A lot has been on pause in Disney World over the past year.
It’s been a while since we’ve seen fireworks, used a FastPass, or hugged a character; but those aren’t the only offerings we’re missing. It’s been a year since Annual Passes for Disney World were on sale. So, what’s the deal?
The Current Situation
Let’s rewind and talk about the current situation. With the 2020 park closures due to the global health crisis, Disney had to make a number of changes to the way the business was running. One of those changes meant that Disney World paused the sale of Annual Passes when the parks reopened in July of 2020.
Since then, there have been severe limits as to who can purchase a new Annual Pass. At this time, existing Passholders have been able to renew their Annual Passes and those who canceled during the 2020 closure have been able to buy new Passes if they reach out to Disney directly. The only other group that is able to buy Annual Passes at this time is children who recently turned three that have a parent who currently has an Annual Pass.
For everyone else, Annual Passes have been completely unavailable at this time. So what is Disney waiting for? And why aren’t Annual Passes on sale in the first place?
Why Annual Passes Aren’t on Sale
Annual Passes may not be on sale for a number of reasons. One could be because they want to manage the number of Passholders who are visiting the park. In an earnings call last August, Disney executives noted that locals (who are often Passholders) were accounting for 50% of park attendance. Imagine what the percentages could potentially be if they started selling more Passes; the balance could significantly skew.
It’s true that in the time since last August, more non-local visitors have likely started to go to Disney World once more. However, Annual Passholders are still not the more profitable guests.
While Passholders are among Disney’s most loyal customers and they DO shell out a LOT of dough to buy that pass initially, they do not necessarily spend the most money while there.
For one, many Annual Passholders are Florida Residents and may not need to book a night in a Disney hotel, opting instead to drive and stay at home. Passholders also have a tendency to spend less on food and souvenirs when in the parks because they are there more often. The profitability of non-Passholders might be a big reason that Disney is not encouraging new Passholders at this time.
Plus, it’s very possible that Disney hasn’t figured everything out yet when it comes to park modifications and the Annual Pass program. Until they do, sales may remain paused. Remember, there have been a lot of question marks for Disney over the past year and the company may be waiting for more long-term certainty.
What’s the Future of Annual Passes?
So, what’s the future of Disney World Annual Passes? Well, we can look to Disneyland which got rid of its Annual Passholder program completely during its closure. Disneyland is in the process of developing an entirely new program but they used the closures as an opportunity to revamp from scratch.
Disney World could potentially follow the same path, but it’s also possible that Disney was already looking to rework the Disneyland Passholder program and seized the opportunity that the closures provided. With Disney World having been reopened for so long and no news of Annual Pass program cancellations, the program may return to what it was before the closures.
Keep in mind though, Passholders are some of Disney World’s most devoted guests. Take away their ability to have an Annual Pass and many would likely still be willing to shell out big bucks for a ticket (similar to what’s going on right now if former Disneyland Passholders want to visit reopened Disneyland). So Disney eliminating the current program doesn’t seem completely far-fetched.
As for the current statement from Disney, it remains unchanged. Cast members are still saying to keep an eye on the Walt Disney World website for any updates about the return Annual Pass sales. At the time of writing, if you do go to the Annual Pass page on the website, it redirects you to the Experience Updates page that speaks to all of the different experience changes as a result of the global health crisis.
Overall, it’s entirely possible that Annual Passes will return as the capacity and demand levels return to normal in Disney World. With the recent health updates, such as masks no longer being required in outdoor spaces and fewer limitations when it comes to social distancing, we may be getting closer to that point.
Of course, we’ll keep you updated with all of the Disney World Annual Pass updates right here on DFB, so stay tuned.
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Are you hoping to be able to buy an Annual Pass soon? Tell us in the comments.