistake’ and instead letting some issues pile up that may turn people off, while UOR seems a bit more decisive and in tune with what its clientele is looking for. Welcome to the top job, Chapek.

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I think Disney is penny-pinching, and they’ve been in penny-pinching mode for a long time. For example, the original plans for Star Wars were chintzy until they were forced to step-up their game because of Harry Potter. There is no pandemic reason to not send out magic bands or offer early morning hours. In fact when you think on it, the hands-free aspect of magic bands would be better than handling your phone screens more.

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I think I still had to touch in a pin though so I started using my apple pay instead

With all of the things that you say Universal did better was it actually more profitable? It seems like Disney has been able to lower costs during the pandemic and that might be the key to long term fiscal responsibility. Even if Universal was able to win in the short term I don’t think Disney will be in a bad place once all restrictions are lifted.

Probably true. Part of it may be simply an expectations game too. Disney’s expectations are always sky-high to deliver the very best experience at all times, and the little brother UOR just doesn’t quite have that same level of pressure…yet.

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I wouldn’t be so sure…Disney has gone through plenty of times when they had attendance issues and that was without major competition in the area…I don’t think they are mutually exclusive…I just think that Universal is slowly stealing market share with a specific target audience that would normally not have another option in the past and now those people are choosing Universal over Disney

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I don’t have any source to confirm, but I seem to recall reading that Universal actually appeared to be doing better, financially, than Disney in terms of park operations, etc.

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I agree, in general. Though as a parent of two children under 3, we wouldn’t prefer Universal over Walt Disney until our children are old enough to ride all their rides. It doesn’t even feel like an option. There is not enough at Universal to entice us over there with two children who can’t ride rides there- no matter how much Disney has dropped the ball in this reopening phase. It sucks.

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All that to say that i think you’re right and a lot of people who have an option will choose Universal over Disney, but Disney is still King when it comes to no-height-requirement rides and will always attract families to whom that matters.

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This is absolutely true. I don’t even think Universal is even TRYING to appeal to the family crowd in the same way Disney is.

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I agree 100% with that too…But I wonder if that was Universals Epic Universe Park that was announced (and since put on hold) to compete with Disney

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Oh yeah 1 other thing, Universal just announced that the parks would be open until 10pm on weekends…How many people going to EPCOT or even MK would love to have those hours available?

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Raises hand as eagerly as Hermioni in Professor Snape’s class about Animagis and Werewolves.

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I’ve been a very loyal Disney fan. We have had APs for the past 4 years and travel 5-6 times a year. When our current AP runs out, we made the decision to focus on Universal next year. We did Universal once last year for the first time and now that DS is in the ‘thrill ride’ age band, it was a great fit.

Given the overall cost difference and the ability to use the Express Pass when we stay at the ‘deluxe’ resort, we purchased the Universal APs and are booked there for December, February and April (our usual Disney trips).

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Does anybody else wish Disney was reading these threads?

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Raises hand as eagerly as Hermioni in Professor Snape’s class about Animagis and Werewolves.

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