Why Do You Think WDW's Attendance Has Been Down This Summer

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Kristen K.'s picture
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Why Do You Think WDW's Attendance Has Been Down This Summer

It's been widely accepted that the Disney Parks are having a "slow" summer, and while the WDW Resorts are showing a 3% increase in occupancy, overall attendance at the Parks has been down. Frankly, I'm not one to complain about smaller crowds, but I have to wonder what exactly has caused it?

Is it the tiered pricing and crowds will go crazy at what is usually the slower time of year? Is it fear of getting the Zika virus? Or did everyone go to the Olympics in Rio instead?

What do you think is causing the downturn in Park attendance? confused

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I did notice lines were relativity doable without FP a couple weeks ago. Of course the big ticket rides still had excessive waits 7DMT, Space Mtn, Peter Pan. Most other rides were all well under 60 min.

Not real sure why the drop. Gators? Zika? HEAT?

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World economics I think play a part.

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Sally-Ann wrote:
World economics I think play a part.

My thought as well. As Disney needs to take a step back on the cost to families and just adults (in my case). Don't get me wrong I understand everything these days are expensive and like my trip next December I had to take a hard look at the cost of staying in the bubble. So I decided I would rather stay off property and still go to Disney. I save for 2 years and that has always been enough to be in the bubble in the past but not now.

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I think there are a ton of contributing factors:

1. Park construction. I think many families in the know are delaying trips until some of the larger projects are completed because they have the perception that it's not a good use of their vacation budget to visit WDW while there's nearly constant construction in every park and half of the resorts. Maybe they are taking the opportunity to check out some other destinations. I know after October, we intend to be done for quite some time. We want to do an Alaskan cruise, Universal, and an Adventures by Disney trip before we go back to WDW again. The only thing that we might do is to do a long weekend and do a Christmas party and the Backstage Magic tour that doesn't require a park ticket.

2. Price increases. I still think that WDW is a great value versus many other destinations; HOWEVER, larger families have a much different pricing experience than we have. Things like airline tickets (or gas for the car), food cost, and attraction tickets play a larger role in which destination is the most affordable. For us, hotel cost is a much bigger driving factor because we have fewer "per person" items to buy in total. Disney hotels are somewhat expensive relative to other Lake Buena Vista area hotels even when you factor in Magical Express, no resort fees, free parking, etc., but they are very competitive with other places where we might like to travel--Boston, LA, San Francisco, etc. While Disney is still affordable for us as a couple (especially with DVC and AP factored into the cost equation), there are a lot of families who simply find themselves priced out of the experience at the moment.

3. Also related to the issue of price, cheap flights to Florida from the mid-Atlantic region are few and far between anymore. You'd think that one region wouldn't have much of an impact, but the mid-Atlantic and Northeast account for a huge percentage of non-Floridian WDW visitors. Flights from our area used to be available for $69 each way. Now you're hard pressed to find any desirable flight times for less than $120--we're approaching double the flight cost from our region over what it was even 5 years ago. It doesn't have a huge impact on us, but it certainly does on a family of 5 or 6 who are also excluded from the ability to book a cheap room at Pop or All Star due to their party size.

4. The value is decreasing. Every time we turn around, we hear about another beloved experience going away with either no concrete replacement announced or a mystery replacement announced. The maintenance of the parks is not as stellar as it used to be. I won't call it bad and to a certain degree, we the guests are responsible for not handling ourselves in a more thoughtful fashion, but cleanliness in the parks has decreased. The commitment to service no longer oozes from every cast member. It's still there, but it's less prominent. Anecdotally, I see a stronger current of poor CM interaction stories than I remember a decade ago and there appears to be less accountability for less than stellar service, indicating that management isn't all that worried about it.

5. Trip timing--I think the word is out that summer and holidays are crazy crowded and the Fall is not at all. I actually think the fact that the knowledge is now prominent and Disney has made their pricing more transparent by telling people with their 1-day ticket charts when the park is expected to be less crowded is driving more people to book in the fall and winter. Also Disney has made a specific effort to encourage "off-peak" travel by hosting athletic events and creating festivals to draw people in during the former "slow" times. If I was planning to take my kid this summer, but now my kid's soccer team is playing in a tournament at Disney in October, I'll just wait and go then.

6. South American tour groups are a large block of summer guests. The faltering economies of several South American countries and, to a lesser extent, the opportunity to see the Olympics in your own country may have played a role in this segment of guests being absent from the parks.

7. Bad press in the Orlando area. I do think that the Pulse shooting, the alligator, Zika, the two arrests in the past year of people trying to bring guns into MK have affected some people's decision about whether or not to vacation at WDW.

