If you’ve been paying attention to the news out of Walt Disney World over the past few weeks, then you probably know that things are changing rapidly at the resort on an almost daily basis. From cuts to entertainment, resort amenities and dining, to a limited time test of extra FastPass+ reservations and even discontinuing the acceptance of cash at at least one hotel, this January has been very eventful at Walt Disney World from an operations perspective.
While it is true that Disney does run quite a few-limited-time tests during the “slow” periods of the year, 2018 has seen a massive uptick in the level of these experiments from years past, and it looks like Disney's recent flair for experimentation won't be slowing down any time soon. And while there’s no official reason why so much is changing, we have a pretty good idea why 2018 may be the year of the limited time test…
Tightening the belt for a very tough year
2017 was an up and down year, with Pandora - The World of Avatar drawing a lot of guests during the summer and holiday periods, but guest levels sinking to multi-year lows during slower periods. However, even though things averaged out overall in 2017 (attendance figures aren't out yet but we're expecting to see a modest uptick for the resort overall), 2018 is not expected to have many highlights, leaving the resort with the possibility of negative attendance for the year, something that hasn't happened in the last decade.
Though Disney is currently offering a lot of limited-time deals and discounts right now to try and entice guests to visit the resort this year, the fact is that many guests are holding out until 2019 to visit the resort, which means that revenue flow isn't going to be as high as it has been in recent years.
To help deal with tightening margins due to lower guest levels, Disney is trying to balance their budget a little bit by making a number of chnages designed to reduce operating costs. These changes have included testing the use of paper plates at Be Our Guest, the expansion of refillable toiletries at value resorts, and even character changes in the theme parks, including the controversial decision to discontinue the "talking" version of Mickey Mouse at the Magic Kingdom.
And even though there may be economical reasons behind a lot of these limited-time tests, there's something even bigger on the horizon you probably know about that is also motivating a lot of these tests...