Why are Disney World, SeaWorld and Universal passholders unhappy?
The new normal is not what it used to be for people who purchased year-round access to Central Florida theme parks. As encouraging — or crazy — as it may seem to see the state’s iconic closed attractions reopen over the past two months, many disney (SAY -3.08%), Comcastit is (CMCSA -2.98%) Universal Orlando, and Sea World Entertainment (MERS -6.62%) passholders aren’t happy to pay full price for watered-down experiences.
You can dismiss blame that clogs social media as petty. We are in the midst of a pandemic. Florida is a hotbed of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths. How dare people complain about having to jump through park reservation hoops, canceled benefits, and having to spend hours waiting for answers or resolutions. Well, since pass holders are now back on the clock and paying full fare, the arguments are valid, if not understandable. Let’s break it down and see if businesses will suffer from the bubbling discontent.
Passholders pay from as low as $0.30 per day (for a SeaWorld Orlando Fun Card) to up to $6 per day (for a Disney Premier Passport, which includes access to Disney World and Disneyland ) for one year of access, so it’s easy to see why the parks prioritized other visitors. Day visitors can spend up to $174 for a day ticket, and those staying at an on-site resort will pay even more for the full experience. With theme parks limiting guest numbers to between 20% and 30% of their usual capacity levels, it makes sense that passholders play second fiddle. Disney has indeed suspended the sale of several of its annual passes.
There are pressure points that are specific to each situation. Disney World Annual Passholders are only allowed to book three days of upcoming park visits at a time, and this availability basket is more limited than the day or resort guests (who admittedly pay a lot more per day) can get out of it. They also cannot visit more than one park per day, a change from the “hopper park” perk of the past.
SeaWorld Entertainment’s parks in Orlando and Tampa have been closing two days a week since reopening June 11, so pass holders don’t get 365 days of access. Comcast’s Universal Orlando is the best of the three major carriers for delivering the original experience, but the same can’t be said for its high-end Premier pass, which costs between $150 and $190 more per year than its second tier. . offer. Many of the Universal Orlando Premier pass benefits that set it apart from cheaper options are no longer available. There is no free valet parking at Universal Orlando, and the free ticket to Halloween Horror Nights on certain nights is now out of order since Comcast has canceled the seasonal event for 2020. There is access to expedited park queues after 4 p.m., but with the parks closing much earlier than in previous summer seasons, the value of this benefit is diminished as well.
Companies are acutely aware of the disenchantment seeping through social media, even as their current focus is on navigating the tricky road of keeping their fleets operational and safe in this thorny operational climate. Disney World has added an additional 30 days — beyond the 117 days of closure — to its annual passes. SeaWorld has added new perks and temporary upgrades. However, confusion and frustrations remain for those trying to cancel their passes. There’s a lot that theme park operators have figured out in what has proven to be the controversial art of unlocking their turnstiles in this lost summer, but it’s also clear that many of the biggest fans of the industry are not satisfied. At present, this may seem inconsequential given the limited capacity. However, as restrictions ease, demand may not increase with rising supply. Win back pass holders – in a global recession none the less – won’t be easy for Comcast’s Disney, SeaWorld and Universal Studios.