Investors looking for return on investment from Disney's "billion dollar bracelets"

Posted | Contributed by Jeff

Investors have been keenly waiting for financial evidence that the $1 billion investment is paying off. Disney’s parks business has lately been a good one — operating profit climbed 17 percent last year, to $2.33 billion — but the company’s spending on the project has dented margins at its flagship property here. Underscoring its importance to the company, analysts have peppered Disney executives with questions about the system in recent conference calls.

Read more from The New York Times.

Bakeman31092's avatar

Do they not have that expectation because they know they can't do everything, or because they don't want or care to?

Lord Gonchar's avatar

Jeff said:

The subtext of your argument seems to be a future with no minute unplanned...

Even though I've said that's not my argument several times?

People use FastPasses. Many people complained that the new system limits their FastPass use.

If you offered guests the chance to secure more FastPasses (5? 7? 10? 12? Whatever. Pick a number.) they will do it.

Again, it's never going to be mandatory to reserve ride times in advance. The stand-by line will always exist. But the idea of being able to reserve rides in advance is already seen as a benefit, not a liability. That's where you're flat out wrong. If people hated the idea, FastPass (and all VQ'ing, really) would have failed miserably. Stack incentives to do so on top of that and offer the ability to do it more and why on Earth wouldn't the average guest jump on it like they do already with a limit of three?

As my friends have been visiting the area the last 9 months (I've seen more people I know in this time than the last 9 years!), it's my observation that they tend to not have any expectation of doing "everything." Those with younger kids are even more picky with how much they expect to do.

I don't have data or anecdotal observation. Just the ability to see the changes that have been made, understand past moves the industry has made and rely on my inate ability to see the big picture and follow trendlines. In other words, armchair industry analyst.

I dunno. Bookmark this thread and revisit it in 5 or 10 years (the lifespan of the old original FastPass system was almost 15 years) and see how closely it resembles what I'm suggesting it will. I think you might be in for a surprise.

Bakeman31092 said:
Do they not have that expectation because they know they can't do everything, or because they don't want or care to?

I'm going with the latter. I've had to roll my eyes when I've heard a friend say something like "oh, we just went to the main Disney World park because the kids like the castle. Then we went to the pool." and my enthusiast mentality makes me want to scream "how can you be ok with that??!!"

But to each his own. We've been to WDW plenty, but I went ahead and made it my chore to figure out our five days schedule so we could at least make sure we got our personal must-do's in. Like I said, having more FP's available and the ability to hop with them would've been nice, but we managed anyway. Then I got all butt-hurt because try as I might I couldn't fit Finding Nemo the Musical into any of those days, even for stand by. Dammit.

So, and I'm looking at you, Gonch, is it our prediction that all aspects of a visit to WDW will eventually be handled by appointment only and the concept of standby will go away forever? And I ain't trying to be smart, but if the end product of Disney's vision here is grand things in a scale that none of us can even wrap our heads around (yet), it seems to me that's the direction we're pointing. You've talked about virtual queue for a while now, and I think the topic first came to prominence here when the new Dumbo queue system was announced. I seem to remember your advice to us was to watch that concept closely. Now I'm beginning to get a grasp.

Edit to add: no, in re-reading your previous post I guess not. Sorry. But it's interesting to think about and it would surely turn The World as we know it on its Ear.

Last edited by RCMAC,
Lord Gonchar's avatar

I just don't think it's possible for stand-by to disappear completely. Stand-by at the very least accounts for the margin of error in the system.

And with the way FastPass works with ride time 'windows' (and I'm not suggesting that changes either), you'll always need some bodies waiting around to fill seats.

Jeff's avatar

I'm starting to see that the basis for my argument is in part hard to make because of context I can't share. That's frustrating. This was more fun in some ways prior to last July!

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog - Phrazy

slithernoggin's avatar

Gonch is right, I think. Whatever variation of Fastpass you're speaking of, it needs people waiting in a standby line to function effectively.

Some people will be all over pre-planning their Disney vacation and arrive at WDW with a spreadsheet of each day's activities. Some people will decide, after they wake up, which park they're going to go to that day; once they arrive, they'll wander around and ride/eat/see whatever catches their fancy. And a lot of people will be somewhere in between.

Life is something that happens when you can't get to sleep.
--Fran Lebowitz

bjames's avatar

(commenting on original headline)...Apparently Disney runs the same way the government does. They inject hundreds of millions of dollars into something and have no real way of determining whether that spending was worth it....

"The term is 'amusement park.' An old Earth name for a place where people could go to see and do all sorts of fascinating things." -Spock, Stardate 3025

Whenever we go to Disney we always have a game plan. We'll open the day with x attraction and make our way over to y and z. At some point in there we need to eat lunch at restaurant w. We've even gone to the extreme of sending one person ahead to an attraction to get fast passes for later in the day. Visiting 4 parks in 3 days requires a game plan in you want to do most of what you want.

Pre-planning doesn't sound like such a bad thing in my situation. We've already planned our approach to the park but there is still a lot of variability and leg work to make it work. Booking rides and dining in advance makes the vacation more relaxing and enjoyable and still allows us to maximize what we can do.

Adding to what Gonch said about flexibility between reservations. Say you have booked Space Mountain for a 10-11 am window. Your next reservation is for Dumbo at 11-12. If you arrive at Space Mountain at the beginning of the window you could potentially be off the ride and on your way by 10:15. You have 1 hour and 45 minutes to do whatever you please and still make your next window. A fastpass per hour allows you to schedule an itinerary and still have flexibility in your vacation.

TheMillenniumRider's avatar

Magic bands were not built as a way to reduce wait times, they are built as a marketing device.

Look at them this way, you step into the park and are tracked every step of the way with those bands.

They know what you bought, when you bought it, what you rode, what shows you saw, what hotel you stayed in, how often you went back to your room, did you use the pool, what restaurants did you eat in, what did you consume, what table you sat at, etc, etc.

The park can now build profiles tied to guest age, race, number of kids, length of stay, the data is infinite. This will allow them not only to improve the parks and better serve their customers, (this is where the potential profit can be had), in addition they can sell this advertising data to those willing to pay for it. (this is where lots more potential profit will come from) The bands themselves are the entrance fee for the park.

Oh by the way, you can use these for fastpass and reservations, and they will make your stay easier. The bands are not for the guests, they are for the park.

Jeff's avatar

TheMillenniumRider said:

Magic bands were not built as a way to reduce wait times, they are built as a marketing device.

That's not true at all. It's both, and other things including crowd distribution control. Remember the previous comments about spontaneously getting invitations to a restaurant? When you book passes, they give you suggestions, and put you in attractions that don't have long lines to begin with. There is absolutely an operational component.

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog - Phrazy

rollergator's avatar

bjames said:

(commenting on original headline)...Apparently Disney runs the same way the government does. They inject hundreds of millions of dollars into something and have no real way of determining whether that spending was worth it....

Knowing what we do about Disney data collection and analysis, I'd say they have TONS of information telling them how this should, could, does, and even will affect the bottom line. The company remains the very best at data utilization...and whatever is not working well, soon will be improved in ways that the company took great pains to be able to foresee. None of their actions regarding the implementation are sudden, knee-jerk reactions to unforeseen consequences.

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