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Have Disneyland fans finally reached their limit? (mercurynews.com)
49 points by spking 11 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 76 comments

The article neglects to mention the huge drop in international visits to the U.S. in recent years. Quoting a USA Today article from last week:

U.S. visits as a portion of total global travel fell to 11.7% last year from a high of 13.7% in 2015, according to the travel group and Oxford Economics. That has resulted in losses to the U.S. economy of 14 million international visitors, $59 billion in traveler spending and 120,000 U.S. jobs.

Source: https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2019/08/09/travel-inter...

I know Disneyland and Disneyworld have traditionally been popular destinations for foreign tourists; it's reasonable to assume that if overall international travel is down the number of foreign visitors to the parks is also down, even before factoring in the high prices everyone has to pay to get into the parks.

> The article neglects to mention the huge drop in international visits to the U.S. in recent years. Quoting a USA Today article from last week:

Part of this might be the ever-stronger US dollar. Five years ago, AUD$1 would buy about USD$0.94. Now it buys USD$0.68, making the trip to the US about a third more expensive.

US dollar is pretty much steady against the Euro from 2016 levels. The AUD fall is because of our mismanaged economy.

The fall in US tourism can better be attributed to Trump trashing America's foreign image.

As if most tourists care for politics? Changing trends in tourism and financial issues are far more likely reasons...

As a previously frequent tourist to the US, I assure you politics is an important consideration for me and my family. Many people of my acquaintance have also taken politics into account when making vacation plans.

I’m not aware of any studies on this, so anecdote is all I have. But for me, it’s “obvious” that politics is a factor rather than “obvious” that tourists only think of trends and exchange rates.

In fact, it’s now common (at least in my circle) for people to plan vacations to avoid changing planes in the USA, because of the delays in customs and the risks of missing connections or being denied entry to the US (required in the USA even if you never leave the transfer area).

part of the problem is that airports in the US have no "transfer area" - international departure lounges are not set up to require passing through immigration if you want to leave them - many are connected directly to domestic departure lounges (SFO is an example)

It'a not a decision made by US airports, the US requires every person who lands on US soil to clear US customs even if that person's final destination is outside the US (ie. the US doesn't allow sterile transit).

> It'a not a decision made by US airports, the US requires every person who lands on US soil to clear US customs even if that person's final destination is outside the US (ie. the US doesn't allow sterile transit).

Is it true that they must clear customs _in addition to_ passport/immigration control? If so that is indeed unusual.

Yes, you have to claim your bags, pass thru customs and then check them on to your next flight

Yes but the US is very unusual in this practice, I don't know of anywhere else in the Western World where this happens.

We traveled a couple of years ago to Milan via Amsterdam. My recollection is that we did have to clear customs in Amsterdam.

You were entering the Schengen area - the group of European nations who have a combined border - once you enter one of those countries you can freely travel to the others (so no passport booths on the roads on the borders between the Netherlands and Italy) - your flight from Amsterdam to Milan was an internal flight.

If you had flown into Amsterdam and transited to Moscow you would have gone thru metal detectors to the departure lounge, but not thru immigration

You traveled to a European city to a European city a Milan to Amsterdam flight would be a domestic flight. Did you need to go through customs again in Milan

I think France is the same.

You can't rule out the horror stories of foreign travelers being harassed and abused at US border checkpoints.

I'm inclined to think it's had a chilling effect when tourists are making their holiday choices. It's pretty easy to skip the USA and find another destination.

We've been hearing those stories way more in the Bush era when that became a thing, and even in the Obama era, with various TSA related news (several harassment stories have been posted on HN over the years too) -- and yet even during Bush's years arrivals year rising (click: "max" to see from 2000 or so):


If anything, despite some stagnation, the trend is more or less the same and still rising in 2017 and 2018 (click "5 years"):


Everyone has heard the horror stories of people who accidentally run foul of US immigration - one big problem is that the US is one of the few countries without exit procedures, no exit stamp in your passport means no way to prove what date you left - if the US authorities screw up collecting that exit info from the airline you end up in the pokey next time you visit.

