Disney Claims Changes Are Due to Listening to Guests but Are They Really?

Disney World changes
Credit: Disney

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 Changes

Credit: Disney.

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.

Changes at Walt Disney World

Credit: Disney

Related: Recent Comments Reveal Park Reservations Aren’t Going Anywhere

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.

Related: Chapek Says He Will Keep Raising Prices Until Guests Stop Coming 

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.


About Jill Bivins

Jill Bivins has been visiting Disney Parks since she was 2 years old and loves sharing her Disney adventures with the world. She likes to say Disney is in her blood and writing is in her bones — so any time she has the opportunity to combine these loves she is one happy camper! She has a deep abiding love for Epcot and as a die hard Star Wars fan has a serious love for Hollywood Studios as well. When she isn't exploring or writing about Disney Parks, Jill is homeschooling her 8 year old son, playing with her brand new baby son, or pretending to be a farmer on her family homestead (despite being unable to keep even a cactus alive). Find Jill on Instagram @minnieonmain.