8. Brexit. WDW has actively courted European guests for years with packages that blow anything available to domestic travelers out of the water. Compounded with a favorable exchange rate, it seems that the average European family can afford Disney (excluding the difference in flight costs obviously) more easily than the typical American family can afford the same trip. Brexit has created uncertainty in Europe. Uncertainty, especially in the labor market, always causes a percentage of people affected to pull back the reigns on spending in the short term. Because vacations are something that most people plan far in advance on only cancel for extreme reasons, I suspect that WDW will see more impact from this over the next 6-18 months than it has seen so far.

I'll tell you this for nothing--the value resorts are still packing them in. I tried to swap our AoA for Pop over Labor Day weekend about two weeks ago and there wasn't a single room available at Pop. I look for the Fall to be immensely crowded. Between Fall events, the perception that Fall crowds are smaller, and the less expensive rooms & packages, I think people who have the ability to travel in not-summer are doing so.

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alicemouse - I think you have got this about right, and your post is well written and interesting. awesome

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Miss Mikki wrote:
alicemouse - I think you have got this about right, and your post is well written and interesting. awesome

Alicemouse I agree with this and apart from adding personal choices and destination goals I can relate to 4 of your points exactly. Thank you for taking the time to put this in such a balanced and non judgemental fashion.

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alicemouse wrote:
I'll tell you this for nothing--the value resorts are still packing them in.

As a veteran of the hotel industry, Disney Resorts always run at a much higher occupancy rate than just about anywhere else. If I remember correctly, it's at about 82% annual. Bump that up to 85% for this past year and its just unheard of busy. Those kids working the Disney Resorts, they don't get a break or downtime at all - they have to be on point ALL THE TIME. I would love to pick the brain of one of their resort managers. So many moving parts and people - it's impressive.

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I think it all relates to closing Captain EO. It's been all downhill since then.

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The Colonel wrote:
I think it all relates to closing Captain EO. It's been all downhill since then.

rolling rolling rolling rolling

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The Colonel wrote:
I think it all relates to closing Captain EO. It's been all downhill since then.

rolling rolling rolling rolling rolling rolling rolling rolling

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alicemouse wrote:
I think there are a ton of contributing factors:

1. Park construction. I think many families in the know are delaying trips until some of the larger projects are completed because they have the perception that it's not a good use of their vacation budget to visit WDW while there's nearly constant construction in every park and half of the resorts. Maybe they are taking the opportunity to check out some other destinations. I know after October, we intend to be done for quite some time. We want to do an Alaskan cruise, Universal, and an Adventures by Disney trip before we go back to WDW again. The only thing that we might do is to do a long weekend and do a Christmas party and the Backstage Magic tour that doesn't require a park ticket.

2. Price increases. I still think that WDW is a great value versus many other destinations; HOWEVER, larger families have a much different pricing experience than we have. Things like airline tickets (or gas for the car), food cost, and attraction tickets play a larger role in which destination is the most affordable. For us, hotel cost is a much bigger driving factor because we have fewer "per person" items to buy in total. Disney hotels are somewhat expensive relative to other Lake Buena Vista area hotels even when you factor in Magical Express, no resort fees, free parking, etc., but they are very competitive with other places where we might like to travel--Boston, LA, San Francisco, etc. While Disney is still affordable for us as a couple (especially with DVC and AP factored into the cost equation), there are a lot of families who simply find themselves priced out of the experience at the moment.

3. Also related to the issue of price, cheap flights to Florida from the mid-Atlantic region are few and far between anymore. You'd think that one region wouldn't have much of an impact, but the mid-Atlantic and Northeast account for a huge percentage of non-Floridian WDW visitors. Flights from our area used to be available for $69 each way. Now you're hard pressed to find any desirable flight times for less than $120--we're approaching double the flight cost from our region over what it was even 5 years ago. It doesn't have a huge impact on us, but it certainly does on a family of 5 or 6 who are also excluded from the ability to book a cheap room at Pop or All Star due to their party size.

4. The value is decreasing. Every time we turn around, we hear about another beloved experience going away with either no concrete replacement announced or a mystery replacement announced. The maintenance of the parks is not as stellar as it used to be. I won't call it bad and to a certain degree, we the guests are responsible for not handling ourselves in a more thoughtful fashion, but cleanliness in the parks has decreased. The commitment to service no longer oozes from every cast member. It's still there, but it's less prominent. Anecdotally, I see a stronger current of poor CM interaction stories than I remember a decade ago and there appears to be less accountability for less than stellar service, indicating that management isn't all that worried about it.

5. Trip timing--I think the word is out that summer and holidays are crazy crowded and the Fall is not at all. I actually think the fact that the knowledge is now prominent and Disney has made their pricing more transparent by telling people with their 1-day ticket charts when the park is expected to be less crowded is driving more people to book in the fall and winter. Also Disney has made a specific effort to encourage "off-peak" travel by hosting athletic events and creating festivals to draw people in during the former "slow" times. If I was planning to take my kid this summer, but now my kid's soccer team is playing in a tournament at Disney in October, I'll just wait and go then.