Also some countries are now issuing travel warnings about the US because of the mass shootings, especially those aimed at visitors.

For example (directly from govt travel websites):

NZ - "Exercise increased caution in the United States due to the threat of terrorism." ..."There is a heightened threat of terrorism in the United States and terrorists remain likely to try to carry out attacks. A number of politically motivated attacks have occurred in recent years, causing multiple deaths and injuries."

Australia - "The United States has more violent crime than Australia, although it rarely involves tourists. Shootings, including mass shootings, can occur in public places"

UK - "Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in the USA. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners. You should monitor media reports and remain vigilant at all times."

Here's a more general survey of such travel warnings https://edition.cnn.com/2019/08/07/world/us-travel-advisorie...

They do. Both myself and a few people are know very much lost interest in visiting the US for a while. Even ignoring the current politics, I'm keen to wait until the immigration becomes more civilised. (got tired of the extra wait in the special room)

This also makes the idea of visiting Canada much harder, since most flights stop over in the US, causing visa headaches.

I'm in the US on a work visa. Been flying in and out pretty often both before and after Trump. My observation is that standing in immigration line is annoying, but not more than it used to be.

With how prominent the US is in the news cycles here overseas, it definitely does. Especially with huge influx of mass shootings, many people in my friend circles have stated that they simply don't feel safe visiting the USA.

> The fall in US tourism can better be attributed to Trump trashing America's foreign image

Can it? Disneyland continues to increase prices. Galaxy's Edge is basically one big store hocking overpriced trinkets.

I used to go to Disneyland every week for lunch in high school (I've always lived about 15 minutes from it). Business meetings were casually scheduled and held at the Blue Bayou until the yearly pass pricing doubled at the turn of the millennium.

Now, I can't even rationalize going for fun, much less purchasing food in the park. Inflation, price hikes and taxation has steadily priced many things out of affordability, in California.


RomanBob 11 days ago [flagged]

as opposed to countries where only government approved idiots and their dogs have assault weapons?

Yes, definitely.

Disneyland is in California of course. Your premise falls apart when you examine California's tourist numbers.

For California:

"In 2017, tourism recorded an eighth straight year of growth, setting records in travel spending, jobs and tax revenue."

"Sustained growth continued in Visit California’s 13 international markets, with 17.6 million international visitors (+1.7% YOY) spending $26.5 billion in the state (+5.1% YOY)"

"2018 Travel-Related Spend $140b, +5.4% year over year"


I'm a former Disneyland CM, I strongly suspect lower attendance is a desired goal.

If my memory is correct, Disneyland can accommodate around 60,000 (aka a 60k day) without having to shut the gates to prevent further entry - and the park feels.. well packed - Disney over time has made AP's less viable for frequent visits to reduce overcrowding, raising ticket prices accomplishes the same thing, a 45k day with everyone paying an average of 60 bucks a head, is just as profitable as a 60k day with and average of everyone paying 45 a head. The difference is the 45k day is a whole lot more pleasant for everyone, and puts far less strain on park infrastructure, on a 50+ day, an attraction going out of service puts a tremendous load on other things nearby (vending, merch, and foods), on a 45k- day, the load is much much less.

for reference, a 50k day by the way, was not abnormal when I worked there in the early 00's. - and a 55k day was seen weekly or more during summertime.

It's a tricky trade-off. The last couple of times we visited Disneyland, the crowds were so bad that it didn't feel worth it. However, I'm not sure I'm ready to pay $100+ per person per day for less congestion. I think I topped out at $99.

"Nobody goes there nowadays, it’s too crowded" -Yogi Berra

(by the way, he died in 2015 - I was surprised it was so recent)

That is what I was thinking... is this really a bad thing? Paying a little bit more and being able to go on more rides because it isn't as crowded seems like a fair trade off.

