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Upcharge Events are On the Rise at Walt Disney World Again. And Here’s Why

Last year, Walt Disney World introduced dozens of upcharge events in response to flagging guest levelsat the resort. However, as Disney got several boosts earlier this year from some fortunate holiday timing as well as the opening of Pandora – The World of Avatar, new upcharge announcements seem to ebb for a little while. However, in just the past two weeks, Disney has announced a new $250 upcharge at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and brought back both Star Wars: Galactic Nights as well as the Magic Kingdom After Hours events.

And while you might think the close timing of the announcement of these events is just a coincidence, given some recent trends that have been happening at Walt Disney World, the sudden increase in upcharge events is likely a very purposeful decision. And here’s why:

1. Pandora – The World of Avatar is bringing guests in droves to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, but not to Walt Disney World

Image: Disney

If you check My Disney Experience on any given day, you’ll probably find that both attractions in Pandora – The World of Avatar are at the very top of the wait times list, with Flight of Passage frequently commanding two and a half hour waits, and Na’Vi River Journey generally coming in second with 70-80 minute waits.

With such impressive wait times, it’s easy to call this new expansion of Disney’s Animal Kingdom a rousing success. And it is true that attendance at Disney’s Animal Kingdom is far above what it was at this time last year. However, if we take a critical look at where these guests are coming from, the picture gets a bit more complicated.

Image: Christian Lambert, Flickr (license)

The goal of any major expansion at Walt Disney World is to get more guests to the resort as a whole, and interestingly, it doesn’t look like Pandora has done that, instead simply pulling guests from other parks, particularly Disney’s Hollywood Studios, (which is seeing increasingly lower guest levels now that this park is down to a grand total of four rides), which is meaning that 2017 may only see the slightest of overall attendance gains, if there are any to be had at all. So while you could call Pandora - the World of Avatar a success for Disney's Animal Kingdom, when you take the larger view, this land hasn't exactly done what Disney was likely hoping it would do.

However, while these attendance trends may be regrettable for Walt Disney World, you may wonder what they have to do with the increase in upcharge events. After all, with fewer guests coming to the resort, wouldn't special upcharge events be less well-attended? Well, as you might imagine, the answer is a little bit more complicated than that... 

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