The Walt Disney Company had a conference call about their third quarter earnings for 2014 on Tuesday, Aug. 5. Most theme park/Disney blogs are picking up on one comment Bob Iger made early on in the call, saying that Star Wars will have an increased presence in the parks. The reality is, this isn’t the first time this has been mentioned by Bob, nor is it the first time it’s even been hinted at by the Company. Regardless, no matter what you read… Bob and Jay did not say there was a new Star Wars theme park in the works, despite what some bloggers are already touting.
For me, the surprising tidbit that came from the parks and resorts segment of the company came when they were discussing My Magic Plus at Walt Disney World. According to Iger, “Higher operating income at our domestic operations was due to increased guest spending and higher attendance, partially offset by higher costs. Guest spending growth reflected higher average ticket prices for admissions at our theme parks and for sailings at our cruise line and increased food, beverage and merchandise spending. Higher costs were driven by MyMagic+ and labor and other cost inflation, partially offset by lower pension and postretirement medical costs.”
Which tells us that, as we all know, MyMagic+ costs the company a good chunk of money to operate and maintain. However, many people want to know if the program is considered a success or a failure. It depends on what your criteria are in terms of a success really is: financial or guest satisfier (which could turn into a financial gain in itself). The first caller out of the gate asked a question asked “With My Magic+, is there a longer term benefit in terms of a revenue component?”
Bob answered, “There is. And we have said it will contribute to our growth in the next quarter. This is the first full quarter is fully operational to all guests….” He continued with, “The plan all along was for it to enable us to grow revenue. Clearly that happens in a variety of ways such as guest satisfaction which should have an impact on length of stay, repeat visitation and word of mouth…” “This is going to start delivering a positive impact to the bottom line in the quarter that we’re now in.”
In addition, Bob said, “About half of the guests now use MagicBands and 90% of them rate the experience as excellent or very good. We’re very pleased with the growing popularity of MyMagic+ and expect it to contribute to parks earnings growth starting in the fourth quarter.”
Woah… did you catch that? 90% of guests rate the experience as excellent or very good! Yet, if you read countless message boards, blog posts or even Twitter/Facebook feeds… WDW fans online have called this program a failure from the beginning. I’ve said it many times, the disconnect between what the online community thinks of MyMagic+ and the reality of what the “average” guest (who doesn’t spend all their time online talking or reading about it) is often a huge gap in how they react to MagicBands.
Why is this? I have a few theories…
#1. Disney Fans “Cheese” Has Been Moved
Yes, often times Disney fans don’t care for change. I have chronicled this in other articles from “sit in” protests at Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride to the new Club 33 remodel. People want Disney to be what they remember when they were younger. Nostalgia and operational reality often collide when it comes to fans that are often overly passionate about what they hold near and dear to them.
In the case of FastPass+, those of us who used to go to the park and gobble up FastPasses for Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Peter Pan’s Flight all in one day got to skip many a lines because… well… we know how to work the system. Those who didn’t or weren’t as savvy lost out. With this new system, the “big rides” are now more easily accessible to a larger audience because the most popular rides are now limited to how many guests can get per day. It was a move to make those highly coveted FastPasses more fairly distributed and it seems guests are responding positively as a whole, even if the online community passionately disagrees.
#2. Online Communities Love to Dog Pile
I read a lot of message boards and reviews of MyMagic+, often times the people who are commenting on how terrible it is haven’t even used it yet. Sure, there are those who have used it and hate it for various reasons (see above), but many fans… simply because of hating the very idea of this… won’t even give it a chance.
Look at it this way. Let’s say you hang out on a message board that hates MyMagic+… there are literally hundreds of posts about how horrible it is. You read all of these posts, with the few positive ones sprinkled in, and book your trip to Disney. It’s quite possible that you won’t enter the experience with an open mind.
#3 Pre-Planning Your Trip Isn’t Your Thing
I know plenty of friends who just like to “wing it,” although the growing trend in travel is to pre-plan as much as possible. It doesn’t mean everyone is doing it, but it does mean that many tourists like having so much information at their fingertips as what to do and when. And if they are given the chance to skip up to three lines a day in advance, they take the opportunity. It’s not for everyone, but those who do take advantage of pre-planning reap the benefits. They always have: they get all the restaurant reservations, cheaper flights, and even tickets to shows before they sell out. This is nothing new.
From a company perspective, pre-engagement means everything. If you start to book reservations, from dining to FastPass+, you are far more likely to follow through with your vacation and stay on Disney property for longer. Everyone in the industry wants those extended stays. Essentially, the more involved you are with your trip planning, the more likely you are to spend more money and stay longer as a result.
I also realize there are those who simply won’t believe the guest satisfaction ratings Iger cited in the conference call. I can’t convince you otherwise. And frankly, even I don’t know if they are lying or not. However, I can tell you, from hanging out at the parks and striking up conversations with random guests, I can tell you there are many who have told me that MyMagic+ is the best thing to ever happen to Walt Disney World. Seriously… I have heard it several times. However, it seems that the online community sits on the other side of that fence. What I am curious about is… how much damage has it done? How many people have decided to not ever go to Disney again because of this? I would love to know if that’s you in the comments section below. Likewise, if you’ve had a positive experience with MyMagic+, I would love to hear about that too.
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