Though attendance has been down pretty much all year at Walt Disney World, we've noticed a very interesting trend in recent weeks at the resort: a massive uptick in guest levels at virtually every park! Epcot in particular has been a guest hotspot in recent weeks, and actually had to close its parking lot this past weekend due to capacity issues. This is already a rare occurrence in the middle of October, and certainly strange considering the well-publicized resort-wide attendance woes recently confirmed by Disney.
So what is going on here? Has Disney finally recovered from its recent guest level slump? Or is something else happening that is contributing to these massive crowds? Let’s take a deep dive into some of the factors likely contributing to the insane guest levels we have been seeing at Walt Disney World thus far this fall.
1. Annual passholders have returned to Walt Disney World in a big way
When Walt Disney World announced both price hikes and new pass tiers for annual passholders last year, many annual passholders elected to renew their passes at either the Gold or Silver level (which both have blockout dates), as the cost of the no blockout pass skyrocketed to $649 per person, up over $100 from the previous price point.
Though not explicitly stated, many speculated that one of the reasons behind the steepening cost of the no blockout annual pass option was Disney's desire for an easy way to get summertime crowds under control by encouraging annual passholders to visit during other times with the promise of saving money on passes that do not include these busy dates. While this type of move is certainly a gamble, judging by the slow summer we witnessed in 2016 followed by the massive crowds that have been showing up at Walt Disney World in droves this fall, this tactic may have actually been a little too much of a success.
However, though annual passholders are likely a big part of the picture behind the late fall attendance swell of 2016, they are far from the only driving force behind the increasing numbers of guests coming to Walt Disney World in recent weeks...
2. Walt Disney World has released a ton of new deals for the fall
In case you haven't noticed, Disney has been taking some extreme measures recently to discount the cost of a Walt Disney World vacation. From half-price tickets for friends of annual passholders to deep discounts on dining, merchandise and even hotel stays at the resort, Disney has been cutting costs for guests almost everywhere that is feasibly possible. Even guests who never set foot in a theme park have been able to take advantage of some pretty incredible deals at Disney Springs this fall as well. And with so many ways to save around the resort, it's no wonder that guests are showing up in large numbers to take advantage of the unprecedented savings around Walt Disney World.