The Disneyland Resort is "sunsetting" its annual pass program, canceling all annual passes effective immediately.
Disneyland and Disney California Adventure have been closed since March due to the pandemic, so no one has been using their AP for the past 10 months anyway. While many passholders have seen their passes expire during the closure, those people who chose to have their passes extended or did not reach their expiration dates now will be getting pro-rated refunds, resort officials said today. Passholders will be able to check their refund amount at Disneyland.com/PassportRefund.
"We want to thank our Annual Passholders for their understanding during this closure period," Disneyland President Ken Potrock said in a statement released the the press. "Due to the continued uncertainty of the pandemic and limitations around the reopening of our California theme parks, we will be issuing appropriate refunds for eligible Disneyland Resort Annual Passports and sunsetting the current program. We are currently developing new membership offerings that will utilize consumer insights to deliver choice, flexibility and value for our biggest fans."
Disneyland is emailing its annual passholders now with an explanation letter from Potrock, who discussed the change with invited reporters before the announcement. While Disneyland is discontinuing its current annual pass program, the resort is using this time to create a replacement, as Potrock referenced. Resort officials said that they will be surveying present and past annual passholders as well as other local consumers in deciding what features to include in a replacement program.
"What I want it to be is not something where somebody who was accessing the Disneyland Resort previously as an AP is not going to be able to access it going forward," Potrock said. "We're just trying to have the time to create a new program that allows us to create something that we think is more customized and more appropriate going forward again in this new normal."
The goal is to have a new program in place by the time the parks are allowed to reopen, though that obviously depends upon when the state gives Disneyland that approval. But Potrock said that Disneyland will announce the replacement program first to its most recent annual passholders.
"Change is not easy - we get that," Potrock said. "It's frightening, and by the way it's frightening for everybody involved here. But this has changed. We don't have any other options. The rationalization is not necessarily, 'gosh, this is something we wanted to do.' The rationalization is something we have to do, given the constraints of what's going to happen here."
"This is not eliminating our [annual passholder] family. This is all about creating offerings and products that we think our fan base is going to love going forward."
Disneyland was facing a logistical nightmare whenever the parks were allowed to reopen if capacities were limited as proposed in the state of California's guidelines. Running the numbers, it became clear to many observers that there was no way to operate Disneyland at 25 percent of its capacity without disappointing hundreds of thousands of annual passholders who would not be able to access the parks in the way that they had in the past.
Eliminating the current AP program allows the parks to reopen without that burden. Any new "membership" or other program for repeat visitors can be designed with capacity constraints in mind.
"We want to make sure that we're creating a program that's understandable," Potrock said. "But at the same time delivers on great value - not just clicks at the turnstile but other benefits that bring value, whether those benefits are parking or discounts or many other things."
To that end, Disneyland is extending discount benefits at Downtown Disney to all guests who held active annual passports as of March 14, 2020 - when the parks closed. Starting January 18 through February 25, these passholders will receive a 30 percent discount on select merchandise at select locations in Downtown Disney District, including Buena Vista Street, on Mondays through Thursdays. More details on that and other offers will be published on the Disneyland website at Disneyland.com/APSpecialOffers. Resort officials said that Disneyland will continue to communicate with its annual passholders through email and social media, as it moves forward toward reopening.
Today's cancelation applies only to the Disneyland Resort. People who held Disney Premier Passports will continue to be able to use it to access the Walt Disney World Resort and will be contacted about refund options.
What do you think about this decision? And what would you like to see Disneyland include in a new membership, frequent visitor, or pass program?
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