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Frommers Article on Disney Park Woes

The Colorado Kid

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Yes, all is true, so far as I know, and this echoes comments and analyses I’ve read elsewhere. I will say that the soon-to-be-completed renovation of BRV has more theming and personality than last year’s conversion of GF resort rooms into VGF Resort Studios, so I have hopes for the BCV and BWV renovations coming this year but have to wait and see. And at the D23 Expo last September, what would normally have been announcements of coming new attractions was instead a presentation of “blue sky” ideas for potential new attractions, and to my mind there’s no way to know how far along in development any of those ideas actually are. COVID-19 killed so many of the coming attractions announced at the 2019 Expo that I wouldn’t be surprised if Disney were hesitant to make similar promises that they might not be able to fulfill.
 

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This thread is probably going to get locked pretty quickly. My opinion is most of the negative Disney stories are coming from a certain political point of view. I’ve been to WDW several times this year and I see no evidence tha park is deteriorating and is in bad shape. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed each trip and have had plenty of things to see and do. Are there other financial issues with the company. Of course, as there is with many other companies that are still trying to recover from the covid induced economic downturn.

I think the article, and many of the negative stories and comments, are more wishful thinking by those opposed to Disney than they are factual accounts of the status of Disneyworld and the other parks.
 

bnoble

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I'm not sure I buy any of the Frommers arguments.

"No attractions of substance are being built." TRON opens this spring. Epcot's spine transformation (a significant place-making exercise) opens later this year. Each of the parks has seen a significant expansion in the past decade: Epcot has gotten Guardians plus the France expansion, AK got the Pandoraverse, Studios got both Pixar and Star Wars expansions (the latter is truly mind-blowing), and MK got New Fantasyland. AK appears to be next in line for an upgrade with the closure of half of Dinoland leaving a sizeable expansion pad. Disney Springs was completely redone. This seems like more an artifact of timing than anything. From where I am sitting, the last decade has been a time of very significant growth in the parks, especially compared to the decade prior--the period between AK's opening (1998) and New Fantasyland (2012) did not see much building at all, but it didn't seem to hurt them--even though Universal opened the Potterverse in 2010 and 2014, and everyone points to Galaxy's Edge as the "Potter Swatter" but it came almost a decade later than Potter v1.0.

"The parks are in bad shape." If you go looking for them, you can find some burned out lightbulbs or scuffed ride vehicles. But I think you have to go looking for them---for example, because you run a click-bait outrage-fueled website like, say, WDW News Today. (Guess who Frommers quotes here?) I was there for a couple of weeks in March, and it seemed to be in fine shape--at least to me. I suspect most guests would say the same thing.

"The resorts are being un-themed." This is one that a lot of Disneyphiles like to bring up, but I confess I don't see it. I was just in Saratoga Springs after their refurbishment, and it was an incredible upgrade in nearly every way. People bemoan the loss of e.g. the old Boardwalk rooms. You can judge for yourself (AllEars has both old and current room photos) but I don't miss the old one at all. Yes, the decor in the resorts is generally a little cleaner and more "current" but I think this is more "change in general is bad" than it is "this change is bad."

"Disney is putting families in debt." This is hardly news. For a certain swath of American culture, a trip to Disney is a combination of a right of passage and an aspirational class marker of consumption. As long as that's true, people will figure out a way to get there---and that might include financing on credit. Heck 18% of people borrowing to go to Disney might even be low given the fact that at least 30% of all households have credit card debt (and most income ranges have significantly higher fractions of household in debt.)

I've been a Disney fan for coming up on 20 years. For as long as I've been around, every price increase, attraction closure, etc. has been met with cries from the faithful: "This time they've gone too far!" It hasn't ever happened. Disney is fanatical about measuring customer sentiment, and they have a pretty good sense for what the audience will accept. Are they perfect? No, but they've got a very good track record.
 

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This thread is probably going to get locked pretty quickly. My opinion is most of the negative Disney stories are coming from a certain political point of view. I’ve been to WDW several times this year and I see no evidence tha park is deteriorating and is in bad shape. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed each trip and have had plenty of things to see and do. Are there other financial issues with the company. Of course, as there is with many other companies that are still trying to recover from the covid induced economic downturn.

I think the article, and many of the negative stories and comments, are more wishful thinking by those opposed to Disney than they are factual accounts of the status of Disneyworld and the other parks.