6. South American tour groups are a large block of summer guests. The faltering economies of several South American countries and, to a lesser extent, the opportunity to see the Olympics in your own country may have played a role in this segment of guests being absent from the parks.

7. Bad press in the Orlando area. I do think that the Pulse shooting, the alligator, Zika, the two arrests in the past year of people trying to bring guns into MK have affected some people's decision about whether or not to vacation at WDW.

8. Brexit. WDW has actively courted European guests for years with packages that blow anything available to domestic travelers out of the water. Compounded with a favorable exchange rate, it seems that the average European family can afford Disney (excluding the difference in flight costs obviously) more easily than the typical American family can afford the same trip. Brexit has created uncertainty in Europe. Uncertainty, especially in the labor market, always causes a percentage of people affected to pull back the reigns on spending in the short term. Because vacations are something that most people plan far in advance on only cancel for extreme reasons, I suspect that WDW will see more impact from this over the next 6-18 months than it has seen so far.

I'll tell you this for nothing--the value resorts are still packing them in. I tried to swap our AoA for Pop over Labor Day weekend about two weeks ago and there wasn't a single room available at Pop. I look for the Fall to be immensely crowded. Between Fall events, the perception that Fall crowds are smaller, and the less expensive rooms & packages, I think people who have the ability to travel in not-summer are doing so.

Very thoughtful and insightful. Reasons 2 and 4 are definitely resonating criticisms I've heard from other users on other forums about WDW.

Here's an article I found, more or less, the same points are made:
http://www.fool.com/investing/2016/07/31/5-reasons-disney-world-attendance-is-falling.aspx

But this quote I think sums it best, "New rides are big drivers. They generate headlines, and they encourage previous visitors to come back. Disney bet too big on temporary shows and fireworks displays, and that's not the way to woo summer travelers after a historic price increase."

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jw24 wrote:
But this quote I think sums it best, "New rides are big drivers. They generate headlines, and they encourage previous visitors to come back. Disney bet too big on temporary shows and fireworks displays, and that's not the way to woo summer travelers after a historic price increase."

Well, and the big draw for the summer was supposed to center around Rivers of Light, and that still hasn't materialized. Major bust right there, all I've heard about the "after dark" version of the Safari has been disappointment.

The real question may be, does anyone see any signs of Disney righting the ship?

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Kristen K. wrote:
jw24 wrote:
But this quote I think sums it best, "New rides are big drivers. They generate headlines, and they encourage previous visitors to come back. Disney bet too big on temporary shows and fireworks displays, and that's not the way to woo summer travelers after a historic price increase."

Well, and the big draw for the summer was supposed to center around Rivers of Light, and that still hasn't materialized. Major bust right there, all I've heard about the "after dark" version of the Safari has been disappointment.

The real question may be, does anyone see any signs of Disney righting the ship?

The best part of the night time Safari was the lions. There was enough light on them to be seen, everything else was mostly shadow or quick glimpses from the jeep lights. I would ride again just to see the lions but I wouldn't wait in a long line for it.

I don't think the ship will be righted again until Star Wars. I'm not sure Pandora is going to bring in the crowds Disney expects. I wasn't a HUGE fan of the movie. I liked it and I think there is a lot of potential for the area as it looks pretty cool as it is going up. I just don't see people flocking to Disney just for that.

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JMed wrote:
Kristen K. wrote:
jw24 wrote:
But this quote I think sums it best, "New rides are big drivers. They generate headlines, and they encourage previous visitors to come back. Disney bet too big on temporary shows and fireworks displays, and that's not the way to woo summer travelers after a historic price increase."

Well, and the big draw for the summer was supposed to center around Rivers of Light, and that still hasn't materialized. Major bust right there, all I've heard about the "after dark" version of the Safari has been disappointment.

The real question may be, does anyone see any signs of Disney righting the ship?

The best part of the night time Safari was the lions. There was enough light on them to be seen, everything else was mostly shadow or quick glimpses from the jeep lights. I would ride again just to see the lions but I wouldn't wait in a long line for it.

I don't think the ship will be righted again until Star Wars. I'm not sure Pandora is going to bring in the crowds Disney expects. I wasn't a HUGE fan of the movie. I liked it and I think there is a lot of potential for the area as it looks pretty cool as it is going up. I just don't see people flocking to Disney just for that.

Agreed 110% that Star Wars Land and to a lesser extent Toy Story Land are essential to bring back the crowds. I actually think for crowd-averse folks, the next two years in general will probably be a decent time to go.

