How Disney Can Get Rid of Annual Passes

September 30, 2016 • Louie Mantia

I want to kick this off by saying a few things:

  1. I do not work at Disney.
  2. Sometimes I wish I did.
  3. I do not know anything about the AP population or its revenue.

😩 It’s Too Crowded

If I’m to discuss the subject of park attendance, I must mention of Disney’s Annual Passholders. The price of Annual Passports range from a few hundred dollars to over a thousand.

* blockout dates apply

Each of these is also available with a monthly payment plan, which makes them even more reasonable. Just to give you an understanding of how valuable these are, a single-day ticket is $105. For LA residents, this is a no-brainer. For everyone else, it really depends on how often you’d visit each year and if you care about blockout dates. There is one more pass though:

This pass is a little different because it grants admission to both parks at the Disneyland Resort as well as all the parks at the Walt Disney World Resort. All with no blockout dates. And of course, Walt Disney World has its array of Passports.

This is all to say that it’s very confusing. There’s a lot of variables. Different selections of blockout dates and different discount rates for each pass.

😡 It’s the Locals!!

Local Annual Passholders are often the brunt of the blame for high park population. Some say it’s a modern equivalent to shopping malls. Young adults hang out in the park on weekends and days off work or school. This fact comes with further criticism that unlike tourists who are also lodging, locals aren’t spending the ~$400/night to stay at a Disney hotel. And maybe they also don’t quite stay long enough to eat multiple meals or have much incentive to buy any merchandise.

So while a family of four might spend around $1000 for two days in the parks (hotel, food, and souvenirs included, flights excluded), local Annual Passholders might not spend $1000 in an entire year visiting the parks.

And yet they take up space. And not just on the walkways, but in ride vehicles, and in queues.

Now, I’m not here to rag on Annual Passholders — I am one! (I have the Premier Passport.) What I am here to do is to suggest an alternative to Annual Passports. But first, a wee bit of history.

💳 The Magic Kingdom Club

Back in 1957, two years after Disneyland first opened, the Magic Kingdom Club was introduced. It offered discounted admission to employees of large companies and the like. As stated by Bob Baldwin (the former director of the club), it was the “forerunner of today’s airline and hotel loyalty membership programs.”

Like the Premier Passport, it was accepted at both the Disneyland Resort in California and the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. In the 1980s, there were new spinoff programs. And ever since, it’s been more complicated.

⚖️ The Mickey Mouse Club

My proposal of how to move on from today’s Annual Passports is to get rid of them entirely. In its place, introduce a new program called the Mickey Mouse Club. Like the Magic Kingdom Club, it works with all parks in the United States. And also like the MKC, guests would receive discounted admission, dining, merchandise, and hotel rates.

My suggestion is to build a new program that acknowledges the loyalty of each guest. Every guest. From the very start, anyone who wishes to become a member is one. After all, it’s the club that’s made for you and me.

Just like the credit cards and loyalty programs of today, your Mickey Mouse Club account would keep track of every purchase you make, from a single churro to a two-bedroom park-view suite at the Disneyland Hotel, and everything in between. And in the same way as other loyalty programs, the more you spend, the more you save.

This way, the first few visits to a park for any guest would most always be full price, which makes it less valuable for Southern California residents, but no less valuable for tourists.

💸 Membership Discounts

Maybe booking ten nights a year at a Disney hotel would get you a night free. Or maybe it just starts discounting rooms after five nights a year. The same would apply to dining and merchandise. Again, the more you spend, the more you save. Whether it’s calculated by points or dollars, I don’t think it matters.

I imagine since the majority population of Disney parks are families, there should be family account sharing, where everyone has a card, but charges and tracking add up on a single master account.

No tiers. No Platinum, Gold, or Silver memberships. Each guest’s loyalty is probably vastly different from everyone else. No need to rank everyone.

Again, similar to loyalty programs (Starbucks Rewards) and credit cards, multiple card designs would be offered. Here, I’ve created five super-simple cards showing different eras of Mickey Mouse, including a retro E-Ticket design for the nerds.

Instead of it feeling like a ticket, it feels like membership. It would feel like you’re in a club, and you would be.

♫♪ M-I-C-K-E-Y—M-O-U-S-E ♫♪

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