Honestly I don’t see it as political in any way…look I love Disney but Universal is kicking Disney’s but in a HUGE way…not just in Orlando- Nintendo world is opening this week in Hollywood ( passholder previews ) - did you see Puss in Boots 2- Jerez they are even putting out better quality franchise movies - not political in any way but Toy Story was a bomb, not because of the hype but because the movie sucked- Hocus Pocus 2 along with the enchanted remake were so bad they couldn’t even go to theatrical release -
If the rumors are right about Shrek 5 and it’s as beautifully done as puss in boots Disney is screwed.

Disney has created its own FOMO monster imo-
Everything has become so competitive and ridiculously difficult with nothing new that my family no longer wants to go…

Last month we popped into Orlando- it took 3 and half hours online to get into Disney for dinner and fireworks as passholders…
Meanwhile next day we showed our passes & we walked into Universal went to our 1st choice restaurant and we’re seated immediately. IMO That says it all its work not fun
 

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I’m a passholder also. Made reservations online last month in a couple minutes. Went to 3 parks in 6 days. Had a great time. That was my experience the entire year, on several visits.
 

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i realize its the new year, please find other places to hash out your political opinions.
 

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I’m a passholder also. Made reservations online last month in a couple minutes. Went to 3 parks in 6 days. Had a great time. That was my experience the entire year, on several visits.

Same day park reservations?

Were you staying “onsite”?

We can’t seem to make it happen…

Serious questions - because I have not had those kinds of results
 

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Same day park reservations?

Were you staying “onsite”?

We can’t seem to make it happen…

Serious questions - because I have not had those kinds of results
Yes, same day reservations at different times during the year, including the week of 11/27 - 12/4.

We stay at Wyndham Bonnet Creek, not at a Disney resort.

We are Florida residents with Pixie Dust annual passes.

We spend most of our time in Epcot and Animal Kingdom but did spend one day in MK during our last visit. I may have made that MK reservation a day or two in advance. I do try to make some park reservations at least a week in advance, but since we’re only allowed 3 advance reservations, if we’re staying a week, obviously, we have to make some only one or two days in advance.

The only time we had a problem this past year, I had a reservation at one of the parks but my wife did not and none were showing available online. We went to guest services and explained the situation and they made the reservation for her.
 

noreenkate

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Yes, same day reservations at different times during the year, including the week of 11/27 - 12/4.

We stay at Wyndham Bonnet Creek, not at a Disney resort.

We are Florida residents with Pixie Dust annual passes.

We spend most of our time in Epcot and Animal Kingdom but did spend one day in MK during our last visit. I may have made that MK reservation a day or two in advance. I do try to make some park reservations at least a week in advance, but since we’re only allowed 3 advance reservations, if we’re staying a week, obviously, we have to make some only one or two days in advance.

The only time we had a problem this past year, I had a reservation at one of the parks but my wife did not and none were showing available online. We went to guest services and explained the situation and they made the reservation for her.

Hmm we were at Bonnet Creek that week also last minute after sea garden - and we couldn’t get into MK or HS, we didn’t go to Epcot as there were NO TS restaurants available which is why we packed it in and headed to Universal.
 

heathpack

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We have always been rational Disney fans- meaning our thinking is not so clouded by Pixie Dust that we can’t look at it critically.

For the past 10 years, our experience has been mostly with Disneyland Resort. Absolutely we‘ve seen a decline in the quality of the overall experience in that if we weren’t local, we probably would not make much effort to visit. I doubt we’d even visit being locals if we didn’t own DVC at the Grand Californian.

Its hard to express how much I hate Genie+ & the need to have your nose in your phone all day. The smug “I’m sorry for your inconvenience“ blow-off style of customer service. The constant need to pay for upcharges to have a manageable experience- I’m talking about you, ILL. Paying more and more but getting less and less. I could probably live with all of it if it weren’t for Genie+. Did I mention that Genie+ is the devil?

More power to anyone who still loves it and finds it to be a good value. We ourselves haven’t given up completely on Disney yet. But we‘re for sure trending in the dissatisfied direction.
 

Luanne

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I'm so glad I grew up in the 50's and 60's going to Disneyland at least once a year. At this point I have no desire to go back, pay the prices and, play the game of reservations and such, and facing the crowds.
 

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We have always been rational Disney fans- meaning our thinking is not so clouded by Pixie Dust that we can’t look at it critically.

