On the surface, everything seems to be going swimmingly for Walt Disney's (DIS -2.21%) iconic Florida resort. Disney World delivered record financial results for the media giant earlier this month. Demand is so strong that Disney remains the only major theme park operator to require advance park reservations. Disney kicked off a premium-priced Halloween event earlier this month -- yes, in August -- and it's already sold out through mid-September.  

With international travel restrictions easing up earlier this year and pent-up hunger for consumer escapism on the rise, the prospects couldn't seem to be brighter for the House of Mouse. Disney World and its sister Disneyland park have limited the sale of annual passes, suggesting that they're not having a problem filling their gated attractions with folks paying retail for a day at the park. 

The good times can't last forever. The wobbly economy, pesky inflation gnawing away at disposable income, and Disney's own penchant for higher prices and new premium experiences will eventually hit a breaking point. When will that be? A good indicator of Disney World finally stretching its pricing elasticity too far is when it starts wooing the annual passholders after largely neglecting its regulars. We could be there now. 

Alice in Wonderland, Mad Hatter, and Rabbit in front of the Magic Kingdom spinning tea cups ride.

Image source: Disney.

Drawn to magnets 

Annual passholders began lining up at Epcot's Creations gift shop on Thursday, looking to pick up a complimentary Walt Disney World magnet featuring Mickey and Minnie Mouse. The promotion isn't new. Disney World routinely offers its annual passholders magnets featuring iconic animated characters. The location to pick up the new collectible is noteworthy.

The last couple of giveaways have taken place at Disney Springs, the resort's massive shopping, dining, and entertainment complex. The rationale seems obvious. Sending folks to the open-air and free to explore Disney Springs is conducive to getting passholders to spend money at the stores and eateries. More importantly perhaps, it keeps them from going to the recently crowded theme parks that served as earlier distribution outposts. With Disney making claims that its theme parks generate more money from visitors on single-day tickets than those flashing annual passes it makes sense to move the magnet-collecting regulars away from its four theme parks. 

What does it mean that Disney is sending annual passholders to Epcot for the next four weeks? Is the flow of lucrative one-time visitors and fans staying at on-site hotels slowing? It's not the only thing that Disney is doing to keep its regulars close.

Disney announced this week that passholders will receive 30% discount on merchandise -- up from the typical 20% -- between Sept. 14 and Oct. 14. It also just announced passholder discounts of up to 25% for resort hotel stays from Oct. 23 through Dec. 25. String the magnet giveaway at Epcot and the two passholder-exclusive discounts and you have Disney World wooing passholders back to its resort through the next four months.

Yes, the peak summer travel season is over. There won't be markdowns for the final week of the year when most annual passes are restricted from entering the parks. However, with Disney talking up the big monetization gains that it has achieved at its parks with per capita revenue up a hearty 40% since 2019 it's interesting to see how it's aggressively courting them now. The same company that in its most recent earnings call was talking about the "unfavorable attendance mix" at Disneyland now that passholders have returned is dangling discounts and magnets now to get regulars back through its turnstiles at Disney World. 

Could it be that Disney put too much faith in the sustainability of an 18-month celebration of the resort turning 50 last October? Is Disney quietly increasing capacity at its theme parks, knowing that even passholders that won't pay up for premium access to expedited queues will make standby lines longer to help spur others into buying Genie+ and individual Lightning Lane access? Is the mother of all entertainment stocks seeing a dip in non-passholders at its parks? Is this the byproduct of all of the strategic moves that find shareholders applauding and many passholders fuming about the rising cost of optimizing a Disney World getaway.

Passholders may want to give Disney a break. Disney is certainly open to giving them breaks over the next few months.