Vote of the week: The Tom Staggs plan for more advanced reservations at Disney theme parks
Disney Parks chairman Tom Staggs yesterday revealed to investors some of the details
of what might be the "NextGen" project for theme parks that Disney's reportedly pouring $1 billion-plus into.
We are currently developing an innovative system that will, in essence, create a version of FASTPASS for their entire Disney vacations. Now we define the guest experience as beginning from the time a potential guest sits down at a computer or picks up a phone to make a reservation. Our new tools will help them better understand all that we have to offer and better plan their time with us. They’ll be able to create a personalized itinerary that gives them the exact Disney vacation they want.
Guests will be able to reserve times for their favorite attractions and character interactions... secure seats at our shows and spectaculars... make dining reservations... and pre-book many other favorite guest experiences – all before even leaving their house. We also plan to simplify the check-in process so that guests will arrive at the resort with room key in hand. They will be able to go straight to their room or a theme park – again, allowing them to get to the fun faster.
Fans already are cracking jokes about booking FastPasses for their unconceived children to visit Disney World in 2019. But what Staggs is talking about really isn't that revolutionary. I've already checked into hotels without having to stop at the front desk. Many all-inclusive resorts plan detailed guest itineraries before those guests leave their homes. And many Disney fans long have marked their calendars for six months before their arrival date to snag the priority reservations at their favorite Disney World restaurants.
The Staggs plan is simply the next iteration in this evolving development of the full-service family vacation. I can get an airline boarding pass on my cell phone right now; why not a hotel room key? If we can restaurant reservations online and book Broadway show tickets in advance, why shouldn't we be able to reserve boarding times on theme park rides or a photo appointment with Mickey Mouse as well?
Because if I can do all this in advance, with the resulting assurance that I won't miss I thing I really want to experience, wouldn't that make me more likely to book that vacation?
That's Disney's hope. Heck, every time I take the whole family to Orlando, we book at least one night at a Universal Orlando hotel because Universal's front-of-the-line pass for on-site hotel guests provides us the certainty of being able to see whatever we want without a wait.
But at Universal, we don't have to schedule our visit down to the minute. In fact, part of the reason why we like visiting Universal that way is because the front-of-the-line pass frees us from having to do any advance planning at all. We go where we want, when we want.
Which brings me to our vote of the week: Do you want the Staggs plan? If it were reality tomorrow, would you choose a vacation that you could pre-plan in advance to that level of detail, or not?
Personally, I don't see how Disney could pull off making advance ride reservations mandatory for all its guests. Theme park attractions don't operate with the up-time of restaurants and movie showings. If Thunder Mountain goes down for 20 minutes because of a crying child in the dispatch station, that could throw off the reservation plans of hundreds of guests, who couldn't be accommodated if all other ride times after them were booked for the day.
Any reservation system needs some "stand-by" option for these types of displaced guests, creating openings for walk-up visitors should those extra times not be used. Staggs' plan would not completely eliminate queues at the Walt Disney Resort, either. In his presentation, he talked of expanding interactive queue technology, signaling that on-site attraction waits will remain part of the Disney experience.
Let's hear your thoughts, in the comments. Obviously, anyone reading this website is interested in advance planning for a theme park vacation. (If you weren't, you wouldn't be here, would you?) But how much advance reservation work do you want to do? What could Disney (and other theme parks) do to improve your enjoyment of your visits with them?
First, Watson on Jeopardy! And now this! What will the computers think when they finally "see" Terminator 3D?
I work from a diary every day in the office...do I want to go on vacation and feel I HAVE to be on Space Mountain at 10.15 on Thursday because I had it booked 6 months ago.... Not particularly if I'm honest.
