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Disney World Won't Be Quiet for Long

By Rick Munarriz – Aug 31, 2021 at 10:40AM

Key Points

  • Several popular blogs and enthusiast sites are writing about Disney World crowd levels being at their lowest levels of the year.
  • Crowds and ticket prices will be moving higher come October as the resort kicks off an 18-month celebration for Disney World turning 50.
  • Even in the lull, it's been able to sell out its premium-priced Halloween event through all of August and September. It's not at risk of squandering its return to profitability.

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The top theme park operator is reportedly going through a lull in attendance, but it's all about to change.

It's the calm before the storm. Walt Disney's (DIS -0.15%) typically busy Disney World resort has been surprisingly quiet lately, according to many of the leading trip-planning sites and theme park blogs.

Touring Plans -- a subscription-based crowd level-tracking specialist -- recently revised its forecasts lower across all four Disney World gated attractions through the end of September. Other fandom outlets including AllEars.Net, BlogMickey, Inside the Magic, and Attractions Magazine have written about the surprisingly low wait times on even some of the popular rides.  

It's not going to last, of course. Let's check out some of the reasons why the days are numbered for the current slow season at the world's most visited theme park resort.

Cinderella walking back to the iconic Magic Kingdom castle.

Image source: Disney.

Love in a roller coaster 

If you're a Disney shareholder, don't panic. The same company that surprised the market with a return to profitability for its theme parks segment in its latest quarter isn't going to be seeing red on its bottom line anytime soon.

The theme parks seeing what Disney Tourist Blog is calling the weakest crowds of the year right now isn't really a surprise. Florida schools started up again two weeks ago, so weekday crowds will naturally be light with most young families out of the mix. We also can't forget that the delta variant has been wreaking havoc on Florida's COVID-19 case counts, hospitalization rates, viral positivity rates, and deaths. Between the obvious safety concerns and the return of indoor masking mandates making visits less than ideal for some, it's not a shock to see both locals and tourists not as eager to visit the House of Mouse as they were earlier in the summer.

Another point to consider is that many Disney rides and attractions that were spacing guests out earlier this year -- reducing the hourly capacity levels -- are back to normal. In short, lower wait times for rides doesn't mean that the park attendance levels are at the lowest point of 2021. It's just more efficient now that Disney's eased up on having empty seats between groups of riders and taking breaks to clean the vehicles.

Finally, we have Disney World turning 50 soon. The world's most visited theme park resort opened on Oct. 1, 1971, and come October it will be starting an 18-month-long celebration. New nighttime shows, in-park events, and even the official opening of a new ride will kick things off in October. If you were planning a trip to Disney World in the next few weeks, why not put it off until October? 

Financially speaking, Disney World isn't going through a dry spell. Crowds may seem light right now, but Disney After Hours Boo Bash -- a Halloween-themed event taking place on select nights at the Magic Kingdom -- is sold out despite being shorter and more expensive than it was during the more expansive Halloween after-hours party it hosted two years ago.

It also won't be just the crowds coming in October. Disney will be making a lot more per turnstile click. A single-day ticket to any of Disney World's four theme parks will cost you $109 today or most of the weekdays in September. Come October, the cheapest one-day ticket will be $126, and after Labor Day you'll be paying at $133 for a day at the gated attraction of your choice. 

Disney is also resuming annual pass sales next week at higher price points than before. Some of the previously included features will now only available as premium upcharge items, including the Disney Genie+ plan that has ruffled feathers in the enthusiast community.

So don't let the light crowds the past couple of weeks make you nervous about Disney's financials. The travel and tourism stock bellwether is just catching its breath before its plan to make more money with fewer guests gets rolling.

Rick Munarriz owns shares of Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Walt Disney. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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