Disney's (DIS 3.69%) largest theme park resort may soon find a way to coax more money out of its biggest spenders. A Disney spokeswoman has confirmed to the Orlando Sentinel that it will be rolling out Club 33 -- a big-ticket membership program with exclusive lounge access -- across all four of its Florida theme parks in the fall.
The original Club 33 opened in Disneyland in 1967, becoming a trendy hangout for well-heeled Disney fans and visiting celebrities. The ritzy restaurant-lounge would eventually open at Disney parks in Japan and more recently China, but Disney World had yet to embrace the concept until now.
It's a small world for deep pockets
Pricing hasn't been made public, but the original Club 33 isn't cheap. We're reportedly talking about a $25,000 initiation fee the last time it offered an open window to join five years ago, and then it's $12,000 a year to remain active. Disneyland's pass offers some meaty perks including four premium annual passes and several VIP features like escorted tours, tickets for guests, and instant access to expedited attraction queues. Despite the stiff rates, the waiting list is so long that even spots on the list haven't been made available since 2012.
Disney could have a feeding frenzy with Florida's version of Club 33, even with offering a lounge in every park seemingly quadrupling its capacity. The lounges would have to be as high end as Disney's Club 33 product elsewhere, especially since Disney World's closest rivals offer in-park lounges at no additional cost for pass holders or folks using a certain credit card for admission. It will also need more of a hook than Club 33 as being the only place in Disneyland to grab an alcoholic beverage as libations are readily available across all of Disney World's parks these days.
Club 33 will generate buzz, and it will also be a big revenue driver. Disney has gotten pretty astute at milking more money out of its visitors. Revenue has moved consistently higher for Disney's theme park division, even with attendance falling in three of the past four quarters.
The new lounges will also help cultivate a broader following among affluent guests. Disney markets its resorts to various categories of potential visitors, but the mere presence of Club 33 will help fortify the upscale nature of Disney's theme parks. The club's wide net across all four parks will also encourage more big-ticket after-hours events. Club 33 is apparently coming in a few months, and with it, a new upper tier to the theme park experience in Florida.