Disney World Making Changes


Disney castle of sleeping beauty in Disneyland | Image by Konstantin Yolshin/Shutterstock

The Walt Disney Co. is making several changes to its domestic theme park business in the hopes that it can create “value and flexibility” for customers following a rough patch after the pandemic.

Disney announced Tuesday that guests staying at Disney Resort hotels at Walt Disney World will receive complimentary overnight self-parking.

Further, Walt Disney World Annual Passholders will be able to visit the theme parks after 2 p.m. without needing a park reservation (except on Saturdays and Sundays at Magic Kingdom Park).

Finally, individuals buying Disney’s Genie+ service will receive digital downloads of their attraction photos taken in the park on the day of their purchase at no additional charge.

The effort to improve public perception and guest experiences at theme parks is Disney’s latest move to rekindle the magic with fans, investors, and guests, following several controversial choices from executives, including the 2018 decision to start charging for overnight self-parking at its resorts, raising the admission cost at its theme parks, and ending the Magical Express bus service.

“This is a Disney difference many of you have asked us to bring back, and we’re happy to reintroduce it to make your vacation a little easier and more affordable,” the company said regarding the change to the self-parking policy in a statement on its Disney Parks blog.

Disney is still working to recover its annual visitor count following the time its parks spent shuttered during the pandemic, when its audience plummeted from 21 million to just below 7 million in 2020. In 2021, that number had increased to around 12.7 million, according to theme park attendance data collected by Statista.

As part of Tuesday’s flurry of announcements, Disney also unveiled the TRON Lightcycle / Run roller coaster, a new attraction that will officially open in Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort on April 4, 2023.

Select members, including Annual Passholders and eligible Disney Vacation Club Members, may receive special preview opportunities that will allow guests early access to the roller coaster before the attraction officially opens.

Park attendees will also see the return of the “Happily Ever After” show at Magic Kingdom on April 3.

“Please know we will keep listening to you and adapting as we focus on making the guest experience even better for more people who visit us,” the company said.

The move could provide a small boost in confidence for shareholders, given that Disney’s stock price (NYSC: DIS) has fallen from a 52-week high of $158.53 to a yearly low of $84.07. Since the 52-week low, the stock has increased slightly, closing trading Thursday at $99.81, according to Market Watch.

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