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Mike Scopa

Dear Mr. Weiss

Mike offers some suggestions for the WDW President

Thursday, November 11, 2004
by Mike Scopa, MousePlanet staff writer

Mr. Al Weiss
President
The Walt Disney World Resort
PO Box 10040
Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830

Dear Mr. Weiss,

I do not regard myself as an expert on the theme park industry. I am merely an observer who for many years has enjoyed visiting theme parks with a special affection for the Walt Disney World Resort. Over those years, I have recognized that many of your policies are put in place to serve both the resort and its guests.

In that spirit I offer you some suggestions that may serve both the Walt Disney World resort and its guests positively.

Please do not take these suggestions as criticism but as a series of proposals to make your business and its lifeblood, its guests, a true partnership of enjoyment.

Toll Plaza Suggestions

There is nothing more frustrating than waiting in a long line of cars to get past one of the theme park's toll plazas. Usually the long lines are a result of many transactions involving parking fees for the theme park during the rush or peak hours of the morning.

Recently, while waiting in one of these lines, I found myself thinking of a possible solution to this problem. Realizing that many of the cars were occupied by resort (on-property) guests, I thought, “Why not offer toll lanes reserved for resort guests?” The cast member assigned to those lanes would have to check only the resort parking pass and not handle any money. This offers yet another special perk to your valued onsite guests.

While we are on the toll plaza area it may also be worthwhile to consider using some sort of Extra Magic Hour signage to inform guests when this park is celebrating this early opening for resort guests.

Too many times I have seen off-site guests be turned away at the turnstiles because they were unaware of the Early Magic Hour. On a recent trip I observed some children whose excitement upon entering Disney's Animal Kingdom turned to disappointment when told they would have to wait an hour before going in to see Mickey.

Off-Season Discounted Admission

During some of your “value-season” or slow months, attractions are closed down for maintenance and refurbishing. Although this is an understandable undertaking for your industry, sometimes the scheduling of such down time results in several key attractions being unavailable to your guests on the same day.

Many who have no choice but to visit during those times are shut out from some of their favorite attractions. With that in mind, does it seem fair to charge full park admission when a certain percentage of park attractions are unavailable?

Obviously when admission media is purchased so far in advance it becomes complicated to grant discounts for certain times. Also, there is the matter of Annual Passholders who can enter the parks year-round.

I recall visiting Universal Studios Florida in 1990 and finding that a third of its attractions were down. Upon exiting the park, I was handed a free one-day admission for my next visitÉ pretty much guaranteeing that I would be back.

While I do not suggest such a move for the WDW resort, I would suggest a reward for those guests who visit the parks during the off-season of a voucher that offers what amounts to a one-day discount off the purchase of the next multi-day admission media purchased by that guest. This voucher may be handed to the guest upon entering or exiting the park.

This gesture would basically thank those who visit in the off season and also provide an incentive for returning in the future. Not all may use the voucher but the importance of the gesture may be as important as the discount itself.

Online Priority Seating

Guests begin calling for priority seating reservations at 7:00 a.m. ET. These calls can require much patience at times because of the number of guests calling compared to the number of cast members staffing the phone lines.

Guests on the West Coast are at a disadvantage because they must begin calling at 4 a.m. to make their reservations. Sometimes the wait is so long that many guests hang up before being connected with a cast member. So who loses? Both the guest and the resort.

I've often wondered how an online priority seating reservation system would work. This system would allow guests to make online reservations 24 hours a day and free up the phone lines as well.

This system should require that every priority seating reservation be accompanied by a credit card. A fee would be charged if the guest does not show up for their priority seating reservation, such as is currently assessed for Grand Floridian Resort's Victoria & Albert's restaurant. This would prevent abuse of the system.

This type of system should start off with a small number of restaurants, perhaps those in Epcot Center's World Showcase.

I think it would be worth a try. The process could be highly automated, requiring no increase in telephone reservation agents, but increasing the number of requests that could be processed at one time. The online request form could be connected to a transactional database to ensure that only the available time slots would appear on the screen, with those spots on a temporary (for example, 15-minute) hold until the visitor enters the credit card information, as is now done with online ticket transaction Web sites.