For the past 10 years, our experience has been mostly with Disneyland Resort. Absolutely we‘ve seen a decline in the quality of the overall experience in that if we weren’t local, we probably would not make much effort to visit. I doubt we’d even visit being locals if we didn’t own DVC at the Grand Californian.

Its hard to express how much I hate Genie+ & the need to have your nose in your phone all day. The smug “I’m sorry for your inconvenience“ blow-off style of customer service. The constant need to pay for upcharges to have a manageable experience- I’m talking about you, ILL. Paying more and more but getting less and less. I could probably live with all of it if it weren’t for Genie+. Did I mention that Genie+ is the devil?

More power to anyone who still loves it and finds it to be a good value. We ourselves haven’t given up completely on Disney yet. But we‘re for sure trending in the dissatisfied direction.
This is us! We refuse to buy genie. Have to say though that the cast members at WDW for the most part are still great. There was a time during the Chapek reign that there was a lot of unhappiness (apparently lots of their perks were taken away or modified to such a degree it was ridiculous).
have not reached the point of total disgust yet. im Hoping Iger will catch a clue and make some changes.
 

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We do not buy Genie+ and rarely do sit-down restaurants, choosing instead to eat the walk-up options and use the last hour before close to enjoy lower waits. However, always check back, as we often find park reservations available the night before or mid-day. Our family prefers to eat in our villa and go into the parks after lunch, closing down the parks. I often see “walk-up” lines for restaurants with unavailable reservations. On our anniversary, we joined the walk-up line for Rose and Crown and had a party of 6 seated within 30 minutes. I even spotted a reservation for Toppinos brunch on New Year’s Eve when I was checking on 12/30. (Check the night before!)
 
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As to quality and innovation, Universal is currently building an entirely new park. Disney has plenty of land but no plans for a new gate. We often say that Disney is riding on nostalgia a lot instead of continuing to innovate.

When my husband became a cast member during the 1990s (during Michael Eisner’s tenure), he spent three days doing “Traditions” at Disney University. They were immersed in Disney culture and instructed on how to look for opportunities to make the guests’ stay magical. They even had a strict Disney look, including costumes that Disney maintained in their locker rooms. You would NEVER see a Disney costume off property. Now that is a regular occurrence at nearby gas stations and places of business, as it was decided to let cast members maintain their own uniforms. Training is down to one day, and we feel it has an impact on cast member attitudes. However, you can still find cast members who make magic happen.

In our opinion, corporate decision makers have prioritized technology over people. Two examples of taking away what makes Disney special are Future Corps at EPCOT and the Grand Floridan orchestra. Even with the Main Street Philharmonic, retiring instrumentalists aren’t replaced with new full-time people, which demonstrates a lack of investment in the park experience. Lots of emphasis on fancy tech and less on live entertainers. The Imagineering aspect is important too! Some investments that build quality experiences just don’t show up well on a spreadsheet.

For us, Disney is a place for making memories (where Daddy had a cool job driving the monorail to finance his college degree). We like to ride the boat to Port Orleans French Quarter for some Mickey beignets! Visiting places like the Animal Kingdom Lodge and boardwalk area can be a great way to relax and enjoy those Disney details without breaking the bank.
 

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no plans for a new gate
And I don't think there ever will be. The value of an extra gate is in extending engagement with a typical guest--getting them to spend an extra day with you. But--at least for domestic guests--the Orlando resort already more or less maxes out the typical vacation length. The main thing a new gate will do is cannibalize the ones they already have.

Instead, I expect to see them continue what they've been doing (well) for the past decade: expanding the existing parks.
 

Inhislove

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I saw another park as a way to improve the experience of all guests by spreading them out…but that makes sense @bnoble !
 

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As to quality and innovation, Universal is currently building an entirely new park. Disney has plenty of land but no plans for a new gate. We often say that Disney is riding on nostalgia a lot instead of continuing to innovate.

When my husband became a cast member during the 1990s (during Michael Eisner’s tenure), he spent three days doing “Traditions” at Disney University. They were immersed in Disney culture and instructed on how to look for opportunities to make the guests’ stay magical. They even had a strict Disney look, including costumes that Disney maintained in their locker rooms. You would NEVER see a Disney costume off property. Now that is a regular occurrence at nearby gas stations and places of business, as it was decided to let cast members maintain their own uniforms. Training is down to one day, and we feel it has an impact on cast member attitudes. However, you can still find cast members who make magic happen.

