Disney CEO Bob Chapek Loves Superfans But Needs To Limit Park Attendance To Make Room

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Disney’s CEO Bob Chapek has come under fire for some of his choices as of late. Before he became the CEO he was known for his park cutbacks and savings leading to the name “Bob Cheapek.” He recently did an interview with The Hollywood Reporter and discussed why Disney needs to limit “superfans” to make room for other guests.

During the interview he was asked about his reputation for cutting costs and raising prices in the parks.

HR– “You’re known as a guy who cuts costs and raises prices. You’ve raised the prices pretty stiffly [for some streaming plans] and the parks. And you’ve gotten some blowback from superfans. How much can you keep raising prices and does ill will from them create a problem for the brand?

Chapek’s answer is basically that he “loves” all the fans and superfans (annual passholders basically) need to be limited so there’s room for other guests.

What?

Chapek– “We love all our fans equally. We love the superfans, obviously. But we also like the fans that don’t have the same expression of their fandom. We want to make sure that our superfans who love to come with annual passes and use [the parks] as their personal playground — we love that. We celebrate that. But at the same time, we’ve got to make sure that there’s room in the park for the family from Denver that comes once every five years.

This must be the “Undesirable mix” he was talking about in the last investor call. Disney wants the daily pass guests because they make far more money on those visitors than the Annual Passholders (usually locals) that pay far less per trip for entry into the parks.

The “superfans” who kept Walt Disney World going when the parks reopened and people were afraid to travel, using the parks as their “personal playground” aren’t as necessary now that people are traveling again. Disneyland is the same. Disney California Adventure and Disneyland couldn’t reopen for an extended period, but the “superfans” were the ones who paid for tickets just to get into Disney California Adventure to spend money on shopping and restaurants as the attractions couldn’t be opened.

If Annual Passholders weren’t already feeling disregarded this isn’t helping. 

Chapek continuedWe didn’t have a reservation system and we didn’t control the number of annual passes we distributed and frankly, the annual pass as a value was so great that people were literally coming all the time and the accessibility of the park was unlimited to them and that family from Denver would get to the park and not be let in. That doesn’t seem like a real balanced proposition.

Why is it an issue now?

For years Annual Passholders and “superfans” weren’t an issue. Passes were not limited. Park Reservations were not necessary. I can see why crowd reduction measures were necessitated by the pandemic, but that is past.

A “balanced proposition” sounds more like Chapek is talking about the Disney bottom line and not so much the best interest of the all the fans he says he “loves.”

He’s claiming he loves fans equally, while taking away perks available to everyone like free parking at resort hotels, FastPass+, Magicbands, etc. At Walt Disney World the more you spend the better your position in line is with Lighting Lane. Magicbands are hitting $35-$45 base price and costs keep rising on everything from tickets to food. If that weren’t enough, those that stay at “Deluxe resorts” get extra time in the parks.

If Chapek wants to be fair to families and be a “balanced proposition” why does he keep pushing these new changes that work in opposition to that?  The last several changes he made to the parks is contrary to his argument.

But wait. There’s more!

Chapek continues, “I guess it’s possible that the superfans look at that as a disadvantaging of the way they consume the park, but we’ve got to make sure that not only are we heeding the needs of our superfans, but we’re heeding the needs of everyone who travels from across the country one time every five years.

No kidding Bob! Of course the superfans see it that way. There were no issues with getting APs and using them until you came on board.

Here’s where he tries to claim that demand is the reason why:

Chapek, still talking, “We have a real high-class problem: We have much more demand than there is supply. What we will not bend on is giving somebody a less than stellar experience in the parks because we jammed too many people in there. If we’re going to have that foundational rule, you have to start balancing who you let in. … Our ticket prices and constraints we put on how often people can come and when they come is a direct reflection of demand. When is it too much? Demand will tell us when it’s too much.”

Except they jammed people in for years and they weren’t restricting “superfans” before. They didn’t care about the “less than stellar experiences” people had when they were overselling events. Why does all that matter now?

By Chapek’s explanation why don’t we ever see the ticket prices or annual pass prices drop when there isn’t as much demand? Why aren’t passes reopened if the supply is more than demand? Disney prices increase but they don’t decrease. Instead we get some hotel discounts to try and entice people to book trips.

It doesn’t seem like a “ real balanced proposition” to me.  It does sound like a way to limit the guests that have annual passes under the guise of “fairness.” It does sound like a way to upcharge people more under the guise of “supply and demand.” It does sound like a way to remove the “undesirable mix” while telling them it’s to their benefit, so they have a better experience. In the end it’s all about Disney having increasing profits so Chapek keeps his position in his “personal playground.”

The old expression “Don’t pee on my boots and tell me it’s raining” comes to mind. Is that what “the Disney difference” means now?

What do you think? Comment and let us know!

Source: The Hollywood Reporter


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