It’s not fair to say ,”Disney is in trouble” because can you really claim a business is in trouble when it’s raking in 9 digit profits? However, “Disney is on the edge of trouble,” is a perfectly valid statement. Last week it was reported that Universal Parks and Resorts out-earned Disney Parks. If you’re on the board at Disney, you’re going to see that as a very very big problem. Disney has always been top-dog so to see their biggest rival surpass them isn’t going to sit well. They’re going to fight back. The question is, how?
If you’re a Disney executive, you’re likely eyeing two very different strategies right now: raise prices or discount them. Both come with inherent risk and the potential for great reward. It is important to remember, because sometimes we fans tend to forget, Disney does nothing that doesn’t increase their bottom line. They don’t offer discounts because we want them, they offer discounts because they need to get bodies through the gates. Right now the board is looking at whether more bodies are needed or fewer guests who simply spend more will give them the edge.
With the recent claims that Disney is empty (which we have refuted), Disney could well be worried about attendance. In this scenario we would expect to see sharp discounts come down the pipe within the next few months.
I hear you, “Wait, Disney wouldn’t lower prices to earn more money, would they? That doesn’t make sense.” On the surface no, it does t seem to make sense but it speaks to a sales principle called “loss-leader.” It’s a common retail tactic to drive sales. The concept is simple: offer one product at a loss (or discount) and entice them to buy more. Disney’s favorite guests are captive ones. Those who are staying on property, visiting the Parks, and eating every meal at a Disney resturant. Those guests spend considerably more in-park than guests who stay off property. Likely Disney will soon offer a room-only discount. Cheaper rooms will entice guests to plan a vacation but they’ll still be paying full-price for their admission, Genie+, food, and shopping. All of this will increase Park revenue.
On the other hand, Disney may say it’s not worth the risk to operate at less than full price for any segment if a guest’s vacation. In that case, we could see more price increases coming soon. The logic behind this one is simple: more money equals more money. We like to call this the “Bob Chapek method,” and you see how well that worked out for him (spoiler alert: it didn’t). Couple the recent failure of increased pricing with Iger’s comments that the Parks are expensive enough and the price hike theory starts to seem unlikely. Disney never fails to surprise though so we can’t disregard the possibility entirely.
Discounts seem to be the most likely scenario. In the past, Disney offered the Dining Plan for free. Free dining was a genius move because guests felt they were getting something for nothing while Disney easily came out on top by discounting the least expensive vacation component. We expect this discount will come back in 2024, once the Dining Plan returns. For now, though, they’d likely settle for room discounts. There’s just one small problem: there are already discounts on rooms for the remainder of 2023. This means we could see the $99/day theme park ticket deal extended or perhaps a total package discount.
With so much up on the air, it’s really impossible to determine which way the company will go. The past 3 years have been anything but predictable. Once you think you know what they’ll do, they change the game. We will be monitoring the situation closely and as soon as any announcements are made, you can depend on Disney Dining to bring you the latest developments.