During one of Disney’s quarterly earnings calls back in August 2020, it was revealed that HALF of the total attendance at Disney World at the time consisted of locals. And it’s probably a safe assumption that a LOT of those locals coming to the parks are Annual Passholders.
For Disney World, 50% is HIGH for Annual Passholder attendance on any given day. So if the demand is clearly there for Annual Passholders to be a part of Disney’s phased reopening, it would make sense for Disney to welcome even MORE Passholders into the fold. But to this day, new Annual Passes are still not for sale (with the exception of two specific groups of guests).
So, why aren’t Annual Passes for sale when such a high percentage of guests coming to Disney World these days fall into that category? Let’s break down the possible reasons.
Click here to learn more about the two specific groups of guests currently eligible to purchase Annual Passes
Disney World wants to manage the percentage of Passholders visiting
As we mentioned, if we’re assuming a majority of the locals visiting (as well as out-of-staters) account for Passholders taking up 50% of their daily attendance, it’s safe to assume that’s probably higher than what even Disney was expecting.
It’s possible Disney does not want to resume the sale of Annual Passes quite yet because they want to manage the number of Passholders visiting. If existing Passholders are already taking up 50%, imagine what the percentages could potentially be if they started selling more Passes!
So, until park capacity is raised again or the Park Pass Reservation System goes away, we may continue to see a pause on the sale of Annual Passes. With Disney offering Passholders the option to cancel their passes, Disney may be trying to place some sort of control over the volume of Passholders at this time.
Disney World may be showing a preference to higher revenue guests
While Passholders are among Disney’s most loyal customers, they aren’t necessarily the most profitable. During that quarterly earnings call where we learned about Passholders accounting for nearly 50% of daily attendance, Disney CEO Bob Chapek commented on how a single day guest spends more than an Annual Passholder. This makes sense — if you visit more often, you’re less likely to shell out as much cash per day on souvenirs, pricey sit-down meals, and more as someone who rarely visits.
It’s probably safe to say that Disney is looking for ways to bring in more revenue post-closures. They may stand to earn LESS per guest if those guests are predominantly Annual Passholders than if there were more Single Ticket Guests or Resort Guests. Sure, they’ll make some initial money off of the sale of the Pass, but Disney stands to earn WAY more if they can make those would-be Passholders remain single day ticket holders and resort guests.
Regular Ticket Guests are more likely to be staying at the resorts as well as spending more money on food and souvenirs. And resort guests are a captive audience who are essentially living on Disney property for several days and dependent on all Disney has to offer, rather than Annual Passholders who may just be visiting for a couple of hours. Combined with the discounts Passholders can get on rooms, merchandise, and potentially on food, an out-of-town hotel guest is likely spending more than a typical Annual Passholder across the board.
A hotel guest staying at a Deluxe Resort, like Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa or Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, could add more revenue to Disney World’s pockets in one night of resort fees than a local Annual Passholder will in an entire year from the purchase of their Annual Pass (depending on what pass they have). Passholders may not be the source of steady income that Disney can find in a “normal” ticket holder.
Disney World is still “figuring it out as they go”
Since Disney World’s unprecedented closures began back in 2020, it seems as though they’ve operated on a “figure it out as we go” model. There have been some bizarre glitches to indicate that they haven’t quite nailed everything down, like when they charged Passholders 4 months’ worth of fees at once. Or the multiple times the Disney World phone lines and website basically died due to the number of guests trying to get assistance.
It’s very possible that Disney simply hasn’t figured everything out yet when it comes to what to do with their Annual Passholders, and until they do, they’re pausing sales.
It’s arguably tougher being a Passholder right now than it was before the closures. With the Disney Park Pass Reservation System in place, there’s FAR less availability to visit the parks at a moment’s notice. In addition, there’s simply less to do in the parks at this time, with no fireworks, no parades, no character meet and greets, fewer places to eat and shop, and shorter park hours.
UPDATE: Plus, Disney recently announced that free MagicBands will soon be discontinued for Passholders — another perk to disappear.
With Passholders unable to visit as easily and experience everything they initially purchased their passes expecting, there’s a serious question of whether the value paid for Passes is still the value they hold. Disney may still be in the process of determining their next steps forward in taking care of their Annual Passholders.
That said, in the announcement that MagicBands would be discontinued, Disney did mention “Annual Pass purchases and renewals.” It’s possible that this change comes as a precursor to the return of Annual Pass sales.
After all, we’ve seen significant strides toward normal in the recent weeks such as capacity increases and relaxing health measures. These shifts bring us closer to a pre-closure Disney World — and that might mean closer to the return of Annual Pass sales.
We will surely see Disney World resume the sale of Annual Passes someday, perhaps sooner rather than later! Disney has remained rather tight-lipped on the sale of Annual Passes so until they reveal more, we’ll all be waiting to see what happens. This prolonged pause on the sale of Passes, however, is rather unprecedented and is yet another example of just how significant the closures have been to Disney World.
Are you a Disney World Annual Passholder? Have you been back to Disney World since the parks reopened in July? Let us know in the comments!