In our opinion, corporate decision makers have prioritized technology over people. Two examples of taking away what makes Disney special are Future Corps at EPCOT and the Grand Floridan orchestra. Even with the Main Street Philharmonic, retiring instrumentalists aren’t replaced with new full-time people, which demonstrates a lack of investment in the park experience. Lots of emphasis on fancy tech and less on live entertainers. The Imagineering aspect is important too! Some investments that build quality experiences just don’t show up well on a spreadsheet.

For us, Disney is a place for making memories (where Daddy had a cool job driving the monorail to finance his college degree). We like to ride the boat to Port Orleans French Quarter for some Mickey beignets! Visiting places like the Animal Kingdom Lodge and boardwalk area can be a great way to relax and enjoy those Disney details without breaking the bank.
omg this
 

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The article is indeed "Reasonably legit" even if written from a 'clickbait' perspective. Taking the article point by point...

1) 'No attractions of substance' (after Railway opens at DL and Tron at WDW). True, but as a long time and relatively frequent visitor (at least for a non-FL resident) I don't care about new attractions so much as *additional* attractions. Ratatouille and Tron at WDW are/will be great because they draw people in and reduce crowds elsewhere. Railway and Guardians are a net loss for us and a push for the parks - Railway packs in less people than the Great Movie Ride and it is only a matter of time for the same to be true for Guardians.

2) 'The Parks are in bad shape'. All too true. While we still enjoy our time at WDW in no way does the level of service, dining, and cleanliness approach that to which we became accustomed (and to which Disney aspired).

3) 'Disney is "un-theming" its resorts'. Largely true and the same can be said for new restaurants as well - aside from a few posters, the new Boardwalk eateries could be anywhere. That said, I actually like BLT's 'themeing' as I've always seen it as a 2000s reinterpretation of the Contemporary's aesthetic. But not so much elsewhere.

4) 'Disney is putting families into debt'. Obviously, high prices haven't been a problem thus far as the demand for park reservations continues to exceed availability. Not a day goes by without a constant stream of complaints on the various Disney forums I follow (particularly AP forums) about lack of availability. Maybe one day, but not today.

That said, the most important thing to note that there is a world of difference between the parks being "in trouble" from a financial perspective and a visitor experience perspective.

IMHO, the heart of the DL and WDW visitor experience problem is that people are visiting in numbers that are literally overwhelming. And that rather than seeing the parks as worth investing in because they create a Disney 'Halo effect' for anyone who visits, they are seen as cash cows.
 
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The Colorado Kid

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The article is indeed "Reasonably legit" even if written from a 'clickbait' perspective. Taking the article point by point...

1) 'No attractions of substance' (after Railway opens at DL and Tron at WDW). True, but as a long time and relatively frequent visitor (at least for a non-FL resident) I don't care about new attractions so much as *additional* attractions. Ratatouille and Tron at WDW are/will be great because they draw people in and reduce crowds elsewhere. Railway and Guardians are a net loss for us and a push for the parks - Railway packs in less people than the Great Movie Ride and it is only a matter of time for the same to be true for Guardians.

2) 'The Parks are in bad shape'. All too true. While we still enjoy our time at WDW in no way does the level of service, dining, and cleanliness approach that to which we became accustomed (and to which Disney aspired).

3) 'Disney is "un-theming" its resorts'. Largely true and the same can be said for new restaurants as well - aside from a few posters, the new Boardwalk eateries could be anywhere. I actually like BLT's 'themeing' as I've always seen it as a 2000s reinterpretation of the Contemporary's aesthetic. But not so much elsewhere.

4) 'Disney is putting families into debt'. Obviously, high prices haven't been a problem thus far as the demand for park reservations continues to exceed availability. Not a day goes by without a constant stream of complaints on the various Disney forums I follow (particularly AP forums) about lack of availability. Maybe one day, but not today.

That said, the most important thing to note that there is a world of difference between the parks being "in trouble" from a financial perspective and a visitor experience perspective.

IMHO, the heart of the DL and WDW visitor experience problem is that people are visiting in numbers that are literally overwhelming. And that rather than seeing the parks as worth investing in because they create a Disney 'Halo effect' for anyone who visits, they are seen as cash cows.
@ljmiii Really appreciate your in depth response!
 

