As of this summer, per Disney financial reports, a trip to the park was 40% more expensive than it was in the same period in 2019. Tickets cost more than they ever have, merchandise is pricier, food prices have gone up even as some portions have gotten smaller … even parking went up this year, from $25 to $30 for standard parking in Disneyland’s garages.
And, of course, there’s Genie+.
Disneyland rolled out the paid system that replaced previously free FastPasses about a year ago. Guests can book access to the expedited “Lightning Lane” on a different ride every two hours. Then, the cost was $20 per person, with additional “Individual Lightning Lane” access to the most popular rides — Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, Radiator Springs Racers and Web Slingers: A Spider-Man Adventure — costing up to $20 each to ride.
It was complicated and costly, but people still used it — as many as half of park guests last holiday season purchased Genie+, according to then-CEO Bob Chapek.
“If you remember, last quarter, we mentioned that we had some high hopes for it, but we were seeing well above what we had anticipated,” he said. “Well, I’m happy to say that in Q2 … we’re lapping those numbers again even higher.”
Since then, the price of Genie+ has gotten even higher. In October, Disneyland raised the cost of Genie+ and the most expensive Individual Lightning Lanes to $25. (In the same announcement, ticket prices went up to $179 for the busiest days.)
That $25 for Genie+ wasn’t the cap, though. The cost, in the fine print, was $25 for Genie+ when purchased in advance, and for in-park purchases, it would be determined by dynamic pricing.
That means that on busier days, the cost is higher, up to $30 per person per day. And it might not stop there, according to the Orange County Register. “Disneyland has quietly raised prices 50% on the Genie+ front-of-the-line service since October with even higher fee hikes possible during the busy Christmas season that traditionally brings bigger crowds and longer wait times for rides,” park reporter Brady MacDonald wrote.
In this particular instance, though, the higher cost might actually mean a better guest experience. The 13 days in the past few months when Disney raised the price to $30 were among the busiest days; they occurred on fall weekends which are traditionally some of the most in-demand times, and during Thanksgiving week.
“Average wait times across the Disneyland resort were 33 minutes or more on 12 of the 13 days when Genie+ prices rose to $30, according to Thrill Data,” MacDonald wrote. “The average wait time on $30 Genie+ days: 38 minutes. That’s 27% higher than the average 30-minute wait time at the Disneyland resort during the second half of 2022 estimated by Thrill Data.”
The days that Genie+ was the most expensive were the days when lines were longest, and when people purchasing the service were most likely to wait in unusually long Lightning Lane lines. That’s the recipe for disgruntled guests who don’t feel like they’re getting the best value for their extra spend, who will then take their complaints to Disneyland City Hall and to social media.
While guests can see ride wait times on the Disneyland app, those are only for the standard queues. There’s no way to know if Lightning Lane will be a 10-minute or a 40-minute wait, except by making loose guesses based on general wait times across the park. It’s easy to get caught in a line you don’t think will take much time, but really will cost you an hour of your park day. By increasing the cost, it necessarily means fewer people are purchasing the service, and that the people who are willing to shell out the extra cash will have a better experience.
Of course, the motivation isn’t all for the guest experience. In a year when Disney has been bleeding cash on its streaming services, the parks division has been reporting record profits. In the 2022 Q3 earnings call, the company disclosed the division made $7.4 billion in revenue last quarter, up from $5.5 billion over the same period last year.
Some people feel that the experience has lost much of its magic, in no small part because of how much more expensive Disneyland is compared to a visit just a few years ago. The recent ouster of Chapek and the reinstatement of his predecessor, Bob Iger, indicates that the Walt Disney Company, too, felt things were going in the wrong direction.
Since Iger has been reinstated, one change has already come to the parks, in the functionality of Genie+. People are now able to modify existing Lightning Lane reservations without canceling them. It’s a small step, but one that many Disneyland fans see as a step in the right direction.