Crowds at the Magic Kingdom belie the economy

| February 27, 2009 | 3 Replies

I can be forgiven for thinking that a Thursday in late February when the Magic Kingdom is closing at 8pm might be a slower than normal day to visit the parks. Especially when you see Disney doing everything short of a lap dance trying to get people to show up and spend. Boy was I wrong. Imagine my surprise when we saw Space Mountain with a 70 minute wait – and Splash Mountain at 80 minutes!! Not to mention the crowds – lots of them.

Seems Disney’s desperate push to lure more people into the parks is working. Restaurants were packed, the wait for rides were long, and the crowd leaving the park at closing time was massive. But lets not forget that Disney has scaled back on quite a bit of entertainment in an effort to cut costs. That same entertainment was a great source of crowd control, giving people something to do and watch in between rides, helping keep the lines manageable. Welcome to the new Disney World – I fear that Disney will not only be successful in driving volume into the parks, but will also keep the entertainment offerings limited.

Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World

As I’ve mentioned on our show, The DIS Unplugged, I have this sinking feeling that Disney is using the economy as an excuse to cut back on services that it couldn’t justify before. Remember why the airlines started charging extra for luggage when fuel prices skyrocketed? What happened when the price of gas dropped – the fees remained. I’m afraid that might be what Disney has in mind here – a chance to make the parks even more profitable by using the economy as an excuse to pull back on services and entertainment – never to see them return even after the economy gets better. Lord knows those people never miss an opportunity to turn a buck, irrespective of the impact on the guest experience.

Let’s hope this doesn’t happen and I’m proven wrong, but after two weeks in Disneyland and more than a few trips to the Orlando parks in recent months – that’s what it’s starting to look like.

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