"Growing attendance" is not the end goal, for either Disney or park goers. Disney wants to maximize profit, and the article never addresses this; they talk about attendance being down, but what about gate revenue? Since they were raising prices, they could have still made more money on fewer attendees.

For park goers, fewer people going is going to be great. Less crowds to fight, fewer lines, easier parking, etc.

I am not exactly sure why this is supposed to be seen as a negative.

This, in addition to the Yogi quote below, is a known problem in game theory:


This is EXACTLY the type of problem a market economy is designed to solve - distribution of a scarce resource.

You solve it by setting the price of attendance such that the correct number of people choose to go.

Well, in Disney's case, you want to maximize profits, not optimize attendance rates. So you set the price such that it maximizes total returns, and whatever attendance rate that is, is the "correct one"

> So you set the price such that it maximizes total returns, and whatever attendance rate that is, is the "correct one"

I don't think it's that simple—they're not trying to maximize total returns on a single day, but total returns overall. How many people are in the park determines the kind of experience you have, which then determines if you're likely to come back. Plus all sorts of associated halo effects—if you enjoy your time at the park, then after you leave you're more likely to purchase Disney branded merchandise, watch Disney movies, and subscribe to their upcoming Disney+ streaming service.

I grew up on Disneyland. At one point, my family was going nearly every weekend because my father worked for a subsidiary of Disney, so we got in for free. Even for years after he left the company, we bought annual passes and went rather frequently. Everyone I knew had annual passes.

It's probably been 5 years since I last went. Over time, annual passes became less worth it. Prices kept going up and more dates kept getting blocked out. Even ordinary tickets got pricey. Eventually, the park got so crowded that it really wasn't fun to go. Then they added premiums to a bunch of things like Fast Passes. I just kind of said screw it and chose not to go back.

I'm sure that I'll go back for some reason, but I won't make an effort to. This is coming from someone who LOVED Disneyland and wanted to build theme park rides as a dream job. It ended up feeling like they were doing everything they could to squeeze pennies, which I know theme parks are designed to do, but it used to seem like Disneyland at least partly cared about whether or not you were enjoying yourself. Cast members, at one time, were pretty damned friendly, though they're still much better than most other theme parks. When I last went, you could tell that they secretly hated their jobs. I don't want to pity lowly employees when I'm there to have fun. At least Six Flags doesn't seriously attempt to make their employees act cheery(I was once an employee there BTW).

Above all, I really don't want to give Disney money. Sure, they became an Evil MegaCorp a long time ago, and have long ago slithered their tentacles through the news and entertainment industry, but they control so much now and pretty much have no regard for artistry or the cultural significance of their films and characters. Star Wars just took the cake. Why would I pay Disney for a bizarro facsimile something I enjoyed as a child where the characters I loved are losers only to be replaced by modern ripoffs? Maybe they could have attracted a new generation, which doesn't appear to be working out much for them, but as someone who grew up with the original Star Wars, what they've done only repels me from anything to do with them. I'm not even a Star Wars fan... and I don't think one has to be to respond that way to Disney.

I'm not angry at Disney. It's just that, looking at my own behavior, it's no surprise to me why attendance to their park would be in decline.

> Prices kept going up and more dates kept getting blocked out.

> Eventually, the park got so crowded that it really wasn't fun to go.

If prices were going up and attendance was still rising, Disney had two options: 1) keep raising prices to the point where attendance rates dropped to a manageable level, or 2) keep prices fixed and put stricter caps on attendance for specific dates. Being the cutthroat megacorp that it is, Disney picked option #1 because it's more profitable. If attendance drops enough, prices will go back down again.

> Being the cutthroat megacorp that it is, Disney picked option #1 because it's more profitable.

The comment you're responding to, and the original piece, both clearly state that Disney picked option #1 and option #2. What did you think "more dates kept getting blocked out" meant?

Or (3) stop the inane practice of selling seasonal/annual passes. That's added crowding without corresponding revenue.

