Why Disneyland should create its own Very Merry Christmas Party
Published: November 10, 2010 at 11:53 AM
Photo courtesy Disneyland
The AP-holders' gripe is that they already get Disneyland's Christmas parade, fireworks and "snow" show with their current passes and they don't want to have to pay extra for those holiday festivities.
The counter-argument is that the same crowd of annual passholders is overwhelming the park. The weekend evening crowds in late November and December at Disneyland can be crushing. Converting those weekend evenings to a hard-ticket party would thin the crowds, open up the park for more non-APs to visit enjoyably and, not insignificantly, bring in a fresh source of new revenue to Disney, allowing it to fund even more improvements and additions to its holiday offerings.
I see part of my job being to defend consumers against money grabs by theme parks. But that doesn't mean parks should not find new ways to make more money. I just don't want to see theme parks charge more without delivering more in return. To me, it's not the cost - it's the value.
In this case, making evenings a hard-ticket, as Disneyland just did with Halloween, would allow the park to deliver a substantially better experience for more guests. During hard-ticket events, Disneyland limits the number of admissions sold - usually to around 20,000 or so. Compare that with the 40,000-50,000 people, mostly annual passholders, who've been packing the park during December weekend evenings.
For day guests, the people who buy individual admission tickets and spend the most per visit of any park guests, this decision is a no-brainer. For less money than a regular day ticket, they get to enjoy smaller crowds and a full line-up of holiday-themed entertainment with a hard-ticket event. At Halloween, they got no-extra-charge candy by the bagful with Disneyland's trick-or-treating. I'd expect to see a similar "freebie" at the Christmas party as well, such as the unlimited cookie and hot cocoa provided at Walt Disney World's party.
For annual passholders, yes, they lose the weekend holiday evenings at Disneyland Park. But their APs remains valid during those weekends for day-time visits, and they still get to enjoy the decorations and holiday attraction overlays throughout the season. And they should also get discounts on online advance purchase of the party tickets, as they did at Halloween. Throw in a holiday-themed "World of Color" show over at California Adventure as a new alternate event for non-party-goers (perhaps paid for with the extra revenue from the party) and we'll call it even.
It's supply and demand. The demand for Disneyland on Friday and Saturday nights in late November and December is exceeding its supply. So the park needs to raise the price for those people visiting the park now. A hard-ticket event manages to achieve what seems economically impossible: It effectively "raises" the price for annual passholders (who weren't paying extra to get in those evenings), while lowering it for higher-spending day guests who are interested in the evening festivities (since they'd pay less for the party than they would have for a regular one-day ticket).
Disneyland's Mickey's Halloween Parties were a huge financial success for the park, and provided solid value for the price. Sure, I'd like to see more walk-around entertainment and more restaurant options, but I'm hopeful that Disneyland will learn for its experience hosting that party for the first time this year. And I hope that those lessons would be applied to a Disneyland Christmas Party, as well.
So let's see a Mickey's Very Christmas Party at Disneyland, with a Christmas parade, fireworks and "snow." Let Disney bring out the no-extra-charge cookies, cocoa and a take-away holiday tchotchke for visitors as they leave. Let's even take it a step farther with special holiday dinner options during the party at the Blue Bayou and Big Thunder Ranch, too.
All that would deliver value well worth the extra expense of the party (and the optional meal). So, in this case, I'm hoping that Disneyland ignore some of its vocal annual passholders and goes ahead with creating a new high-value, hard-ticket Christmas party for the rest of its many fans.