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An Interesting Disney World Survey and the Future of Room Deals

By Dave Shute

Disney World Deals Survey from p1So later this week I’ll be headed to Walt Disney World for six nights, split between All-Star Movies and All-Star Sports.

(I also have double bookings in Cars and Lion King at Art of Animation and the Polynesian–I’ll explain all in a later post, “Resort Hopping at Walt Disney World” lol).

I made all these reservations on Disney World room-only deals, and for the first time ever got pre-visit surveys about my Disney World deal-seeking behavior–actually I got the survey twice, once for Movies and once for Sports.

Disney World Deals Survey from p2The survey was pretty clearly trying to get at the role of the deal in my choice of when to visit and where to stay, and if I would have gone then and there anyway had the deal not been out.

Now that the Disney World deals for the rest of 2013 are clear, we’re all speculating about 2014 deals at Walt Disney World.  These surveys–and lots of other stuff–give food for thought.


Disney World Deals Survey from p3Disney does deals because it makes more money that way.

Almost all Disney deals are about driving up occupancy in its resort hotels.  This makes perfect sense, as these are high-fixed-cost assets with inventory that if not sold just disappears, and so are perfect for discounting.

Deals enable it to hit profitability targets at a higher overall average per room rate–offering rack rate to those who don’t know about, are unwilling to seek, or are not eligible for, the deals, and deals to get the last bit of demand from those who need lower prices, or just demand a discount.

The art of putting two different prices on the same capacity–from the strategic pricing perspective–is to

  1. Not give the deal to people who would have happily paid full price, (thus the surveys, trying to measure this) and to
  2. Not let the deal permanently reduce the perception that people have of the value of the offering

So, one way or another, you make these deals hard to get.  I suppose we saw that in spades last Thursday

The need to offer the deals at all is partly influenced by what people perceive as the value for money of the resorts themselves–so the easiest way for Disney to make more money off of its hotels is to add value to the resorts and make fewer deals.

Well, what’s happening in 2014?  A couple of things.  The Mine Train ride at New Fantasyland will open, and, someday, Fastpass+ will open too.  And it’s been widely speculated–and as much as admitted on a recent earnings call–that Walt Disney World resort hotel guests will get something better than everyone else out of Fastpass+–though no one on the outside can say for sure what that’ll be.

So I put these together and say that Disney resort hotel guests will get something special, and that that–combined with the improving economy–suggests limited discounts in 2014.  We saw no free dining in 2013 until September–and based on what I’ve laid out so far, that’s my bet for 2014 too.

But…Disney does not act in a vacuum.  And Universal Orlando has a couple of big openings in 2014 as well.  Harry Potter will expand into Universal Studios, and Universal will be opening its first lower-priced hotel, Cabana Bay Beach Resort, in stages beginning early in the year.

So what does this mean?  Well, honestly, I’m still thinking about it.  The timing of everything mentioned is a key variable, and I don’t have confidence in any opening dates.   I guess the best I can forecast right now is lesser discounts (especially less free dining) from Disney in early 2014 compared to late 2013 unless and until Universal starts making an impact on Disney bookings…

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1 jen { 08.05.13 at 8:03 am }

So what do you think the discounts will be. We are going the week of MLK and staying onsite.

2 Dave { 08.06.13 at 7:47 am }

Jen I don’t really have enough info to do more than guess right now…I’d expect them to be somewhat like the current room rate deal discounts (details of that here:

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3 Tammy { 08.05.13 at 9:07 am }

Hi Dave. Thanks for all the information, what a great site for planners like me who are new to Disney. My family is planning be at Disney Feb 4-11. What do you think of this week? We know there will likely be some ride closures but we are trying to avoid heat and crowds. Do you agree with the speculation that the promo for that time will be Stay Play and Dine? And do you know how to calculate that discount? I am reading conflicting things. Thanks again!

4 Dave { 08.06.13 at 7:54 am }

Hi Tammy and thanks!

Other than the possible ride closures you note, I expect that to be a great week!!

I think that since apparently there are pin codes out for both Stay Play and Dine and Room-only deals, one or both of them may be offered.

I don’t track Stay Play Dine that closely, but I think the way it works is that everyone pays the kids prices for dining and tickets. This saves per person 10 and above about $40 per night compared to buying the dining plan for cash. There’s not so big a difference in tickets, and of course it varies by the length of your ticket. Prices are here, so you can match to your ticket days and subtract:

Hope this helps…

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5 Caralee { 08.05.13 at 10:01 am }

Hi! Just to clarify, did you just receive this survey from booking under the last promotional period (not the current one)? Just wondering if others who did book then could be receiving the same survey just prior to their trip?? Thanks again for all the great info!

6 Dave { 08.06.13 at 7:56 am }

Hi Caralee, this survey was aimed at reservations made two promotional periods ago–this one:

7 Tom { 08.05.13 at 10:19 am }

Interesting data you’re providing Dave, as usual!
this could imply Disney is trying to keep a track on consumer’s behaviors towards discounts in a way to offer them to the customer that really needs them.
I do hope that on my next trip i do get a bonus for staying on property!

8 Dave { 08.06.13 at 8:01 am }

Thanks, Tom! I kinda think the same point from the other direction: Disney wants to offer as few discounts as possible, and only to those who wouldn’t go/wouldn’t stay in one of its hotels without them…

9 Joe Ramsey { 08.06.13 at 12:21 am }

Very interesting time to be a Disney Fan. Lots of variables in play. It will be fun to see how it shakes out in the future. Disney needs to be careful. I am full on Disney fan but Universal is presenting a increasingly attractive product. If I am going to both sets of parks it makes a lot of sense to stay offsite, particularly if Disney isn’t providing an incentive. Hopefully Disney profits enough from the first time visitor, who accept rack rates, but not enough to halt discounts for the savvy.

Thanks as always Dave, your site has become essential reading for columns like this.

10 Dave { 08.06.13 at 8:43 am }

Thanks Joe! It is indeed a very interesting time…

11 Tom { 08.06.13 at 12:56 pm }

Well, i do remember that in 2011 we went in May, coincidental with SW weekend, because there was free dining if arriving on a Friday. And last year we went in February also taking advantage of free dining too… so in our case it worked 🙂

12 Dave { 08.07.13 at 7:44 am }

Yup! Fingers crossed…

13 KEITH { 04.14.14 at 4:48 am }

Hi Dave,
Any update on free dining guesses for 2014?

14 Dave { 04.14.14 at 7:43 am }

Lotsa rumors that September free dining will come out this month–perhaps as soon as the beginning of next week. Also lots of rumors that more free dining is on tap for after September in 2014, but not as part of the April announcement. Here’s hoping!

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