To alleviate long waits for rides, they should go back to an incremental fee per ride model, like they used to have (A/B/C/D/E ticket rides).

3) build more parks?

You have to fund that somehow so ... prices go up! Real estate isn't infinite, but Disney World in Florida is expanding now more than ever. If they ever have to build a new set of parks elsewhere, real estate prices are going to be ridiculous, and you have to buy it somehow so ... prices go up!

I don't see how increasing supply brings prices down at Disney - they'll hike the price now to fund it, then they'll hike prices again to control attendance.

Buy Disney stock.

>You have to fund that somehow so ... prices go up! Real estate isn't infinite, but Disney World in Florida is expanding now more than ever. If they ever have to build a new set of parks elsewhere, real estate prices are going to be ridiculous, and you have to buy it somehow so ... prices go up!

Why raise prices on consumers when you can fund a new park with the $12.6 billion in profit they earned in 2018?

Edit: I'm not the most fiscally-savvy person, so it would be cool if someone explained why I might be wrong rather than just hitting the downvote button and walking away.

Why use our precious profits when people will indeed pay higher prices to visit the parks? Shareholders don't like spending money, even when they have it. They'd rather increase revenue and then siphon a bit off of that for spending. Once it's listed as 'profit', executives, boards, and shareholders are loathe to spend it at all.

Anaheim is landlocked, it would cost them several billion dollars just to buy more land in Anaheim alone, the odds of more park in Anaheim are basically zero.

IIRC, Walt Disney practically begged friends and associates to buy up the land surrounding Disneyland, and always lamented the cheap motels and establishments that quickly proliferated outside the park. But he maxed out, mortgaged and bet pretty much every penny of the studio (and personally) to get the park built at all. There was simply no money left to buy up any more orange groves.

I personally wish that Disney's America park was built...

I wouldn't be shocked if a lot of reasons that failed to get off the ground are the same reasons holding back new parks in north america.

Reminds me of the old saying: "Nobody goes there anymore, it's too crowded."

Will be interesting to see how low birth rates will impact theme park attendance going forward. I feel like young adults are already struggling with student debt and difficulty affording a home. Throw in a kid or two and makes me wonder how an average family could afford a 3 or 4 night vacation to Disneyland with flights and hotel and tickets for everyone. That’s at least $4k for 4 nights.

I feel like going to Disney is something that the average middle class family might do once in a life time. At least that is how it was in my family growing up in the 80's and 90's we went to Disney World once and every other vacation was some variation on camping at a state park or going to the local Six Flags amusement park for the day. When you look at it that way 4k doesn't seem as outrageous.

Probably depends on where you are. As a California native, Disneyland trips were much more frequent.

Whilst I'm not old, statistically speaking half my life is over. I've had a bucket list for about 16 years [and counting, hopefully].

Visiting Disney-Land//World at least once is an item. I'd drop $4k on that.

Imagine you have 80k in student debt between your partner and yourself. This isn't even a crazy number. Imagine how much of an impact 4K has on that.

5% is not trivial? Not exactly sure if you think it is or isn’t by your phrasing.

I'm in agreement with you.

I’d be curious how it compares to Universal Studios Hollywood. Personal observation is that Universal Studios has gotten better, faster (with recent addition of Harry Potter area) and is more fun/interesting for the older crowd. If you had to choose one or the other because both are expensive then Universal Studios seems like a better option unless you have very young kids.

Haha not a chance. For the price Universal Studios is incredibly small, less well kept, and there’s only really 1-2 interesting rides. The whole park takes like 10 minutes to walk end to end. You can walk around Disney land all day and still not hit it all.

“Not a chance” what?

Looking at 2018 data Disneyland grew attendance 2% vs Universal Studios at 12%, and the source says almost all attributed to Harry Potter.

Both parks can be done in a day each...both are small relative to Orlando counterparts.


You can do Disneyland in a day if it’s not too crowded

Universal Studios’ AP is a lot cheaper but the park needs to add a lot more rides to match Disneyland

> You can walk around Disney land all day and still not hit it all.