This sounds a little to me like they are trying to reinvent the wheel. Disney already has a crowd/line control system that A: set the standard for those types of systems and B: has yet to be replicated in a way that is free to ALL park guests. Personally I think that Disney is looking to plus the resort experience that could ultimately end up frustrating some and alienating others. I love to plan and tweek and revise and edit my plans for a Disney trip like any good obsessive compulsive Disneyfile, but when I get there, I like to have free reign. I think this would end up robbing people of one the aspects of Disney that makes it so special: the experience is unique to each person/family and there is a huge amount of ownership for people who go there as to how they want it to happen.
The hotel room key idea is great; however, the change to the fast pass system for rides is not. In my opinion that ain't broke, so don't fix it. Speeding up the long waits from getting off the plane to the park is excellent. I hate the sometimes long wait on the magic express bus and the long line checkimg into the room. Anything that shortens that I am all for.
This plan might enhance the guest experience in some ways. But come on, over a billion sunk into this? I'd much, much rather see a fresh billion put into new rides, refurbs and upgrades of existing attractions. One new e-ticket would do more to enhance the guest experience than all the reservation system doodads in the world.
I don't see why you all think this is a bad idea! He is not saying everyone must make fast pass reservations in advance. He is saying it will be an option for people booking a vacation, which can be very helpful considering how difficult it is to sometimes get FastPasses at certain attractions where they can sell out in a matter of minutes.
I think this plan is terrible for the average visitor to Disney, and the city of Orlando. This next gen idea seems to be geared more to increasing the patronage of Disney resorts the actual guest experience. After all, guests can only book these advanced fast passes if they are staying on Disney property.
I'd do it - I don't like the idea of it but if it gave me more reason to sit and plan my holiday, I know I wouldn't be able to resist. And I don't belive those that said they would only do it if there was no other choice - if the option was available, most would do it whether they were forced to or not - just because they wouldn't want to risk missing out - just like we booking ADRs six months out. Obviously for Disney this is going to be about making more money - get more people in to their own hotles, enabling targetted marketing and giving you more time in the aprks to spend. BUT. Most Britis visit for 14 days. E currently spend 13 of those at Disney - by the end of it we've doine all the rides we want to multiple times. And towards the end, if we go in low season, we can feel like we've done it enough. If they eliminate or reduce the lines too much, are visitors going to get through it all quicker? If in the future I can do in 7 days, what now takes me 14, won#t I then consider maybe spending the last 7 (or at least 3 or 4) at Universal hotles and aprks isnetad?
when will this happen? if this happens?
I'm a DVC member and can't wait for this to happen. I have been hoping for something like this for quite a while. I'm a DVC member owning at Disney's Saratoga Springs in Florida, and the Villas at the Grand Californian in California. You get what you pay for, and it's about time Disney rewards those who spend the money for a premium vacation to stay at their resorts. If you're too cheap to stay at one of Disney's resorts and pay or this then you have no room to complain, as that's your decision.
I think this is also not a great idea for DVC members too who technically don't "book vacations" in the conventional sense.
All I can see is that the Annual and Seasonal Passholders are sure to get even more screwed when 50,000 resort guests get first dibs on all rides before the parks even open in the morning. This will cause pass purchasers to plummet in number to almost non-existent.
I hate the idea of having the FASTPASS advance system only available to Disney Resort guests. My family typically rents a two-bedroom condo when visiting Florida so that all family members get the space and privacy they need. The thought of squeezing everyone into a Disney Hotel at three times the cost is not my idea of a great vacation. I despise the Universal "front of the line" system and don't frequent that park due to the long lines for everyone else. I hope Disney reconsiders this approach.
What happens when you want to go tomorrow and buy a ticket? Everyone else is ahead of you because they booked ahead. Its like Disney dining package if you want good times or good restaurants you need to book months in advance. When the time comes you change your mind for different reasons. Disney will use the reservation for staffing knowing what days and time they are going to see higher attandance. That way they can cut back payroll on slower days.
I think that the advanced reservations is another option for the people. The ones who want to take this advantage, the ones who will be taking tha fast pass, and the ones who will like to be in line watching all the details and trying to find hidden Mickeys, I think there is an option for everyone.
