Three data points suggest that Disney may discontinue offering Annual Passes.
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Disneyland Tokyo Has Discontinued Annual Passes
While it’s not clear if the change is permanent or temporary, Disneyland Tokyo has ceased sales of Annual Passes. Some have suggested that Tokyo Annual Passholders tend to be an immediately local crowd, similar to Disneyland California. The California parks have not re-opened, the future of annual passes for those parks is unknown. For the time being, Shanghai Disneyland, Hong Kong Disneyland, and Disneyland Paris continue to sell annual passes at the moment.
Disney Wants to Swap Local Customers for Higher Yield, Lower Frequency
I’ve discussed the blatant and reprehensible approach Disney took during the Coronavirus crisis to discourage local (Florida Annual Passholders) and replace those visits with infrequent visitors. The local visitors occupy the same amount of space in lines for rides but are unlikely to stay in a hotel and will spend less on food and beverage.
On a purely per-visit basis, local Annual Passholders do, indeed, spend less money. However, on an annual basis, those guests are worth more and fill in the revenue gaps that infrequent guests leave. With occupancy limitations from COIVD-19, the Parks had to pick and choose who to welcome and who to exclude. Their steps were smart on paper but foolish for the long term.
Some Passes in Florida No Longer Available
Disney World in Florida is no longer offering Platinum Passes in Florida for all members. Some have been permitted to purchase Annual Passes if they were prior AP holders but that has not been universal for all members. Anecdotally, the parks in Florida appear to have returned very near capacity on a daily basis though Disney has not disclosed daily park attendance. This is a contrast from just a few weeks ago where Disney laid off 28,000 amid significant attendance struggles. If true, it would only further embolden Disney to keep the negative changes they have made for existing Annual Pass holders and resistant to resume them or add additional Annual Pass options.
Disney’s statements on its Q3 2020 earnings call would be enough to justify the speculation that a movement away from Annual Passholders was imminent. Compliment that with some Florida Annual Passes no longer available for purchase (or requiring prior loyalty and exception) along with Disneyland Tokyo discontinuing Annual Passes seems more like a trend than an aberration. In the tradition of “one more thing” (a la Steve Jobs), Park management was changed earlier in the year and no doubt, Disney Parks president Josh D’Amaro will want to recover park revenue in the most challenging environment possible. In the ever-changing world that Disney visitors face, it makes sense to use a travel agency to navigate the hurdles.
What do you think? Is Disney moving away from its most loyal customers? Are these standalone, temporary changes?