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here is the thing I find really intresting- Frommer's for a very long time was the one of the standard guide books to Walt disney world...Not sure if that has changed, I much prefer the "unofficial guide" but in my mind it says a lot about the relationship between the two companies.

edited cause official is currently Birbaum's
 

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"Disney is putting families in debt." This is hardly news. For a certain swath of American culture, a trip to Disney is a combination of a right of passage and an aspirational class marker of consumption. As long as that's true, people will figure out a way to get there---and that might include financing on credit. Heck 18% of people borrowing to go to Disney might even be low given the fact that at least 30% of all households have credit card debt (and most income ranges have significantly higher fractions of household in debt.)

I've been a Disney fan for coming up on 20 years. For as long as I've been around, every price increase, attraction closure, etc. has been met with cries from the faithful: "This time they've gone too far!" It hasn't ever happened. Disney is fanatical about measuring customer sentiment, and they have a pretty good sense for what the audience will accept. Are they perfect? No, but they've got a very good track record.

People may be financing a Disney trip on credit, but that really should not be the case. A Disney trip should not have to get people to mortgage a house...

I found the stuff below in an old photo album from my first WDW trip ever in 1992 (TWA flight from Chicago!). I was visiting the US from overseas as a backpacker. Mostly staying in youth hostels and camping for about 6 months, while eating 39-cent hamburgers at McDonalds. But the 4-Day All-Park Superpass for $124.60 with $4 all-day parking was affordable to me. Now I live in Florida, have kids who love Disney, and have the means to pay current prices - but I haven't been able to justify the WDW prices since 2013, when we cancelled our annual passes. I'd rather go on the DCL cruises - we're planning 3 in the next 18 months - although those have also seen exorbitant price hikes relative to pre-pandemic.

That 4-Day Park Hopper ticket is probably $600+ these days so it more than quadrupled (300% increase). And I may be understating it because the $125 included taxes and the $600 does not. And I do get that now they have 4 parks and many more rides, so it may not be the same experience overall. Nevertheless, on an annualized basis, a 300% increase over 30 years is about 4.7% annually. Based on the BLS CPI calculator that price should have risen to $265, not $600+. The 39-cent McDonalds hamburger is now $1, so it kind of kept up with inflation, but WDW tickets went far beyond. So yes, they are pricing people out. That 4.7% annualized increase probably even outpaced college tuition increases over the 30-year period. And I'm not going to repeat this calculation for the $4 parking which is now $25 (more than 500% increase).

I'm glad I got my WDW "right of passage" 30 years ago... and kept the evidence!


IMG_1674.jpg
1673367809278.png
 
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bnoble

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that really should not be the case.
I agree with you. But people do things that they shouldn't do all. the. time.

Based on the BLS CPI calculator
As far as I can tell, most entertainment options have increased faster than inflation. I can't explain why this is so, but it seem to be true most everywhere I look. The one exception? Movie tickets---but that might be because people increasingly have home theater as a viable option, and it could be a function of demand rather than anything else.
 

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Wow! When did Disney start forcing people to visit their parks, by borrowing money and mortgaging their homes? I’ve been many times over the years but every one was a decision by me and my family. Disney never made me visit.

The poster above is correct, people do things they shouldn’t do all the time. That’s on them, nobody else. If I buy a car I can’t afford. That’s my decision, not the car dealership. If someone can’t afford Disney, it doesn’t mean that person should go into debt or that Disney should lower their prices. It means that person shouldn’t go to Disney.
 

ljmiii

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Wow! When did Disney start forcing people to visit their parks, by borrowing money and mortgaging their homes?
Thus my earlier comment that noted the article was written as clickbait. It says...

"In December [2022], LendingTree, a financial website, announced the results of an analysis that determined that 18% of families that bought a Disney vacation went into debt to do so. When nearly 1 in 5 of your customers is racking up debt to buy your product, that might temporarily excite accountants, but it's a troubling sign for longevity in tough times."

To be useful information, the article should have gone on to say that this compares to the pre-COVID 2019 benchmark year (and ideally other years as well) where surveys said X% (and Y% and Z%) paid for their Disney vacation on credit. Or the writer could have said that it compares to LendingTree's analysis that showed X% paid using credit for their vacations to Hawaii or Europe or other destinations in general. Or at least that Disney's 18% compares to the Y% of other non-essential purchases that consumers made in 2022 using credit.

Is 18% a lot or a little? Does it tell us that people are putting more purchases on credit in 2022 because their incomes haven't kept up with inflation...or that people are putting less on credit because of the substantial financial reserves Americans built up during COVID? In short, just throwing out the 18% number as if it is useful information is horse hockey.
 
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