There's no point in ending a birthday party when everyone's still hungry for cake. Disney (NYSE:DIS) is extending a dining discount for annual passholders at its Florida resort that was supposed to conclude at the end of September.
Disney World began offering passholders 20% discounts at dozens of its theme park and hotel restaurants late last year, celebrating Disney World turning 45. The world's most visited theme park resort turns 46 on Sunday, but Disney revealed on Friday that the dining deals will continue through Dec. 23.
Extending a generous promotion for nearly three more months may not seem like a desperate move, but it suggests that it's still not business as usual at the House of Mouse. Attendance has been sluggish since last year, and if ending a popular promotion may cost it repeat visits from its base of annual shareholders, this isn't the time to take that kind of chance.
Dine and dash
A rough fiscal fourth quarter is coming to a close this weekend for Disney World. Hurricane Irma forced several days of closures, and this comes after Disney experienced a decline in occupied room nights during its closure-free fiscal third quarter.
Salvation could come as early as next year, with the opening of Toy Story Land at Disney's Hollywood Studios. If Woody and Buzz don't breathe new life into Disney World next year, it will likely happen when the ambitious 14-acre Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge opens in 2019. A lot of promising rides and attractions are coming to Disney World in the coming years, but Disney would ideally have its massive Florida resort back on track before any of them open. Disney needs to figure out why visitors aren't coming the way they used to before the mere novelty of a new experience blurs the potential turnaround.
It's not a coincidence that the extension runs through late December. Steady holiday traffic will temporarily take the growth baton from there.
Disney needs its theme parks to bounce back, as it's the division with the clearest path for a recovery. Disney's media networks continue to struggle as ESPN subscribers cut the cord and ABC languishes, and that's not going to change anytime soon. A couple of strong movies are slated for the new quarter, but the trend hasn't been kind at the local multiplex. Disney extending a discount by another three months won't be enough to turn things around, but it's yet another sign that it's still not business as usual at Disney World.