Disney World’s Current Crowd Level Has Little to Do With Desantis and Florida Politics

Disney World's Current Crowd Level Has Little to Do With Desantis and Florida Politics
Credit: Disney/ Canva

Is Walt Disney World really in trouble? Are politics really keeping potential Disney World Guests at home?

By now, you’ve heard the news and read the blogs. Walt Disney World did experience one of its lowest attendance rates for the Fourth of July in ten years. Everyone has an opinion explaining why the sky is falling at Disney World. They blame Disney’s “woke” agenda or complicated vacation planning for low attendance. They claim that Disney has a surmountable, lasting problem on their hands, which may be true. But if time is any indicator, it probably isn’t. 

The Reality of the Situation at Walt Disney World

fireworks magic kingdom castle

Credit: Disney

Although the past few weeks have been slow, anyone visiting the Parks at Walt Disney World within the last year can tell you that crowds are not below average. Although the attendance rates at Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom were surprising for the Fourth of July holiday, they present a small cohort that does not accurately reflect the entire picture. Comparatively speaking, July has not been a premiere month for Disney Parks in Florida; however, despite what the media is shoving down everyone’s throats, there are much more realistic explanations for this.

As someone who finds themselves in the Parks a lot, I can attest that Disney World has remained at high volume for much of this year despite what you may have heard. If we compare this to two years ago, Magic Kingdom may seem empty, but that’s relative to a few things actively happening and changing at Walt Disney World. Undoubtedly, different considerations outside of Florida politics are not being reasonably considered and weighted in evaluating the trend of decreased visitation to Walt Disney World in 2023. Of course, the post-Covid crowd has bolstered numbers, but I’ll let someone much smarter than me speak to that.

Disney World 50th Anniversary Celebration

Magic Kingdom

Credit: Disney

Walt Disney World’s 50th birthday was on the heels of a viral epidemic that saw record lows and vast numbers of rescheduled vacations. Beginning in October 2021, Guests began celebrating 50 years of magic at Walt Disney World. All four Parks joined in on the celebration. Exclusive offerings, merchandise, foods, parades, and nighttime spectaculars drew record crowds. This influx of visitors, combined with massive amounts of Covid reschedules, created headaches regarding wait times, Park availability, and getting around Disney property.

Although many considered Disney World 50th Anniversary Celebration a failure, it did its job by creating an exclusive atmosphere. This led to higher bookings for Park reservations and Disney Resort Hotels. Guests felt like they needed to experience the 50th celebration. They were made to believe they were missing out on something huge if they couldn’t make it. This led large flocks of Guests to Central Florida for a once-in-a-lifetime chance to celebrate with Mickey Mouse. 

Annual Passholders Don’t Care About Spending Holidays in the Parks

Walt Disney World Annual Passholder

Credit: Disney

Maybe not all Annual Pass holders, but traditional instate Annual Passholders don’t have the same urge and desire to spend holidays at Walt Disney World. In fact, many avoid the Parks during peak visiting times. There’s little pressure to experience Magic Kingdom on the Fourth of July as a local Annual Passholder can experience it on the Eleventh of July instead once they get off of work and crowds aren’t typically shoulder to shoulder. 

The same can be said for the majority of other holidays as well. Annual Passholders can experience Christmas away from the Christmas crowds. They can see the Fall decor outside of the week of Halloween or Thanksgiving. Their access to the Parks changes their perception of must-do. It isn’t uncommon for some Annual Passholder to pop over to EPCOT after work, grab a snack, ride an attraction, and head home. Annual Passholders don’t equate to massive portions of Disney World’s current Guest loss. However, they attribute more than usual when considering the following variable.

This is the Hottest July We’ve Had in Years

Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress

Credit: Disney

Record temperatures and Disney Parks don’t mix well. This is especially true at Walt Disney World, which sits in the middle of a tropical climate in Central Florida. According to Fox 35 Orlando, this Fourth of July hit record temperatures.

“No question about it – it was another hot and humid day in Central Florida. In fact, Orlando International Airport peaked at 97 degrees on Tuesday, marking the hottest Fourth of July in Orlando in the last 25 years, according to online weather data.”

If you’re familiar with Florida, you’ll know that 97 degrees feels like 106 to 110 degrees in the middle of the day. Although every July is hot in Florida, Emergency Warnings regarding the heat in Orlando probably kept a lot of Annual Passholders at home, and many Disney Resorts Guests hit the pool instead of braving the blistering temperatures.

Disney’s Goal of Pricing People Out is Working

grand floridian resort and spa walt disney world beach boys music video 1988

Credit: Disney

Walt Disney World has always been viewed as a luxury. It is costly. It will never be cheap, but the cost of attending Disney World is rising while many struggle to pay bills and feed their families. The cost of living is on a steep incline. Although inflation costs fell in May of 2023, that was the lowest they’ve been since March 2021. At 4.1%, Guests who typically have the extra money to visit Walt Disney World find themselves spending it on the rising costs of groceries and fuel in today’s economy. 

This exact correlation can be made to Disney’s underwhelming performance at the box office. In terms of Walt Disney World, this is a good thing. They’re simply playing the long game while making short-term sacrifices. Although it means fewer people in the Parks today, it’ll be higher rollers in the Parks tomorrow. Parks that aren’t congested with Guests who aren’t spending money also means that the Guests who are dropping cash will be happier, enjoy their experience more, and are likely to be repeat visitors to Walt Disney World. The price increases at Walt Disney World are not a mistake. They are strategic financial move to solve several problems that Disney World is currently facing, and it is working. 

For now, many will claim that Walt Disney World is failing. The lack of two-hour long wait times for rides has to mean that people aren’t going to Walt Disney World because of political agendas they refuse to accept. Plainly put, the difference between Walt Disney World and Budweiser is that Disney has always branded itself toward multiple demographics. Leaning one way politically may mean they lose business, but they have multiple pools of fans to compensate in the long run.

Guests aren’t skipping out on Walt Disney World because of Ron DeSantis or African American mermaids; instead, it’s too hot, or they simply can’t afford it. Disney’s problem is bad weather, low excitement for their 100th Animation Anniversary, and a terrible economy. Although small crowds seem to correlate to Disney’s current opposition to Ron DeSantis, that’s because it’s what you’ve been told. This isn’t the first time Walt Disney World has experienced record-low crowds, and they’ve always bounced back. History is the best teacher.

About Michael Arnold

Michael is a father, husband, and an Army Veteran. Michael spends his weekends at Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando checking out new merchandise and food. Michael is a graduate of the University of Alabama and has an education background in Public Health. You can find Michael riding Pirates of the Caribbean over and over again or binge watching new Marvel and Star Wars content. Han shot first. Thor is the strongest Avenger. Roll Tide and Wash Your Hands!