The Disney Dining Plan is returning, and the reservations are going away! It’s a great time to be a Disney World fan. Disney Parks representatives said these changes are the result of listening to guests and giving them what they want. But… guests have been asking for this for three years, so why now? The timing feels strategic, especially since reservations remain in place at Disneyland in California.
Disney World has always been the “money maker” for the Walt Disney Company. Despite 8 other Disney Parks worldwide, it has always been the Walt Disney World Resort that has been far and away the biggest money maker for the company. At the second quarter earnings call last Wednesday, however, it became apparent that has changed.
Disney Parks and Experiences Revenue is up for the second quarter, but for the first time, it isn’t Walt Disney World that is the highest earner. Disney Parks overseas outearned domestic parks. In the earnings statement, Disney reported, “Results at our domestic parks and resorts were slightly unfavorable to the prior-year quarter, as a decrease at Walt Disney World Resort was largely offset by growth at Disneyland Resort.”
Though they report increased volumes in the parks and higher occupied room nights in the resort hotels, Disney World was not top dog this quarter, which is highly unusual. Shanghai Disney Resort, Disneyland Paris, and Hong Kong Disneyland each accounted for a 23% increase in revenue. Disney World didn’t come close to this sort of growth.
Could it be that the return of the Dining Plan and ending of theme park reservations are an effort to get more bodies through the gates? It seems likely, especially given that all comments up to this point indicated that park reservations would remain in place. Annual Passholders still need reservations most days. Let’s be honest, Disney is a company, and their job is to increase profits, not to make us feel good. That’s a byproduct of the main objective.
CEO Bob Iger is a savvy businessman. He has a certain finesse about him that his predecessor, Bob Chapek, did not. Chapek didn’t seem to understand that happy guests equal higher spending guests. Iger does. Sure, you might save a little money with the Dining Plan, but you’ll spend it at the Emporium. No park reservations means guests are freer to flit about according to their mood. This results in a happier guest who is likely to spend more. Chapek’s answer to revenue trouble was to raise prices. That results in guests who tighten purse strings or avoid going altogether.
It is an excellent sound byte to say they listened to guests when deciding to make these major changes, but the reality is that it probably had very little to do with it. Bringing Disney World back on top is the most likely reason. Otherwise, Disneyland would be ending its restrictions as well.