Within the past two weeks (keep in mind – its January), Disney has surprised fans and travel planners by releasing discounts, free dining, and Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween party tickets. Yes – Halloween tickets. Released. In January. The release of these things may not come as a shock to you, but the timing of these releases says a lot. Is Disney struggling to fill guest rooms this summer?
Let’s backtrack for a second and talk about some background information…
Free dining. Disney releases free dining deals every year. Usually, these free dining deals are released around mid-April, when Disney sees where it’s “weak spots” are in reservations. In the past, guests would receive a free Quick-Service Dining Plan or Disney Dining Plan to guests staying in certain resorts. They were also set, in the past, for times during Disney’s slower periods – usually the beginning of the school year, the time between Halloween and Thanksgiving, and early December. To get the free dining package, guests would be required to book a room at rack rate with a ticket package.
Room-only discounts. Also during slower times, Disney would release room-only discounts for Florida residents, Annual Passholders, and other guests planning to visit the resorts. Guests would be able to add on tickets and dining to these discounts, but at full price. These discounts would be for select resorts as well, and would range in percentages based on the resort.
Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. Even though the Halloween party starts ridiculously early (mid-August), Disney would hold off on releasing the dates and tickets for this event until at least March or April. The dates of the party would range from August to October, and vary in price depending on the date as well as the day of the week the party fell on.
Now that we covered some background information, let’s take a closer look at 2019. Last week, I released a blog post about 19 Things Coming to WDW in 2019. The biggest item on that list, and what most people are looking forward to, is the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. For those of you living under a rock, this is a Star Wars themed land set to open in Hollywood Studios in “late Fall 2019”.Aside from this much anticipated land opening, Fall 2019 and later in the year will bring many other attractions and openings, which you can read all about here: 19 THINGS COMING TO WDW IN 2019!
Now, you might be asking “How is any of this connected?” or “Why are all of these early releases a big deal?” and I have one theory – Disney is hurting for guests during [what is usually] their busiest time of year.
Now, here are the issues with these early releases.
Free dining 2019. The free dining deal that was released much earlier than it has been in recent years is for stays during summer 2019. As mentioned above, Disney releases free dining deals during their slower periods to try and reign in more guests.
Room-only discounts. Now don’t get me wrong, Disney has released room-only discounts in the summer in previous years. However, the discounts available for resorts during summer 2019 are reaching extremely low prices. So low, in fact, that for a stay at the Grand Floridian mid-June, I found a price for $410/night – that’s over $200 less than rack rate for Disney’s flagship resort.
Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party tickets. I mean, Halloween party tickets released in January.
So, finally, this brings me to my point. Disney has to be hurting to fill rooms in the summer. The summer used to be one of the worst times to visit the parks due to the extreme heat and the overwhelming crowds. However, it was the best time for families to visit due to summer vacations, so people would go regardless. They would never release crazy room discounts or free dining plans, simply because they didn’t need to. People would come regardless of the deals that were available to them.
In my opinion, it is pretty evident that the future opening of Galaxy’s Edge has a large part in these low crowds. This land has been highly anticipate for years, which makes it no surprise that people seem to be holding out their vacations for “late fall”, which is when the land is expected to open. Pair that opening with the fact that fall is a wonderful time to visit the parks due to the weather, the Food and Wine festival in EPCOT running, and the various holidays and parties that come with them – why not hold out until the fall?
Another factor to these discounts being released, and what I theorize as the possible low bookings in WDW, is Galaxy’s Edge in Disneyland. Disneyland and WDW are opening identical lands, but Disneyland’s opens in summer 2019. It could be possible that people are heading out west for their summer vacations to experience this land instead of waiting until the fall. Regardless, it still means less bookings here in Florida.
What do you think – Is WDW hurting for bookings in the summer? Free dining deals, extreme room-only discounts, and Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party are huge draws for many regulars to the parks, so it doesn’t come as a surprise to me that Disney is pulling out the “big guns” to try and fill rooms. I’ll be interested to see the crowd levels this summer compared to recent years as well as this fall!
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