Disney Parks Offer Chance to Skip Lines and It Will Cost You
(Bloomberg) -- Walt Disney Co. unveiled a new ride reservation system at its U.S. theme parks that lets guests willing to pay extra enjoy shorter lines for some of the most-sought-after attractions.
The Genie+ service that debuts this fall will cost $15 or $20 a day at U.S. theme parks, Disney said Wednesday, on top of the usual admission. Guests will get faster access to more than 15 attractions in the California parks, like the Haunted Mansion and the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and over 40 in Florida via a special line called the Lightning Lane. For an additional fee, visitors can also reserve a spot at two of the most-popular rides at each resort.
Disney, the world’s largest theme-park operator, has been making sweeping changes to its resorts business, partly driven by the pandemic but also to improve the guest experience and boost revenue. Last year, the company began requiring that visitors make reservations to enter its parks. This month, Disney unveiled a new annual pass program in California, which also requires advance bookings.
“What we’re doing coming out of Covid is completing a new ecosystem,” Josh D’Amaro, chairman of the company’s parks unit, said in an interview. “We’re offering up options, more flexibility. Wait times will be much improved. We’re able to spread demand more effectively.”
The Genie+ service will cost $20 a day in California and $15 in Florida. Disney declined to say how much it will charge for reservations to the couple of rides like the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at Florida’s Magic Kingdom and Radiator Springs Racers at Disney California Adventure that will require an additional fee.
“They’re trying to make money off not waiting in line,” said Len Testa, who runs a website called TouringPlans.com that offers theme-park information and guidance.
The changes announced Wednesday include a new daily planner, also called Genie, that’s accessible for free on mobile devices. It recommends when to visit specific attractions, shows and restaurants, based on customer preferences. It will update the suggested itineraries during the day, taking advantage of shorter lines and where the guest is in the park.
“If you change your mind, it restacks constantly,” D’Amaro said.
Other theme parks, including Comcast Corp.’s Universal Studios and Cedar Fair LP’s Knott’s Berry Farm, offer the option of paying more to access shorter lines. Disney’s new ride reservation system will replace some existing services, including one called FastPass, which was free.
The system recalls Disneyland’s earliest days, when visitors purchased a book of ride coupons, with an E ticket reserved for the most-popular attractions. Disney phased those out in favor of one ticket price for the whole park in 1982.
The theme-park giant introduced variable ticket pricing based on projected crowds five years ago. That brought the cost of a single day at peak times to as much as $159 per guest today. The lowest off-peak price has remained $109 a day for the past four years.
The Genie+ service in California comes with access to photos taken by the staff at the parks.
Disney is introducing other new resort attractions aimed at freer-spending guests, including a fully-immersive Star Wars-themed hotel opening in Florida next spring that could cost almost $6,000 for a two-night stay for a family of four.
D’Amaro said the company offers options for a variety of budgets, including ticket promotions and lower-priced hotels.
“We have a portfolio,” he said, “for any guest expectation.”
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