Disneyland is distinct from its Florida counterpart, Disney World, given the local feel of the Anaheim-based park. Annual passholders who lived in Southern California were a significant and visible part of the park experience, filling the Disneyland parking lots with an ocean of window stickers bearing the letters “AP” and a pair of mouse ears.
That’s likely why the announcement at the start of the year that the annual pass program was coming to an end was met with such loud bemoaning from locals, according to reports from the Los Angeles Times. But even at the time of the closure, Disneyland Resort President Ken Potrock was already hinting that the program’s replacement was coming.
“I think we’re going to look at all of those different — I’ll use a marketing term — ‘buckets’ of consumers, understanding what they want and building a program around it so we can effectively spread the attendance in a way that allows us to optimize what we have available, and satisfy the largest number of people in the way they want to be satisfied,” he said.
And according to emerging reports, the replacement will be a membership program. As reported last Friday (June 18), Josh D’Amaro, chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, told the Los Angeles Times that the membership program will be available “relatively soon.” Potrock confirmed that timeline, stating on the D23 Inside Disney podcast that the program would “be launching sometime by the end of the year.”
As for the specifics of the new program, the news is heavy on hype and light on concrete details. Though Potrock has said the program will be heavily informed by guest demand and experience – and D’Amato told the LA Times that the program “will reflect the behavior of our superfans” – what that will mean in terms of pricing or the depth of the offering remains unspecified.
However, with the repositioning of its long-term annual pass program, it appears that Disney is looking to move the offering away from being a single point of purchase at differing price points and toward a subscription-based model of a Disneyland park experience, design to capture a wider array of guests. Annual pass purchases have remained relatively static at around one million sold annually, even as park traffic had swelled to nearly 30 million annually as of 2019.
As PYMNTS’ latest Subscription Commerce Conversion Index indicated, over 80 percent of Americans are maintaining at least one subscription, and 34 percent of all subscribers (14 million U.S. consumers) have signed up for at least one new plan since the pandemic began. And increasingly, the data shows, those consumers are looking to subscribe directly from the brand providing the good or service, with 62 percent (8.4 million) of these consumers subscribing to products and services directly from manufacturers. And the strong majority are using such subscriptions to try interesting new products, get higher-quality items or simply have fun.
Can Disney find a way to make Disneyland more fun for its most dedicated fans by transforming its annual pass program into something more like a paid membership program? Can the new program expand that appeal beyond the hardcore local fans who will visit the park multiple time a week throughout the year to include those who live farther away and might subscribe to receive additional benefits beyond admission?
All of that remains to be seen as Disneyland moves away from hyping the new release to actually explaining the details. But as PYMNTS’ data indicates, there is ample opportunity to do something different that is more in line with the subscription commerce trend already in play. If it’s successful, Disney could grab a much bigger audience than annual passes could have captured.