Up Front: I'm not sure if this is a fair comparison and I know that.

As someone who honestly appreciates artwork yet can be in-and-out of a given top-rate museum in under 2 hours, I hope the quoted comment is so.

What do these prices actually look like? the article does not get into specifics about how much it actually costs or how much it used to cost.

Ticket price is based on age, demand, number of days you want to visit and included features (park hopper and MaxPass). The cheapest, adult, lowest demand, 1 day, no features ticket runs $104 right now. The most expensive peak time, single day ticket with park hopper and MaxPass is $214.

Annual passes provide extra benefits over tickets and are priced based on what days you wish to be able to go (cheaper passes have more blockout dates or are limited to southern California residents only). AP runs from $599 for Flex (only allowed in certain parks and sometimes must reserve park entrance in advance) to $1399 for the Signature Plus which has 0 blockouts or restrictions. (There is also the Premier passport which costs $2,099 and gets you unrestricted access to both Disneyland and Walt Disney World in Florida.)

For a vacationing family of 4 coming to the park for three full days and staying in a Disney resort for 4 nights in the spring or summer, what might be the expected cost range including everything (except for flights and the rental car)?

It really depends on what hotel you are staying at, whether on or off property. On property you could pay anywhere from $3000 to $5000 would be my guess off the top of my head. Paradise Pier is lowest price, Grand Californian is highest. Really depends on when exactly you are going too. I've seen prices like $1200/night at Grand Californian during Christmas time.

Disneyland's website has an excellent tool to calculate full price (even including flights). I'd recommend checking that out or calling them for a more personal touch. You can book everything online (tickets, hotels, transport from the airport to the resort, dining and more).

Thanks. I wasn't interested for my own family, just curious about what people typically pay for the experience these days.

FWIW I went to Disneyland and Universal Studios in 1980 with my family, and it really was a special experience - still remember the trip 40 years later.

As a former season pass holder, I was never bothered by the blackout days... in fact, I figured it was a helpful list of 'days that it will be too crowded to enjoy anyway'.

I'm going to start checking for blackout days, even when they don't apply to me now.

For reference, the equivalent to the Signature Plus in 2000-2001 was around 200 dollars.

$100/person/day is a pretty heavily discounted price. $200 sticker price.

$149 for peak $129 for regular $104 for value

When I went there back in the early 2000s it cost $65.

TBH, I feel uniquely qualified to comment on this.

I lived two miles from Disneyland for a decade (Old Towne Orange). I proposed to my wife there (now ex-wife). We named our daughter after the "Emma" from "Once Upon a Time." We had an annual pass for about a decade, and my life and free time centered around Disneyland.

For years I went to DL/DCA several times a week. But, gradually, it became a horrid thing. Disneyland, when I arrived in the early 2000s was a place where I could forget the stresses of the daily world. I worked so close to it (Cypress and Santa Ana), that I would sometimes take an extended lunch and ride one or two rides and then go back to work.

Psychologically, Disneyland was a place that allowed me to let go and enjoy myself.

Then, they started offering financing on their Annual Passes. I used to have to layout 1k for my families passes. But now, you could get them on an installment basis. The parks were always crowded, and even when they weren't, the powers that be understaffed the park such that ride times were long. I had a friend who could barely afford food but had a $400 AP. She would often crash in our living room to go to the park.

What was once my refuge from reality became this horrid thing where we were waiting 60 mins for a 90-second ride. The last two years the (ex)wife and I had passes, we just, would stand in line, look at each other, and think, "Why are we here? We could be at home, not standing in the sun, not paying $7 for a bottle of water." We weren't enjoying ourselves, and it cost us about 1k/yr for the passes and parking, plus incidental expenses in the park.

The company I used to work for was located a couple of miles from Dl, and when we had guests from other countries, I would take them to Disneyland. It was an amazing thing for the folks because I could give them a world-class tour of the park (being a regular), and we would all have a great time. But gradually, that became impossible.

