Has Disney Reached the End of Revenge Travel
During 2022, the tourism industry couldn’t avoid one (admittedly stupid) term: revenge travel.
The idea applied to an entire society that had spent the body of two years trapped in their homes.
Once the pandemic diminished in scope, people couldn’t wait to go on vacation.
We were like an entire society hosting a post-game press conference.
“America, the pandemic is over! What are you doing to celebrate?” “WE’RE GOING TO DISNEYLAND!!!”
Some recent signs have indicated that we may be feeling a bit vacationed out, though.
Has Disney reached the end of its revenge travel era? And what does this mean for one particular hotel in 2023?
Disney’s 2022 Redemption
Let’s be honest about the fact that Disney took it on the chin during the pandemic.
COVID-19-related closures shut down theme parks, cruises, movie theaters, and sporting events. Disney makes money from all those things.
Almost overnight, Disney saw its revenue projections fall off a cliff. Frankly, a lesser company would have collapsed under the financial strain.
Then, 2022 arrived. Suddenly, vaccines were readily available, while other COVID-19 treatments proved effective as well.
Suddenly, tourists felt comfortable traveling again…and travel they did!
Nearly one billion people traveled in 2022. That’s not quite the same tourism level as before the pandemic, but it’s a dramatic increase from 2020 and 2021.
In fact, from January through September 2022, travel increased 133 percent year-over-year! Folks, tourism doesn’t more than double very often.
Disney theme parks benefited mightily from this so-called revenge travel behavior.
Even though the company maintained somewhat restrictive policies like Park Passes, attendance grew exponentially from the frustrating pandemic years.
Travel demand bordered on unprecedented levels as guests needed to do something…ANYTHING after being cooped up for far too long.
Former Disney CEO Bob Chapek took full advantage of this behavior by increasing costs across the board at Disney theme parks.
When demand overwhelms supply, that strategy works. Even better, it maximizes revenue.
During such a popular time at the parks, Disney could introduce expensive new guest experiences like Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser. They knew the place would sell out.
Alas, a once-a-generation market climate won’t last forever. As we enter 2023, the tide may be turning for Disney.
Disney Makes a Deal on Star Wars Hotel
Here’s something unusual. Disney has just offered a deal on the Star Wars Hotel.
Guests who book a galactic starcruise at any time from February 5th through September 30th can save up to $700 at another Disney resort.
You can find the full details here and speak with a MickeyTravels agent if you’re interested in booking.
Still, we shouldn’t ignore what this offer represents. Disney hasn’t provided discounts on Galactic Starcruiser up until now because it had no need.
The place was sold out anyway. When you offer discounts at a hotel that will claim maximum occupancy, you’re just reducing your profit.
Something has changed as the Star Wars Hotel approaches its second year. Demand has definitely faded a bit.
Now, that’s a bit of an unfair evaluation. After all, anything less than 100 percent occupancy isn’t as good as 100 percent occupancy.
Even so, Disney would only adopt this approach for one of two reasons. The first is that returning CEO Bob Iger understands that an apology is necessary.
Last week, Iger and Parks Chairman Josh D’Amaro confirmed several changes that reduce the overall cost of a park visit.
Now, we have this incentive deal for staying at Galactic Starcruiser and another Disney resort during the same vacation. If it’s an incentive, we appreciate it.
However, there’s a second explanation, a thought process we should explore. What if demand has slowed significantly at the Star Wars Hotel?
You may recall that I warned of this eventuality last February. At the time, I indicated that I expected strong sales throughout 2022, which is precisely what happened.
Eventually, the amount of frontloaded demand from Star Wars fans ends. At that point, what happens with the extremely costly immersive experience?
We may have reached that point.
Is Demand Waning at Disney Parks?
Here’s the crux of the conversation. Disney did some things during the pandemic that it could get away with due to the unprecedented demand.
Now that the theme parks have met that demand, everything changes.
Yes, The Walt Disney Company turns 100 this year. And yes, Disney100 will drive sales at Disneyland Resort throughout 2023.
Is that consumer demand enough to replace the revenge travel bump Disney enjoyed in 2022?
We’re at a strange crossroads here. Disney’s recent moves could suggest an attempt at goodwill for loyal customers.
Bob Chapek mistreated these folks and caused numerous unforced errors for Disney. As such, Iger may be trying to gain some positive buzz for his company.
Conversely, Chapek may have burned some bridges. In that scenario, even the return of Iger isn’t enough to remove the bad taste out of the mouths of annoyed Disney fans.
Those potential tourists would seek more before they’d consider visiting a Disney theme park again. In other words, they would need new recruiting.
So, Disney has performed two gestures, and we’re stuck reading the tea leaves on what they mean.
Is Disney apologizing to fans by making the parks more affordable?
Alternatively, is demand waning at Disney parks as we enter the 2023 tourism season?
You could make a viable argument either way here. The glass will be half-full or half-empty, depending on your general outlook on life.
As a stubborn optimist, I believe that Disney is acknowledging that it overpriced Galactic Starcruiser a bit at the start because it could.
During year two, park officials want the immersive experience to prove more affordable to guests…I think.
In truth, I struggle to envision Disney attendance declining during the 100th-anniversary event. But I also realize anything is possible here.
What Should We Expect from Disney in 2023?
Here’s where we try to read the tea leaves.
Using the information on hand right now, it does appear that the Star Wars Hotel lacks the same level of demand in year two.
Disney recently canceled several itineraries, stating that it needed to refurbish the property on those dates.
Thankfully, the company provided 50 percent discounts to impacted customers to book other dates.
Still, we must wonder about Disney’s behavior here. Does Galactic Starcruiser require unique upkeep after a year in service?
Conversely, is Disney trying to reduce staffing costs by grouping a smaller number of customers together on the same cruises?
The Star Wars Hotel always seemed like a long-term gamble. Despite what Star Wars fans would have you believe, they’re not an infinite group.
Has Disney already hosted most of the tourists willing to pay the hefty price for a two-night/three-day adventure?
Of course, there are other factors at play as well. We’re in late January, a long-established slow period on the annual park calendar.
Disney may have provided these new deals as a way to sustain sales during an otherwise down period.
Then again, Galactic Starcruiser may face an uphill battle to entice more casual Star Wars fans to book a trip.
If so, this immersive adventure’s second year could prove quite bumpy.
So, what do you think, readers? Is Disney providing another goodwill gesture, or is the Star Wars Hotel in trouble? Are we in a post-revenge travel era?
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Feature Photo: Travel and Leisure