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alicemouse wrote:
JMed wrote:
Kristen K. wrote:
jw24 wrote:
But this quote I think sums it best, "New rides are big drivers. They generate headlines, and they encourage previous visitors to come back. Disney bet too big on temporary shows and fireworks displays, and that's not the way to woo summer travelers after a historic price increase."

Well, and the big draw for the summer was supposed to center around Rivers of Light, and that still hasn't materialized. Major bust right there, all I've heard about the "after dark" version of the Safari has been disappointment.

The real question may be, does anyone see any signs of Disney righting the ship?

The best part of the night time Safari was the lions. There was enough light on them to be seen, everything else was mostly shadow or quick glimpses from the jeep lights. I would ride again just to see the lions but I wouldn't wait in a long line for it.

I don't think the ship will be righted again until Star Wars. I'm not sure Pandora is going to bring in the crowds Disney expects. I wasn't a HUGE fan of the movie. I liked it and I think there is a lot of potential for the area as it looks pretty cool as it is going up. I just don't see people flocking to Disney just for that.

Agreed 110% that Star Wars Land and to a lesser extent Toy Story Land are essential to bring back the crowds. I actually think for crowd-averse folks, the next two years in general will probably be a decent time to go.

.

This is good news for us, although I am looking forward to all the new stuff coming. awesome

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I know here in Central Florida that cost of living is higher then what most people get paid. If its like that across the country then I can see most people taking vacations closer to home.

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Great post Alicemouse.

For us, it's a combination of things. Our dollar is worth 30 cents less, the prices have gone up, and our experience has deteriorated. We've had some unexpectedly bad experiences with housekeeping, rude CMs (not with us, but it's just as unpleasant to witness uncalled for rudeness directed at other people), and also a level of rudeness/entitlement with guests that is jaw-dropping. Although not entirely Disney's fault, their failure to address guests horrible behaviour tells us that they don't care about OUR experience enough either.

I know a lot of people love FastPass+, but I'm not one of them. It's increased lines for rides that were traditionally walk-ons, and made it very difficult to do multiple rides on favourites. I also do not want to plan my entire trip down the the smallest detail six months in advance. I didn't mind making dining reservations that early, but having to book rides/experiences that far out is ridiculous. Air travel is increasingly unpleasant, from the security/border officials to the ever smaller spaces on the planes.

We've had enough, and decided to keep our money in Canada. We've just returned from a trip to Quebec City that was delightful and relaxing, and plan on seeing more of our own country next year. Our son wants us to go with them in 2 years to introduce our new grandson to WDW. We will go, because grandson! But I fear we won't enjoy it as much as we used to. Our DIL has never been, and I am afraid she will not get the experience she has heard us all talk about either. I know changes will happen. They should happen. But the changes in the past few years seem to diminish the experience, rather than enhance it.

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found these tonight

http://www.fool.com/investing/2016/09/05/5-reasons-disney-world-lost-this-summer.aspx

http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2016/09/11/disney-world-now-has-a-dead-tourist-to-worry-about.aspx?source=yahoo-2&utm_campaign=article&utm_medium=feed&utm_source=yahoo-2&yptr=yahoo&ref=yfp

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Interesting.

So - the Fools' article partially lays the blame on the lack of new attractions. I find this odd actually, maybe it's because I'm a 45 year WDW traveler and the majority of that time did not offer new attractions every year. I'm happy to get them when they come, but it's not what keeps me coming back again and again. In fact I think some evening out at the Parks would be a good thing, I'm tired of all the construction, let's just have fun for awhile.

Do the new attractions drive your Park attendance?

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Kristen K. wrote:
Interesting.

Do the new attractions drive your Park attendance?

The opening of Star Wars Land and Toy story Land will inspire us to visit and while construction is happening on those, we are going to take some time and explore other things, but only because we've done A LOT of WDW in the past few years. I'm talking 77 Disney park days in 3 years, roughly 3x's more than the first 32 years of my life combined! lol.

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Trip Reports:
December 2013: 10th Anniversary, 1st DVC Stay | April 2014: Birthday on the Boardwalk | May 2014: Star Wars Weekend, Navigating WDW with a wheelchair | August 2014: Villains Unleashed | September/October 2014: MNSSHP, F&W, Tower of Terror 10-miler | March/April 2015: Disneyland and California Coastal Cruise | November 2015: Wine & Dine Half, Food & Wine, 1st Disney Cruise | February 2016: Presidential Classic Gymnastics Meet | March 2016: "Work" Trip, Tours, F&G Festival | April 2016: Conference at Disneyland | Fall 2016: Festive Fall Fun | January 2017: Festival of the Arts | May 2017: AbD Backstage Magic | July 2017: AbD San Francisco | Sorry I had to give up doing trip reports. Too many time commitments right now.