stop its Disney's Magical Express airport bus shuttle was big news. But it's the second half of today's announcement from Walt Disney World that will affect more theme park guests.Disney's news that it will
Starting later this year, Disney's hotel guests will get 30 minutes of Early Theme Park Entry to all four theme parks, every day. That could leave Walt Disney World visitors who do not stay at one of Disney's hotels facing longer lines and fewer ways to avoid them.
Our traditional advice to visitors of any theme park is to arrive before opening so that they can get on popular attractions before other visitors fill their queues. But Disney World's Early Theme Park Entry will give hotel guests a 30-minute head start that could drive popular attractions' wait times over an hour before other guests even enter the parks.
The big question is... will Early Theme Park Entry give Disney's hotel guests access to all of a park's attractions or only to a limited number, as has been the case with the old Extra Magic Hours? And if the access is limited, which attractions will be included? Those details will affect what strategies that non-hotel guests may be able to employ to minimize wait times during their visit.
Disney for years has been offering its hotel guests early admission to the parks through the now-discontinued Extra Magic Hours program. But that program only targeted one or two parks per day, allowing us to recommend that non-hotel visitors go to the other theme parks on any given day. That way, they could enter a truly empty theme park at opening. But when Early Theme Park Entry, no park will be empty of guests when non-hotel visitors enter.
That's the glass-half-empty view. The optimistic view is that Disney's hotel guests will be spread among all four parks instead of overloading one park in the morning. But without Fastpass+ allowing day guests a shot at claiming low-wait admission to top rides, early access has been the best way for people to avoid long mid-day lines. If hotel guests fill the queues for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Frozen Ever After, Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway, and Flight of Passage each morning, visitors who did not pay up for one of Disney's hotel rooms are going to be looking at getting fewer rides overall during their trip as they must wait longer for those "tough gets" at each park.
Ideally for non-hotel guests, Disney will continue to open the virtual queue for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance to all scheduled park guests at 7am each day, so those visitors have the same chance as hotel guests for getting the toughest get at the Walt Disney World Resort.
Obviously, Disney is using this new benefit to drive more of its visitors to book its hotel rooms. With park attendance expected to continue to lag normal levels due to the pandemic, Disney would like to get as high a percentage of its visitors staying on site as possible. If Disney cannot maximize theme park attendance at this time due to the pandemic, it definitely needs to maximize the revenue it earns from each person who does visit. And the best way to do that means converting them to on-site hotel stays.
* * *
We wanted you to read this article before we make our newsletter pitch, unlike so many other websites. If you appreciate that — and our approach to covering theme park news — please sign up for our free, twice-a-week email newsletter. Thank you.
This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.