Why is Disneyland now offering new deals for its annual passholders?

June 11, 2018, 1:15 PM · So why is the Disneyland Resort breaking with its recent tradition and now offering big summer discounts to its annual passholders? Disney is often as stingy as Scrooge McDuck when it comes to ticket discounts and almost never offers deals during its peak attendance seasons. What changed to prompt Disneyland to start offering these new deals?

Whenever we see new ticket discounts, the knee-jerk reaction is to blame soft attendance at the park. Yet given how frequent the Mickey and Friends parking structure has closed on weekends this spring, I don't think Disneyland is hurting too badly for visitors. Yes, Mickey and Friends' capacity is down a bit due to moving the tram station inside the garage to accommodate the construction of a new parking structure next door. And hitting capacity doesn't necessarily correlate to higher attendance overall, given that the number of park entries might be down at other times, negating the surge at peak periods. But come on. It's not like the crowds at Disneyland this spring have felt anything like the off seasons of the long-distant pass. People are filling queues and buying a ton of that Pixar Fest food and merchandise.

I wouldn't be surprised to learn that Disneyland's attendance across both parks has been steady or even up a tick this spring over the same period last year. So why would Disney discount tickets and lift blockout dates if attendance isn't crashing at the resort?

Because that was then, and June is different. As longtime Disneyland visitors now know, attendance at the resort no longer rising and falls with the school calendar, as it does at pretty much every other theme park in America. Disneyland's attendance rises and falls with the annual passholder blockout calendar. The peak weeks at Disneyland now are those just before and immediately after the SoCal Select passholders' summer and holiday blockout periods, and not during the summer or holiday weeks themselves. SoCal Select is the resort's lowest-priced AP, and its holders (who are always blocked out on weekends) also flood the park on Fridays after school and work throughout the school year, which is why many Disneyland fans just come to expect Mickey and Friends to close at some point on Friday evenings.

The SoCal Select APs originally were supposed to be blocked for the summer starting last week. That would have cleared some space in the park for the higher-spending multi-day ticket guests from out of town, who take over a higher percentage of the resort's visitors during the summer. But a funny (yet expected thing) is happening this summer.

With Pixar Pier not opening until June 23, many insiders are telling me that the resort was seeing those out-of-town visitors putting off their trips until after that date, so that they could see the newly refurbished land instead of a bunch of construction walls and closed attractions. That left the two weeks between the start of the AP blockouts and the land's opening as a dead zone in Disneyland's calendar, when the resort was looking at the sparse attendance that it has worked so hard to make a thing of the past.

Disney couldn't move up the opening of Pixar Pier, so it selected Door Number Two and decided to fill the parks by delaying the start of the summer blockouts instead.

So why the discounted tickets, too?

Well, Pixar Pier isn't the only new land coming to the Disneyland Resort. It appears that Disneyland is suffering a bit of the same ailment that afflicted Universal Orlando in the years before the first Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened at Islands of Adventure in 2010. Many infrequent visitors to the resort appear to be putting off their Disneyland trips until Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge opens in summer 2019, softening expected attendance by out-of-town visitors this summer.

Now Disneyland isn't about to undercut the value of its higher-priced Deluxe, Signature, and Signature Plus annual passes by letting the SoCal Select and SoCal APers in for the whole summer, too. But it needs its annual pass base to help make up the gap as out-of-towners wait for Galaxy's Edge. Thus the discount "bring a friend" ticket deal.

In short, even as Disneyland moves to block out more annual passholders from the original park next summer after the new Star Wars land opens, it needs those annual passholders to help keep both parks filled between now and then. That is why Disneyland lifted blockout dates and started offering this new ticket deal to its most loyal visitors.

Replies (3)

June 11, 2018 at 5:15 PM

This is great insider news.

June 12, 2018 at 11:26 AM

I'm sure that the park will be packed when Galaxy's Edge opens, but I'm wondering if it will be a repeat of DCA's opening. Disney was so sure that DCA would be a sensation, that it suspended new sales of annual passes in 2001. Soon after, they went back on that decision. At the very least, people will expect huge crowds for GE, and may postpone their trip in 2019 until after the excitement dies down. But at least we can see that Disneyland is willing to be flexible and act quickly according to demand.

June 12, 2018 at 1:03 PM

Disney World is doing the same thing, I was wondering why. I guess it is also because of the opening of Toy Story Land on June 30th... (If you had an article about thatI didn't see it...)

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