For my thoughts on the re-opening of Walt Disney World, see this.


By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2020, the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever.

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Disney World Summer Crowds in 2022



By Dave Shute

SUMMER CROWDS IN 2022 AT DISNEY WORLD

In 2022 I am predicting higher summer crowds at Walt Disney World than we saw in the last few pre-COVID summers.

I am so predicting for three reasons:

  • I expect next summer to see a travel market stronger than any we have seen for years
  • In a change compared to recent practice, Disney’s current set of annual passes do not have summer blockout dates
  • July through September is in the last quarter of Disney’s fiscal year, so the financial temptation to offer higher capacity in Disney’s new reservation system will be very strong

That said, many signals are mixed, and I may well be wrong. If I am wrong, then crowds will be better than I suggest—moderate or moderate plus rather than high. But I’m OK with this, since between the heat and the hurricane season I don’t particularly recommend going in the summer anyway…

More specifically, I predict for the summer of 2022 at Disney World:

  • Moderate crowds the weeks beginning May 28, June 4, and June 11
  • High crowds the week beginning June 18 through the week beginning July 30
  • Moderate crowds the weeks beginning August 6th and August 13
  • Low crowds from the week beginning August 20 into late September

More details follow.

SCHOOL CALENDARS AND SUMMER CROWDS IN 2022 AT DISNEY WORLD

Disney World crowds used to be pretty easy to predict. All you need was a comprehensive database of school breaks, properly weighted. Times when a lot of (weighted) kids are out of school will be crowded; semester-beginning times much less so.

In the summer of 2022, as they usually do, school breaks begin in a material fashion in May, especially among southern schools east of the Mississippi. Northern schools are more likely to begin their break in June.

In 2022, about 40% of (weighted) kids are out of school by June 1, 75% by June 15, and 90% by June 25.

Early breakers start going back to school in mid-August, and pretty much everyone is back in school by the weekend after Labor Day.

The effect is that everyone is out of school in July, and many fewer are out of school in early June and even fewer in later August. Traditionally, this meant heavy crowds from mid-June through mid-August, with the peak the week during which the Fourth of July holiday was celebrated,* and the highest crowd levels overall of the summer in July.

A few years ago, however, this shifted, with overall crowd levels in the summer dropping, and later June often beating July in weekly crowds.

*If the Fourth is on a weekend, the “official” paid holiday day off at many organizations will be the weekday closest to it—the 3rd if the Fourth is on a Saturday, the 5th if on a Sunday. Because parents get to combine their time off with the holiday, the week it is celebrated thus becomes the “easiest” week to take off during the summer…

ANNUAL PASS BLOCKOUT DATES, THEME PARK RESERVATIONS, AND SUMMER CROWDS IN 2022 AT DISNEY WORLD

In 2017/2018, Disney World changed the structure of its set of Annual Pass offerings. Lower-priced Annual Passes, such as the Silver Pass, changed from having ~45 blocked-out dates per year to ~100 such blocked out days—with the big difference being the summer, when blockout days now included June into early August.

For example, while new Silver Passes are no longer being sold, some previously purchased ones are still valid in the summer of 2022, and they are blocked out from June 1, 2022 through August 3, 2022.

I’ll never be able to prove it, but I am sure that the reduction is summer crowds came from this. Families with children within easy drives who like to go to Disney World a lot will find the lower-priced passes quite attractive (because they have to buy so many to cover the mob), and I believe it was the absence of visits from such families after the change in blockout dates that largely led to the drop in summer crowds…

Most of Disney’s new set of Annual Passes have blockout dates, but none are in the summer other than the Fourth of July. Rather, Disney can manage the total attendance in its parks—including the total attendance of folks with Annual Passes (of any type)—via its new Theme Park Reservation system.

The lower crowds that might be possible through the Theme Park Reservation system holds great promise for increasing guest satisfaction at Walt Disney World, while Disney’s higher prices and paid line-skipping systems may make the profitability side of the equation sufficient to satisfy investors even with lower activity.

But even more tempting, given that Disney’s fourth fiscal quarter of July through September is its last chance to punch up revenues and profitability before annual results get finalized, is opening the floodgates on capacity available July through September to take large numbers of park reservations. This gives Disney a triple revenue advantage–one from more ticket sales, one from higher food/beverage/merchandise sales, and a third from higher sales of its new paid line-bypassing systems, which are more valuable the higher base crowds are.

These days, it’s pretty damn hard for hard for the Walt Disney Company to see a dollar in someone’s pocket without at least trying to grab it. Thus, my prediction is that the combination of high demand next summer and the oncoming end of the fiscal year, in the new absence of summer Annual Pass blockout dates, will yield summer crowds in 2022 higher than we have seen the past couple of years.

TICKET PRICES AND SUMMER CROWDS IN 2022 AT DISNEY WORLD

Disney World moved to ticket prices that vary by the day in 2018. The announced intent was to reduce crowds at higher crowd periods by shifting people to lower crowd periods. Given inelasticity in demand, the secondary effect was to charge people more for the ability to access the parks during popular times.

As a result, ticket prices—especially one day ticket prices—have become a bit of a proxy for a crowd calendar.

The chart shows per-day prices for both one day and four-day ticket prices–four-day prices because, with their seven days of eligible use, they average out weekend effects that can otherwise make periods like May and September hard to interpret.

I begin the chart in April and end it in September so you can see particularly high ticket prices in April and low prices in September for comparison to summer prices.

The takeaway from ticket prices is that they are low to moderate most of the summer before dropping to very low levels in late August—specifically, August 22, my birthday, you are welcome.

The only period that crosses into what I’d consider high prices is July 1 through July 4; another somewhat higher period is July 30 through August 6, and two other periods with prices higher than the rest of the summer—but not so high as the above two weeks–are June 19 through June 30, and July 18 through July 23.

I expect to see another ticket price increase from Disney World well before the summer—probably in February—so am not overinterpreting this data. The best takeaways I can offer right now based solely on ticket prices are

  • Disney is not pricing 2022 summer tickets as though it expects high crowds, except near the Fourth of July
  • Among possible summer dates, relatively higher crowds can be inferred from later June through early August, with the first few days of July the worst.

RESORT HOTEL PRICES AND SUMMER CROWDS IN 2022 AT DISNEY WORLD

There are many people who think that Disney World’s resort hotel price seasons approximate a crowd calendar. This has never been true, and is particularly not true for the deluxes, and to a lesser extent the moderates, which compete not only in the tourism market but also in the conventions and meetings markets—which typically greatly shrink July through mid-October—as meeting planner avoid the worst of summer heat, and the peak of the hurricane season which can play havoc with flights.

Disney value resorts are much less affected by projected convention business, so they can illuminate demand a bit more.

Value resort summer prices are in effect from May 30, 2022 through August 6, 2022. Prices in this period are lower than many holiday and spring break periods earlier in 2022, but in turn are higher than a thing you’ll see the rest of the year except over the Columbus Day weekend, Thanksgiving week and in the second half of December.

This pricing does suggest higher crowds June through early August.

Value resort prices then drop on August 7, and then drop even more August 22.

 

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