In these hard times, I am very reluctant to even write about this issue! It brings me great pain as I know many out there in the world are suffering so just thinking about a Magical place where people congregate seems unthinkable. Here it is mid April when we should all be celebrating the warmer weather, park festivals and much needed rain showers, but we are here facing a global pandemic that could quite possibly change for the worse, what most of us grew up with, Walt Disney World.
It’s true that every day Disney is down, they are losing somewhere near $40 million a day. That may sound like a lot for us but to Disney, this is just a temporary bump in the road in their big universe. But still, it is crushing and no one can endure this forever. Another truth is that the tourism industry was already on the ropes before any of this happened.
Disney was dealing with their own loses in travelers and had started putting the squeeze on their travel partners. Replacing their once highly coveted travel agents with apps and mandating any of their ticket sellers to carry a line of credit to cover any losses in case a company went out of business.
This leads me to believe that Disney saw the winds of change changing and had already started making their coarse corrections. I don’t know if this helped them, but in the end, it infuriated many life long partners and some even sold their businesses before Disney pulled the proverbial rugs out from under their feet.
This now puts Disney in a really bad position due to the fact that the people they once relied upon to put bodies in the park are now sower to anything that would have to do with helping them out of the hole they themselves dug. Lets just recap what had transpired over a short amount of time just before the virus shut them down. First was the all new FastPass+ fiasco that still plagues their system to this day and has gotten even worse with the addition of Star Wars: Galaxies Edge.
Unless you are a tech junkie and have the patience of a sweet old grandmother, you will have joined many planners with mind blowing anger trying to book a FastPass for any of the Star Wars rides. After not being able to fix their self induced mess, Disney went to a airline model of Boarding Passes putting you into groups with other families. Try fighting over who is going to do what when you try flying the Millennium Falcon!
Next big mistake was going to a date based ticket and now requiring all travel partners to fork out $40 thousand dollars plus in order to update their websites to accommodate this bulky program. This does not include updating every little ticket Disney would come out with every other week trying to encourage travelers to come to their once busy parks, costing companies thousands of IT dollars to keep up with Disney’s ever changing focus. I always chuckled at the notion of the double speak we constantly heard from our Disney contacts stating out one side of their mouth that business is up and the parks are full but then they roll out a half day ticket trying to seduce the budget minded travelers into coming for a small discount.
I guess the insult to injury was letting them in at noon while not telling them that they would need to leave at 6 pm due to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. Or giving away a Disney Water Park ticket that no one could use. You know when Disney offers these types of ticket specials, things are not looking so good and their sales team is grasping at straws.
The last and most telling nail in the coffin was making any Disney partner who sold their tickets, to now get a personal guarantee loan from their banks in the amounts of $40 thousand dollars up to a million depending on the size of their company. Their excuse for doing this after 20+ years was that some Japanese company ran a bunch of tickets and stuck Disney with the bill. Now anyone in the travel business knew this was BS because Disney could deactivate any ticket any time with the press of a button, so everyone on the inside knew something had run a muck in their sales department!
The true reason we all felt was that Disney was trying to cut out all of their 20 plus year partners and go it alone with their back pocket buddies like Expedia etc. Yes it’s true that some upper ups have their pet partners, but at the end of the day, they underestimated how many smaller loyal partners generated bodies into their parks and now that they are all gone, Disney is holding a very empty bag. I won’t even go into how Disney single handed put the Vacation Home Rental Business on the ropes in order to help Expedia as well as their very own Disney Vacation Club. I’ll write about that little dirty secret some other time so stay tuned.
So here we are now and no one is helping Disney in their time of need and can you really blame them? Disney has a bad history of firing their own and replacing them with foreign workers putting many life long workers out to the curb for cheap labor so it really is no surprise what they were doing there at the end just before this Covid-19 virus hit. I am sure that Disney will rebound as there are still many loyal fans and yes I am still one of them, but some scars run deep and some are not so forgiving.
You could say that this will be Disney’s comin to Jesus moment and under new direction, have a real deep look into themselves and make that course correction. My first recommendation would be to get rid of all the upper career management in their sales divisions and diversify as they were about the crash the ship before any of this virus stuff was even a thing. Stop making Disney a big timeshare trap as this was the underlying flow of where they were secretly going that you all didn’t know about i.e. Disney Vacation Club and get back to Walt’s vision: A place for everyone to come and at a affordable price.
Stop being greedy (not my words… just go read all of the thousands of brutal comments online in the chat rooms) and quit gouging families for parking, tickets, merchandise and food. Get rid of the stupid non-functional FastPass+ app and go back to first come, first serve machines, bring back the old ticketing systems and non-expiration tickets so that the people can re-invest in their next years vacations allowing them to save a little money and for God’s sake just make anyone who want’s to up-grade their park tickets at your Guest Service windows to provid I.D with everyone there and transfer their bio-metrics over to their new tickets as well as sign them there in front of the cast member at the windows. This will fix your scammers reselling your passes out on the streets.
My advice from a person who sees it as it is and not from a ivy league business school set of (looks good on paper eyes) is to go back to the glory days not so long ago 2000 to 2010 and look at what was working then and do that because what is being done now is not working and every one knows but the people at the Disney! This should be a no no-brainer. Sometime new technology is NOT the answer but simple, easy to understand practices live forever and for any age.
If Walt Disney World decides to follow these simple suggestions and start taking care of the people who took care of them, stop the continuous money grabs while gouging their fan base, market hella deals to their domestic USA and Canada travelers and then and only then will you start to see a slow comeback to their once prestigious selves. And unfortunately yes, this is going to take years to happen. Maybe this was a much needed wake up call and some much needed fat needed to be cut, but in the end it is the partners and park guests that make Disney what it is, Magical.