For many, the thought of a visit to Walt Disney World immediately brings to mind amazing attractions, fun characters, and amazing shows. And even though a trip to a Walt Disney World theme park certainly entails all of that and more, there’s one part of every Disney vacation that absolutely no one likes: standing in line. Though Disney has worked very hard to create interesting, interactive queues for guests to enjoy while they are waiting, the fact is that shuffling for an hour or more with hundreds of other guests in a cramped space isn’t exactly fun, even if you have some cool stuff to look at along the way.
However, nearly a month into the busy summer season at Walt Disney World, we’ve noticed something interesting happening at Walt Disney World: wait times are going down. Like anything else, there are a number of factors likely contributing to this phenomenon, both intentional and unintentional on Disney’s behalf. Let's break down exactly why this is happening.
1. Guest levels are down this summer
Several weeks ago Disney shared via its financial results that overall attendance was down at Walt Disney World earlier this year. While Disney expected a bump back up this summer (after all, the resort is opening more than half a dozen new attractions), so far we simply haven’t seen very much of an uptick in attendance at the park during the month of June.
Though there are likely several causes for depressed attendance in general, one big contributor is declining visitors from South America (and Brazil in particular). Though throngs of Brazilian tour groups used to be a summer fixture all across Walt Disney World, this year simply hasn’t brought in crowds from this region of the world (possibly due to both Brazil’s economic troubles as well as the impending summer Olympics event), and the parks simply haven't been busy as a result.
In addition to depressed international traveller levels, another contributing factor to the lower levels of attendance around the resort could be the ever-rising cost of a Walt Disney World vacation, which could be keeping away domestic visitors as well. Though everyone always bemoans the price hikes that come every year, 2016’s annual increases came with a big structural change: surge pricing.
The new demand-based model discourages visits during busy travel periods by increasing prices during the summer and holiday seasons. However, is it possible that Disney has been a little too successful with its new demand-based pricing structure? Right now guest levels are pretty low, and if guests are indeed waiting for when ticket prices are cheaper, could we see the return of astronomical wait times in the fall, which was previously the “slow” season? It’s obviously too soon to know anything for sure right now, but we’ll definitely be keeping an eye on this as 2016 progresses.
Editor's note: We know that some readers are likely to wonder whether recent events in Orlando have impacted on Walt Disney World attendance. It's too early for us to speculate on that, but we noticed this trend prior to the horrific nightclub attack, and prior to the on-site tragedy involving an alligator.
Though smaller crowds this summer have certainly been a big contributor to lower wait times around Walt Disney World, that’s not the only reason why guests are spending less time in line this summer…