I'm with "Nick from Orlando!!" This idea is GREAT for Disney hotel guests, but what about those that can't afford to stay at the expensive,on-site hotels, as well as all of us Florida residents,especially when some of us buy annual passes??!! It seems like Disney is catering more and more to out of town vacationers who only stay at THEIR hotels, and they disregard everyone else!! Shame on you,Disney...for sure!!!!
Ultimately, the math will make or break this plan.
I am a planner ! I love to plan stuff ahead of time. However, pre-planning fast passes is a little much. Anything can happen during the day that could totally ruin your "schedule" for the day, from rides breaking down to a weather changes, to illness, to the fact that despite our planning, we still like to be spontaneous. We have made dining reservations at Disney months ahead of time only to cancel at the last minute because we decide to change our plans. I can't imagine planning times to ride rides!
I really do not think this will go over well. A lot of people who visit theme parks don't do much planning, just decide what they want to do and go do it. Reserving fastpasses requires a ton of planning, as you now have certain times when you must do a specific attraction. You also have to factor in the dumb guest factor. I know a significant number of people who are not aware that Disneyworld is more than one park. What would likely happen if guests are not aware of this and book fastpasses at different parks very close together, so close there isn't enough time to travel between them? If this is an upcharge, Disney could end up with a lot of angry guests who do this type of thing.
If Disney has $1B burning a hole in its pocket, I wish it had contributed it to the Florida High-Speed Rail project we just lost. As a resident, transit would convince me to visit the parks more, not an assig'ed-way-in-advance Fastpass. I NEVER use it even now.
Well, Disney is a pretty smart company, so they wouldn't throw a billion into a project that wasn't worth it.
While I understand all of your complaints, I think we need to realize that we are basing this all off of a single small statement. We don't even know the exact details of what they want to do or even if they will do it!
In the past, if Soarin' has been out of Fastpasses, I have always been able to stand in a standby line. I feel like you will have a lot of disappointed people with this system. If a ride is "booked" for the day, you might not be able to wait even in a standby line. I feel like this really de-humanizes and de-enchantifies the Disney parks. I don't know, but I doubt that I'm the only one who actually gets a thrill out of going and getting a fastpass. Also, what if a person decides on a whim to go to Disney. If they check in the night before, and all that is left for ride times are in the evenings, the person is going to have a bad vacation because you can't see everything on one vacation. This would force people to plan months in advance which some people do not like to do. I have always enjoyed the freedom of being able to change what I want to do on a whim, especially if something occurred where you had to change your plans, and this system would eliminate that freedom. This is not one of Disney's brightest ideas.
Here's another thought I had. 180 days, I book a ride reservation. I get to the park and learn that the ride is going through refurbishment and is closed. (Of course I would actually know this prior to entering the park, come on, I'm a TPIer)
I think that allowing fast pass booking in advance will take a lot away from the Disney experience. What is it that makes us feel like kids? Isn't the spontaneity and the leaving our schedules of daily life behind and living in the moment a key component of the whole Disney experience? In retail there is a theory of the “Treasure Hunt” where you find something that is either an unexpected useful item you didn’t know you wanted or a great barging. Aren’t those the type of experiences that Disney represents, wasn’t that element of suppers and spontaneity the basis of “Year of a Million Dreams”. Disney has always been about exceeding expectations, not delivering on what you planed. I know I already do too much planning before I walk in to the parks, this would be a tool that would allow me to way over think and plan my vacation, lets face it we are already to over whelmed with technology and planning, theme parks offer us an escape from this to a degree. I think that expanding ride capacity would be money better spent. Maybe a couple of more toys story tracks, couple more soaring films and ride theaters.
