The catalyst at the time was Disneyland in California unveiling MaxPass, a premium offering where folks could square away access to expedited FastPass queues from their mobile devices. It was just $10 a day per guest for enhanced access to the free in-park system, but it was also the start of the monetization process.
This week Disneyland Paris introduced Disney Premier Access, a paid service that gives buyers the ability to shave their wait times by reserving a spot in a dedicated fast lane. It's a far more lucrative platform than MaxPass, and it may be just a matter of time before Disney's most visited theme park resort follows suit. If you thought a day at a Disney World theme park was expensive before, just wait until Disney turns on its FastPass lines again.
Monetization on tap
Disney Premier Access is pretty straightforward. Once you're inside one of the two French parks you can fire up the Disneyland Paris app and see what's available for purchase. You would pay between $9 and $18 per person for access to the shorter line for a desired attraction at a designated return window. Complete the experience and you can make another premium reservation.
Disneyland Paris isn't the first park or regional amusement park operator to offer expedited access to popular attractions at a price. In fact, Disney is one of the last major players to go this route. Most gated attractions offer premium tickets that allow park visitors to experience rides faster than by waiting in regular lines. Disney Premier Access stands out as a rare pay-per-ride platform.
One-day tickets to Disney parks aren't cheap, typically running in the triple digits. Paying another $9 to $18 per ride can add up, especially since we're talking about expedited queues that will pick up the volume for subsequent purchases.
Disney World doesn't have to go this route. Before the pandemic, all Disney guests were given access to three FastPass reservations a day at no additional cost. Guests staying at a Disney World resort had access to the system a month before everybody else, but ultimately everyone got three shots at the perk.
It was just a matter of time before Disney World went the premium route with FastPass, and the pandemic likely gave it the perfect opportunity to pull that monetization lever. With Disney parks attracting fewer people than before -- partly by design, but also as a result of international travel restrictions -- why wouldn't Disney try to offset a dip in turnstile clicks by maximizing its per-capita in-park revenue? We're already seeing Disney raise the ante on both coasts with premium merchandise and experiences.
It won't be an easy decision, and reactions will vary wildly if Disney's iconic Florida resort goes this route. Investors will tingle with the excitement of high-margin revenue. Traditionalists will be outraged. However, Disney isn't the king of the hill when it comes to travel stocks by accident. It won't always please theme park enthusiasts with its moves, but if pumping up the bottom line is the key to reinvesting in upgrading its attractions even the boo birds will eventually come around.