Designated Annual Passholder Turnstiles

This thought has been on my mind for years. As someone who has been an Annual Passholder for over a decade, I know how to use my AP to get through a theme park turnstile. Unfortunately there are those new guests who may not be familiar with how a Disney theme park ticket and turnstile work.

These guests can sometimes cause a back-up at the turnstile areas during those times when a large number of guests arrive at the front of the theme park.

Why not give AP holders, presumably your most informed guests, several designated turnstiles to be used ONLY for AP holders? I would guess that 100 AP holders would get through one turnstile faster than 100 non AP holders could in two turnstiles.

I'm sure the parks would always welcome any adjustment that would result in helping the guests get into the park as quickly as possible.

One-Day Park-Hopper Pass

Is there a reason why a One-Day Park Hopper Pass is not offered to guests? Of those guests who purchase the One-Day, One-Park admission, how many of those would welcome the opportunity to visit more than one park that day? There are many people who cannot decide which park to do in one day and would love the option of visiting two or more parks, especially if they are interested in only a few attractions for each park.

This option would certainly be worth a try. My guess is that guests would not mind paying a little extra for the opportunity to get the most out of one day at the WDW resort with a One-Day Park Hopper Pass. As a model, the Disneyland Resort in California has recently started offering this option as well.

Front-of-the-Line Fast Pass for One Day Guests

Besides offering a One-Day Park Hopper Pass, why not also offer another option to those guests who are limited to just a one-day visit? I'm talking about something along the order of a front-of-the-line Fastpass. It's difficult for most guests to get in all the attractions, and this option would give guests the opportunity to go to the front of an attraction queue.

Guests who purchase a one-day ticket could be given the option of purchasing a special premium option that allows them to use their ticket to go to the front of the line on certain attractions, but only once for each attraction.

This option should be limited to either a one-time deal for each attraction or limited to a certain number of times for the entire day. My suggestion would be to limit it to a specific number, such as seven. The guest would then need to choose which attractions to see using these passes, whether it be seven attractions, or repeated visits through just a few.

This option allows that one-day visitor to get the most out of that single day of visiting the park.

Designated Smoking in the Magic Kingdom

It is very refreshing to walk through the theme parks without having to deal with guests lighting up and smoking throughout the park. However, occasionally there is always a guest who does not abide by the designated smoking areas.

I would encourage you to constantly remind cast members that part of their job description is to point out designated smoking areas to those guests who either don't care or who are unaware of these areas.

Mostly I see older cast members doing this task. It would be nice to see all cast members making this part of their duty. I would think that the majority of your guests are non-smokers and this would serve them well.

And while I'm on designated smoking areas, I would like to appeal to you and ask that you remove the designated smoking area from behind Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom. I could never understand why a designated smoking area would be placed not only in Fantasyland but right behind the castle.

There is a designated smoking area behind Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe in Liberty Square. Why not let those castle smokers move over there? It is off the beaten path and away from children. My guess is that Fantasyland is visited by children more than any other Magic Kingdom land; why spoil their visit to the area around the castle?

Thank you for your time and for all the great memories you have provided for many years to me, my family, and your many guests. There is no doubt that these memories truly help us remember the magic.

Regards,

Michael J. Scopa

P.S. When you have time, I have this thought about swivel seats in Timekeeper.


What did you think about Mike's letter? Send Mike your thoughts, questions, or comments here.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mike Scopa first visited Walt Disney World almost 30 years ago. Planning a trip was simple back in the 1970s, with only the Magic Kingdom and a few Disney-owned resorts in Orlando.

Over the past 11 years, Mike has been perfecting his WDW trip-planning skills as he has hosted chats and bulletin boards about Disney for a Fortune 100 company.

Mike brings his experience to MousePlanet in a series of lessons to help you with all the phases of planning a WDW trip.

Mike pays special attention to all the details that ensure your family has the best possible time at the Happiest Place on Earth.

You can contact Mike here.

OTHER LINKS

Here are trip reports that Mike has written that are part of MousePlanet's archives:

Michael Scopa -- August 1999 -- Walt Disney World (CSR)

Michael J. Scopa -- July 1997 -- Walt Disney World (WL/CBR)

Mike Scopa -- July 1994 -- Walt Disney World (WL / CBR)

Also, don't miss Lani Teshima's column, “The Trip Planner” for more travel planning information.

Get the latest info about the resort at “Park Update: Walt Disney World.”

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