Wow! Lets make it simple why not run the whole thing like a broadway show? lets say Ill be porperty on May 2-6, And I want to visit one park each day. So I book each day for a diffrent park. Now heres the complicated part each park has it capacity. Just like a theater lets say Magic Kingdoms is 65,000. Once reached between resort guest, and daily sales. Were done no exceptions. Like a show if you choose not to go you get nothing back. And have no stand by tickets. And if you leave the park and re-entry later thats fine but your still in with the head count for that day. So if Iam a resort guest, Vacation Club member, or a off porperty visitor, Its a level playing field. As far as attractions go i use the show referance. Youve paid $76.00 to see a show and you get in sit down and only find out that the understudy wil be preforming the part. No in park fast pass or advanced attraction booking ride times. This would retain the guest experince, and retain the go on the fly approach.
This just doesn't sound appealing to me. The fun about going to Disney and any other theme park is the freedom. Being restricted to a schedule is a bore. I mean I'm 14 right now and my dad just let's me run loose and says meet me here at this time (normally for lunch or a pre requested show) and we both enjoy our merry time. I can go on a ride 6times in a row while he goes on every ride once or twice. Again, your loosing all that freedom.
This is a very bad idea in my view. I go to Disneyland for fun, not to be on a tight schedule. I even resent the fastpass, everyone should wait their turn and have an equal chance at an attraction after paying the admission. I feel the fastpass is a legal way of crashing in front of the line. It seems Disney is now catering more and more to the wealthy and not to the ordinary family Walt had built the park for. MONEY, MONEY, MONEY, that is what it's all about. Stacy
Reflecting on this idea and reading other members thoughts on it has really made it clear to me that- Disney just doesn't care about about true guest experience at Disney World period. The company knows that Disney families are going to come and visit no matter what they do.
You can put my name on my post you have it listed as
Although I'm already thinking about what I'll do in DL when I go for a single day in April, in no way do I want to commit to specific times for attractions NOW.
When I was working at Space Mountain, they were doing some major research on Fastpass usuage, standby and efficiency. One of the workers told me that they were working on a digital, paperless Fastpass system using cellphones. That's all he was willing to say, but it very might well be connected.
I am an uber-planner (touring plans, ADRs at the 180 day mark, crowd calendar predictions, etc.) and not even I like the idea of planning a Disney vacation to the degree that this would require. I don't like it and I sincerely hope that they don't implement this.
The fast pass system presently in place at the parks must remain in place to be fair to all patrons. I also think the present system should be the only system since all patrons fast passes should be on a first come first served basis!!
What concerns me more than the Fast Pass/Stand By line is the feeling one gets when the parks are crowded just walking around. I'd much rather see that situation address. There is nothing worse, in my opinion, than feeling wall to wall at Disney in a restaurant, ride queue or just walking around the parks. The more capacity they add for hotels, the more they should consider the "feel" of the parks if everyone showed up.
I don't think it's completely necessary for Disney to go this far. I understand them wanting to give the guest a complete experience, but there comes a time where it starts to become overkill. There are a lot of people who aren't interested in sticking to a strict vacation plan they made 6 months ago. Plans change, weather changes...desires change.
Way too early to panic. As a tiny stockholder (tiny number of shares, I mean) I know Disney as a company has a history of throwing out ideas but either altering or dropping them later. I personally feel being able to reserve meals and shows (like Fantasmic) online is a positive thing, as would be advance check-in that lets you bypass the lines in the lobby and head straight to your room.
I personally think the 'advanced reservation' for ride times stinks... I hate to see families dragging their children from ride to ride - the kid says 'But Mom, I want to go on Buzz!' - Mom says 'No! Tour Guide Mike says we can't go on Buzz until 1:26 PM. We need to wait!' It's so stupid - just go, relax, and enjoy these parks for what they are and what Walt wanted them to be - a place where families could come together and have fun.
I'm not sure I'm at all comfortable with knowing someone else has a key and number to our same hotel room already... Many times we call and get a later checkout time on our last day - how would that be addressed if the incoming guests had a key to our room already?
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