Disney parks might be some of the Happiest and Most Magical Places on Earth, but that certainly doesn’t mean they’re cheap.
We’ve seen price hikes on merchandise, dining, Genie+, and more, and recently Disney announced new, park-specific pricing would be implemented at Disney World, too. But with a potential recession on the horizon, chances are guests might not be planning as many trips to the parks as Disney would hope. Can they keep attendance up in the face of a recession? History shows they could — and these are the tricks they used to do it the last time around.
Experts have predicted that an upcoming recession may be unavoidable, and expensive vacations will likely be moved to the bottom of the “essentials” list for many Americans. That doesn’t bode well for Disney’s bottom line, but the company has been through a recession before — in 2008 and 2009 — and come out the other side relatively unscathed. Here’s how they did it.
Disney’s Recent Comments
During The Walt Disney Company’s recent 2022 Q4 earnings call, then-CEO Bob Chapek and Senior Executive VP and CFO Christine McCarthy shared information about Disney’s current financial status and plans for the future. The executives were asked what Disney planned to do to keep park attendance and revenue growth up “if there is a slowing U.S. consumer” due to a recession.
McCarthy stated that Disney has more “commercial tools and levers” available to them now than they did during the 2008-2009 recession, and that turning to new discounts could increase demand and thus keep revenue high. She went on to say that discounting was something Disney had used in the past, and that they would continue to do so in the future.
However, McCarthy then stated Disney would not use discounts to the extent they used them during the 2008-2009 recession. Which begs the question: What did they do during the last recession?
What Disney Did in the Past
Despite a major recession that caused several companies to fold, Disney was a top performer among media companies when it came to maintaining revenue and demand in 2008, according to CNN. The company reported a net profit of $1.13 billion which was an increase of 22% compared to the year prior. Not only that, but theme park and resort sales rose 11% during Q2 of 2008.
Bob Iger, who was CEO of Disney at the time, attributed much of the company’s success to discounts on hotel rooms, vacation packages, and park tickets. Disney noted that “the discount on the ticket is relatively modest” but they introduced some pretty hefty discounts when it came to hotel rooms. Those savings brought in more guests who might not have normally booked a Disney vacation during a recession otherwise.
Then, a “Buy 4, Get 3 Free” deal was introduced in 2009, which Disney touted as a major factor in keeping attendance high. Guests could book 4 nights at certain Disney hotels and get an additional 3 nights for free.
For many guests, this meant extra days not only at a hotel — but in the theme parks too. Those who would have normally only spent 4 days in the parks were now more likely to spend a few more in the parks with the free nights.
This worked out well for Disney, who traded free hotel stays for additional money spent on theme park tickets, food, souvenirs, and more.
What Disney Might Do in the Future
Disney recently filed a report with the United States Securities and Exchanges Commission that indicated the current decline in economic conditions (and ultimately, a recession) could reduce attendance at the parks and resorts. The report stated, “Past declines in economic conditions reduced spending at [Disney] parks and resorts.”
The report also stated that an economic decline could impact the “implementation of business plans” and specifically mentioned price increases.
And although McCarthy shared that whatever new discounts come out wouldn’t be as significant as those used in years past, we’ve already started to see quite a few hotel and ticket deals come out for Disney parks in 2023.
Discounts are available in Disney World for Annual Passholders, Florida Residents, Disney Visa Cardholders, Military Members, and regular guests can find savings at hotels too. We recently saw the first discount come out for Disney’s Star Wars hotel — the Galactic Starcruiser, and a SoCal resident ticket discount was just introduced for Disneyland as well.
And while these discounts may not amount to a whole 3 free nights in a Disney Resort hotel, they do offer a good indication of what might be to come. If there is a recession, Disney could come up with even better deals than those currently available to guests.
We’ll keep an eye out for any new discounts that could pop up around Disney World and Disneyland, but if you’re looking to save on a trip coming up soon, check out our posts below:
- 5 Ways to Save $1,000 on Your Disney Trip (Really!)
- Our NEW Tips for Saving BIG in Disney World!
- Plan Your Next Disney Trip With the Latest Deals and Discounts
- 15 Cheap But Filling Disney Snacks for When You’re Balling on a Budget
Be sure to stay tuned to DFB for the latest Disney news and beyond!
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