If you’ve been to Walt Disney World at all this summer, chances are good you’ve noticed a much smaller number of guests wandering around each of the resort's four theme parks than is normal at this time of year.

In the short term, this has been a great thing for vacationers, who have been able to experience shorter wait times and greater FastPass+ and Advance Dining Reservation availability pretty much everywhere. However, beyond the initial perks that come with an unexpectedly quiet summer season at Walt Disney World, there are some longer term changes that could come in the coming months (and potentially years) as a result of the slower summer crowds of 2016.  

1. Limited-time deals return

One of the easiest ways Walt Disney World has been able to pump up guest levels in the past is by offering a number of special, limited time deals to draw in both locals as well as those considering a visit but uncommitted. Most of these limited time deals have come from Walt Disney World’s hotels, with select locations offering free Disney Dining Plans as well as one night free offers with stays of a defined length.

However, even though these offers have all been made available for some dates in the past, there are other, potentially more exciting discounts that could also be offered in the coming months as well. One particularly memorable promotion in 2008 and 2010 (which also saw somewhat depressed attendance thanks to a recessive US economy) allowed guests to get a free one-day, one-park ticket for Walt Disney World either on a guests’ birthday (in 2008) or after a day of confirmed volunteer service (in 2010). While free tickets probably won't be back yet (things aren't that bad yet), we wouldn't be surprised if more special ticket packages for Florida residents and hotel guests become more widely available in the coming months. 

Although it's likely that Disney will implement some of these proven crowd-boosting tactics from its playbook, the company might also be considering some new deals as well. A recent survey hinted that Disney is thinking about adding extra perks for annual passholders in particular, which could include deeper discounts on things like special events, tickets, dining and more. 

There are plenty of choices for Disney when it comes to offering discounts, but we’d imagine that the resort will begin offering some low key deals possibly as soon as this fall (if late summer attendance doesn’t pick up) and then if the holiday season ends up being disappointing as well, then you’ll see some more dramatic offers in 2017 and potentially beyond. 

Though we don’t know what Disney has in store to try and get guests back into its parks, it is almost certain that discounts and deals will be a large part of their strategy in the coming months and years. But that’s not the only change guests can expect in response to this unexpected guest downturn...



Not sure what people are talking about on here. Been to WDW twice over the last 6 months and it has been really crowded. Will be interesting to see how much more crowded it gets once Star Wars and Pandora open!

I think they got bit by timing. They made an attempt to actually reduce the number of day visitors via price hikes at the same time that exchange rates cut the international visitors. Combining with this was the announcement of major expansions, Pandora, Star Wars Land, and Radiator Springs Racers coming out beginning next year, and it seems like this summer is not a particularly good time to go. Animal Kingdom seems unfinished, much of Hollywood Studios is closed, only one new attraction at Epcot (No one is going to cross the country just because of a new film at Soarin' and the Pixar shorts)

Prices Prices Prices. The January through June FL Residents offer went up by a huge margin and the heat is unbearable. The lack of change doesnt help either. I'm in my 30s and I still see the same rides from when I was 10 years old. Universal has done more to reinvent itself and more attractions for millennials and adults.

Count myself as one of the few people who probably don't mind the price increases if it keeps crowds away. I'm a born and raised Floridian and have been visiting Disney my entire life. Had passes in the late 90s/early 2000s. Now those were the golden days where crowds were not nearly as bad and they still had the ticketed FP system. You could easily do each of the parks in one day. Fast forward a few years and I recently bought annual passes in Spring 2015. I was extremely disappointed at how crowded it had gotten in the parks over the years. That added to the fact that you have to plan out your visit before even arriving and I had been disappointed at how much the Disney experience has changed. Now this past year I have been loving going to the parks again because the crowds are not nearly as bad as it had been in the past. Of course this is me being selfish as a FL resident who can buy annual passes for as low as $250. Really if you are a FL resident you shouldn't complain about price hikes as much since you at least have the option of buying an annual pass. Have pity on those who cannot. The days of spontaneously going to Disney for one day are long gone. It is just way too expensive and crowded to do that.

I think the above comments regarding price are dead on. For me, there is another factor, beyond just the ticket price. It's the value provided for that ticket. DHS is half a park, at the MK we're still watching the electrical parade I watched in 1980, Epcot has lost all focus as the World Showcase becomes factionalized and future world sees more closures with remaining attractions having nothing to do with the future. Meanwhile, loyal guests of WDW have to listen to reports of all these service cuts and price hikes in Florida to cover expenses in Shanghai??? Enough is enough. With the euro and pound down, my family of 5 could have gone to Europe for the price of our summer 2015 Disney World vacation. Next year that's just what we're going to do.

View More Comments

Add new comment

About Theme Park Tourist

Theme Park Tourist is one of the web’s leading sources of essential information and entertaining articles about theme parks in Orlando and beyond.

We are one of the world’s largest theme park guide sites, hosting detailed guides to more than 80 theme parks around the globe.

Find Out More About Us...

Plan Your Trip

Our theme park guides contain reviews and ratings of rides, restaurants and hotels at more than 80 theme parks worldwide.

You can even print them.

Start Planning Now...