3. Additions to the parks experience (that don’t come with additional cost)
It’s not necessarily anything new for Disney vacations to be expensive. Guests have always had to budget for individual areas like dining, lodging, tickets, and souvenirs. What has changed, however, is the addition of new costs to get a Disney experience on par with what one might have experienced five years ago.
It’s hard not to feel like Disney has taken a distinct turn towards nickel-and-diming guests. MagicBands were free, now they are not—indeed, if guests want to take part in new interactive additions to areas like Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge or other parks, they’ll need to pay for a new MagicBand+ to access those experiences. Disney’s Magical Express has gone the way of the dodo, replaced with traditional Mears Shuttles. As already mentioned, Fastpass+ is dead, replaced with the paid services Genie+ and Individual Lightning Lanes.
On a larger scale, Disney has redirected some of their most innovative ideas for new attractions into areas behind a paywall. The most notable of these is Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser. While Disney’s ultra-immersive, all-inclusive Star Wars adventure resort has been extremely well received by guests who have tried it, the price remains well out of reach for the average family or Star Wars fan. While we love the ideas Disney put into Galactic Starcruiser, we lament that many of these were originally pitched as additions to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
The more Disney can do to make vacations at their resorts feel like they come with significant value, the more likely they are to win back guest goodwill. Things don’t need to be as all-inclusive as Galactic Starcruiser, but guests appreciate when they feel like value, benefits, and new experiences are added without additional costs. While the addition of new attractions like Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind and TRON Lightcycle/Run certainly helps, not every new addition needs to be an E-Ticket.
Implementing simple, memorable experiences can do a lot to help guests feel like they are getting more value out of a Disney parks ticket. New experiences interacting with cast members, such as animal encounters at Disney Animal Kingdom, as well as simple, quality exploration attractions like the upcoming Moana Experience or Disney Play Pavilion at Epcot are a step in the right direction. Even better, if Disney can find ways to reintroduce small freebies, that’s a bonus. The end result is guests feel like part of the Disney family, not just wallets to be squeezed for revenue.
4. A dedicated push for quality (especially in dining)
This ties into the previous topic, but one of the best ways Disney can continue to win back frustrated fans is with a dedicated push towards quality.
Quality of experience has always made Disney parks stand out from their competitors. From spectacular theming to technological innovations to culinary creativity, quality has always given Disney an edge over other parks that just focus on who can produce the biggest, wildest rides.
The problem is many fans feel Disney has been flagging on the quality front. Some of this has been because of issues beyond their control—the pandemic has been challenging for everyone, and there’s no ignoring the fact that long closures had a significant impact on Disney’s bottom line. The company has also struggled to fill cast member positions, as well as keeping those cast members from feeling exhausted amid increasing tensions with guests.
There are areas Disney does have control over, however, and it's hard not to feel they’ve let quality dip on a number of entertainment and dining experiences in the name of keeping costs low.
The most noticeable of these has been dining. Before the pandemic, guests already had noticed shifts in the quality of many Disney dining establishments, partially due to effects of the Disney Dining Plan. Disney used to be famous for the spectacular quality of their restaurants, and while many are still excellent, in others quality has noticeably waned. The consistent theme is a feeling like Disney has tried to keep prices the same at many locations while cutting menu options and using lower quality ingredients.
We have already seen some positive signs in this area, but a push for excellence and creativity across Disney parks dining would be a welcome boon for fans. Empower chefs throughout Disney to use simple ingredients to make quality food in innovative ways--this would be a welcome step back to the company's roots.
Last but not least is the importance and need to focus on improving the parks, not on no-win situations...