I remember the exact day I gave up on Disneyland. We drove over there, and they were doing some construction, and detour, after the detour, we ended up at some nearly abandoned mall, which is only a little bit from my house, then we had to board a bus which drove us to the transportation hub. It took 75 mins to get into the park, and the whole time, I was literally one exit from my home. It took 75 mins for us to get to the front gate back to our car. Never again.

While my failures as a husband are my own fault, and my marriage was probably doomed from the beginning... In a real way, my marriage was based on Disneyland. It was something my wife and I bonded over and looked forward to and, was special to us. When we stopped going, the magic in our relationship died.

Someday I'll go back, but not today, and not anytime soon. I live 100 miles from Disneyland now. If it were enjoyable again, I'd move back to Orange County. But it's not. Disneyland is a broken dream, and their tilt towards Star Wars is a joke that is not funny. Disney must constantly reinvent itself, and the last decade has been a mistake.

I interviewed for Disney Research a year ago and, was amazed by the brilliant folks working there. Ultimately, Disney will prevail just because of the amazing folks who work there. I don't know if I'm just an old fart wishing for his more formative years, or if things are really different.

Anyways, I love you Disneyland. I hope we can both get our act together. But you've broken my heart and I'm weary.

> In a real way, my marriage was based on Disneyland. It was something my wife and I bonded over and looked forward to and, was special to us. When we stopped going, the magic in our relationship died.

Damn. :(

I had a similar situation with my last relationship, except we broke up soon after we decided to go to Knott's Berry Farm for the first time instead.

(no joke, not that it had anything to do with the breakup, but kind of a funny coincidence)

Knotts has been a disaster even longer than DL. My grandmother used to work there and take my brother and I regularly. I don't even think it's safe, to be honest. Whatever I might say about Disneyland, at least it's safe.

Sorry about your bad luck.

I think Knotts is about as safe as it ever has been, I'm saying this as someone who worked at both Knotts and Disney, Knotts in some ways in the early and mid 00's was actually better about doing some basic maintenance to keep the park looking and feeling fresh.

The last time I ever went to Knotts, admittedly 13 or so years ago... One of the employees asked me not to lean on a chain that was strung between to parts of the que to rope it off. I gave him a sort of, "Are you serious?" look...

He was super nice and explained that it took him a whole year to get the chain, that Knotts doesn't like paying for things like that, and he didn't want it, or the que itself damaged as he wouldn't be able to get a new one anytime soon.

My mind immediately started thinking about the cost of chains, and how safe the park could possibly be if that were the operating environment. We rode the ride because we'd waited 4 hours in the queue, and the friend that I had gone with and I agreed this was not a place we wanted to be anymore.

I also worked in Cypress, a few blocks from Knotts, and we'd always hear about horror stories about people stranded on attractions. What worried me about it most was, not that rides break down, they do. What was concerning was that Knotts didn't seem to have a plan for that.

When a ride breaks at Disneyland, They have plan after plan after plan. I have never felt unsafe at Disneyland, and I've had at least half a dozen incidents. I remember being stuck once on the Ferris wheel at DCA. My wife and I were stuck with 3, 13-year-old boys for 2 hours. We joked around, got to know each other other, assigned the barf bags to those most likely to need them-- the sunwheel is 160ft tall. Never felt unsafe for even a moment.

Knotts, just seems to call the fire department when something happens.

Theres some simple economics in this. If visitor numbers are down 3%, and say prices are up 5% then total profit is also up, variable costs are down, and parks are less crowded so everyone has a better time.

Went last week, very disappointed by the new Star Wars attraction, essentially a glorified video game - I’ll be skipping Star Wars land next time

Surprise! The laws of economics still apply to you, even if you're a company with a great brand like Disney and Apple.

Or more like, the USD is extremely overvalued right now. In addition, the US makes travel to the US extremely risky and difficult, even for visa waiver eligible applicants. Many people are starting to not bother.

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