By now, you’ve probably heard that crowds for the opening of Galaxy’s Edge have been soft. From first accounts to the Walt Disney Company quarterly earnings call, it’s been well documented that crowds haven’t exactly been turning up in mass to check out Batuu, the fictional land Imagineers created as the new home for Star Wars in Disney Parks.
For the record, we don’t think Galaxy’s Edge is a “dud” by any means. Between the current reaction of guests and fans alike, those who seem to be mildly to wildly excited about what the land has to offer thus far. And with the addition of Rise of the Resistance in December 2019 and January 2020 in Walt Disney World and Disneyland respectively, the jury is still out on how the masses will truly flock to the new land once it is fully operational.
Looking ahead, we’ve been following trends for the opening of Galaxy’s Edge at Walt Disney World in a few weeks. While we think we could be wrong (always possible), we expect crowds to be fairly mild. Granted, we think the actual opening day or even week could be on the busier side, overall it doesn’t appear as if there will be massive crowds clamoring to visit Batuu during the opening month. Here are five reasons why we think the crowds won’t be that bad.
We are never going to stop banging this drum here at Theme Park University: the general public doesn’t get their theme park news from fan sites. Look, no matter how many of your friends read niche websites that cover Disney or theme parks, most guests still get their news from mainstream media.
Articles, like the one above from SYFY, influence a lot of potential customers and how they spend their dollars. They currently have over 3.4 million followers on Facebook alone and that tops ANY theme park or Disney dedicated website on that same platform by a margin of at least 2x if not more.
SYFY was far from the only outlet to tell guests to stay away from Disney World’s Galaxy’s Edge just after opening. We even have a few examples to prove that even Disney knows people are opting to stay home too. To say that they don’t influence people to tell their friends at the water cooler to steer clear would be like sticking your head in the sand.
Free Dining in September 2019
Free dining packages have been a staple at Walt Disney World for over a decade now. Designed as a way to drive business during the resort’s slow period, free dining is a huge draw for guests looking to save a little extra cash on those expensive meals as long as you stay a certain amount of nights and buy an accompanying multi-day ticket.
Fun fact: this isn’t done for kicks. It’s a deliberate move to help put “heads on beds” and bring in families to help pad the slower season. Normally, Walt Disney World is indeed less busy during September since kids are back in school. However, you’d think that Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge would be enough of a draw to not need to rely on subsidizing customer meals during what one would assume would be a busy time during the opening month.
Discounted Room Rates
Companies like Disney utilize their resources to maximize not only theme park and hotel occupancy, but the rates at which those tickets/nights get booked. If you’re going to be completely full? You offer little to no discounts. If the company feels like they’re going to have some available space? You offer moderate discounts. On the other hand, if you think you’ll be totally dead? You offer discounted rooms, discounted park tickets, free meals… whatever drives in business.
The above offer for 20% off room rates isn’t incredibly steep, but it is another indicator that they can’t sell their inventory at full price during the month Galaxy’s Edge opens. If you notice, the offer is valid “most nights September 1 through September 28” which is another indicator that they know this may be a slow start.
After Noon Park Passes
Now let’s take a look at the new “Mid-Day Magic Ticket” being offered at Walt Disney World. Guests can enter the parks for a reduced rate as long as they arrive at 12:00 pm or later. Yet again, if you think you can get guests to spend full price on your product, you don’t offer tickets like this. People have been paying full price to enter the parks after 12:00 pm for years.
In the case of the “Mid-Day Magic Ticket”, this is actually fairly clever in a few ways. First, it allows Disney to offer a discounted ticket rate without actually discounting the price of their full-day admission ticket.
Second, the offer is only valid through December 15, 2019. Meaning after Rise of the Resistance opens (and just before the holiday season begins), Disney will pull this ticket back and allow for everyone to pay full price again.
Also, assuming the offering is successful and there is still an attendance decline going into January 2020 and beyond, I’m betting we could see a return of the “Mid-Day Magic Ticket” in the new year.
Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween “Party Pass”
While this may not seem like a direct correlation, it’s absolutely related. Disney recently quietly started selling a “party pass” to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. For one flat fee, guests can attend every single event (sans Halloween itself) as much as they desire.
Again, this is not a move to be nice or appease the fans. Nor is it to “compete” with Universal Halloween Horror Nights Frequent Fear Pass sales. Yet again, why offer any form of discount admission if you think you can sell out at full price every night? Sure, they offer discounts to Annual Pass, Disney Vacation Club, and Cast Members, but that’s nowhere the deep discounted price of this particular offering.
If I had to take a guess, advance sales of the Halloween parties weren’t shaping up to be too hot, nor close to selling out (aside from October 31), thus this option was offered.
If guests were booking hotels and tickets in advance, it’s rare that they’d only book one day to visit Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Therefore, guests would be booking tickets to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party along with a day to visit Galaxy’s Edge. That doesn’t seem to be happening as we are willing to bet that dates aren’t even close to being sold out.
Not a coincidence, this offering is not available through any of Disney’s official ticketing websites. Thus, they can stop the sales of these tickets any time if they sell too many. The idea is to buffer attendance (who have a good chance of buying food and merchandise while there), not block themselves from eager full-price paying customers.
Now, a couple of disclaimers to put the above information into context. For starters, by no means are we implying that Galaxy’s Edge is the only reason to visit Walt Disney World. Far from it. On the contrary, we have seen attendance spikes associated with major new additions, just like we saw with the addition of Avatar in 2016 at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and thus the trickle-down effect across Disney property. Clearly, this doesn’t look like it’ll make a major impact on the bottom line in September 2019 anyway.
Another thing to keep in mind, imagine Pandora at Animal Kingdom opened with only the Navi River Journey and not your major/bigger attraction (Flight of Passage). Essentially this is what has happened here at Galaxy’s Edge. Thus the jury is still out on if the public is going to storm the place once (what is being heralded as) the most advanced ride in Disney Parks history opens December 2019, Rise of the Resistance.
Furthermore, all of these initiatives are short-term. Everything mentioned above has an expiration date built-in. That is intentional, because who knows if Rise of the Resistance will help draw additional guests? Not to mention all the new offerings headed to Epcot and Magic Kingdom in 2020 and beyond.
Finally, we acknowledge that there are a few indicators in the global economy that might make things a bit shaky for consumers in the current market. From wavering tariffs with China, to Brexit, to even reports of a possible recession within the next year, it’s fair to assume that various financial institutions are on edge, which could lead to a trickle-down for tourist dollars.
That said, what are your thoughts? Do you think our assessment is wrong? I’d like you to keep in mind that none of this is based on if Galaxy’s Edge is “good” or “bad” based on what you’ve experienced or seen on YouTube. Believe it or not, we think that’s fairly irrelevant because (we will never stop beating this drum): most theme park guests don’t read theme park/Disney fansites! Thus, with Star Wars being a stronger brand, we believe that tourists would want to see the land for themselves before relying on opinions of bloggers and vloggers who mostly enjoy anything new at Disney Parks regardless of content. Your thoughts?
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