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Is Disneyland becoming a LESS popular attraction for non-locals?

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  • Is Disneyland becoming a LESS popular attraction for non-locals?

    I'd like to take the AP vs. non-AP monetary debate out of the discussion for a minute. Rather than go around in circles again about who spends however much money, let's just talk about the raw number of warm bodies passing through the gates.

    I think there's case to be made that Disneyland has faded in the last 20 years as a true national or international destination and its growth in "popularity" as measured by attendance is actually decreasing outside of California. I'm not 100% sold on this yet, but I'm leaning more in that direction the more I try to study it. There are some anecdotal data points (mostly unofficial) that seem to back it up, and I'll try to summarize them in this post.

    Anecdotal Data Point 1: The total number of APs is around one million based on legit media estimates and our best "rumor" sources. MiceAge quoted 990,000 in an update four years ago.

    Anecdotal Data Point 2: Disney's PR hack stated that passholders visit the park an average of 10 times per year in an interview earlier this year.

    Anecdotal Data Point 3: From the same February interview, the number of passholders has quadrupled in the last 20 years.

    Anecdotal Data Point 4: Disneyland annual attendance estimates published by TEA. Probably the best unofficial estimates available. They can be concisely viewed on Wikipedia.

    Taking all that and doing a bit of math...

    DLR's total 2017 attendance was estimated at 18.3 million by TEA. A million APs visiting 10 times per year, means we can assume that 10 million of the 18.3 million visitors were APs, and 8.3 million were not.

    Going back to 1997, total Disneyland attendance was estimated at 14.2 million. If the PR hack's info was legit, we can guess there were 250,000 APs around at that time. Assuming APs in 1997 visited the park roughly as often as they do today, that equates to 2.5 million total AP visits, and 11.7 million non-AP visits.

    Assuming the vast majority of APs live locally, and figuring that even a lot of the ticketed guests from both 1997 and 2017 are locals, there's not a lot of growth that can be pinned outside Southern California in those numbers. In fact, considering the population growth of the US since 1997, the relative number of non-Californians visiting Disneyland has most likely shrunk in the last 20 years.

    On a personal note, I grew up in the western United States, and now live in the central time zone. Disneyland is far off the radar here unless I'm talking to another western transplant. WDW is popular enough, but I can probably count on one hand the number of people I personally know that are Disneyland fans, but have no other personal connection to DLR's general geographic footprint.
    Last edited by longbeachaztec; 06-13-2018, 08:33 AM.

  • #2
    Originally posted by longbeachaztec View Post
    I'd like to take the AP vs. non-AP monetary debate out of the discussion for a minute. Rather than go around in circles again about who spends however much money, let's just talk about the raw number of warm bodies passing through the gates.

    I think there's case to be made that Disneyland has faded in the last 20 years as a true national or international destination and its growth in "popularity" as measured by attendance is actually decreasing outside of California. I'm not 100% sold on this yet, but I'm leaning more in that direction the more I try to study it. There are some anecdotal data points (mostly unofficial) that seem to back it up, and I'll try to summarize them in this post.

    Anecdotal Data Point 1: The total number of APs is around one million based on legit media estimates and our best "rumor" sources. MiceAge quoted 990,000 in an update four years ago.

    Anecdotal Data Point 2: Disney's PR hack stated that passholders visit the park an average of 10 times per year in an interview earlier this year.

    Anecdotal Data Point 3: From the same February interview, the number of passholders has quadrupled in the last 20 years.

    Anecdotal Data Point 4: Disneyland annual attendance estimates published by TEA. Probably the best unofficial estimates available. They can be concisely viewed on Wikipedia.

    Taking all that and doing a bit of math...

    DLR's total 2017 attendance was estimated at 18.3 million by TEA. A million APs visiting 10 times per year, means we can assume that 10 million of the 18.3 million visitors were APs, and 8.3 million were not.

    Going back to 1997, total Disneyland attendance was estimated at 14.2 million. If the PR hack's info was legit, we can guess there were 250,000 APs around at that time. Assuming APs in 1997 visited the park roughly as often as they do today, that equates to 2.5 million total AP visits, and 11.7 million non-AP visits.

    Assuming the vast majority of APs live locally, and figuring that even a lot of the ticketed guests from both 1997 and 2017 are locals, there's not a lot of growth that can be pinned outside Southern California in those numbers. In fact, considering the population growth of the US since 1997, the relative number of non-Californians visiting Disneyland has most likely shrunk in the last 20 years.

    On a personal note, I grew up in the western United States, and now live in the central time zone. Disneyland is far off the radar here unless I'm talking to another western transplant. WDW is popular enough, but I can probably count on one hand the number of people I personally know that are Disneyland fans, but have no other personal connection to DLR's general geographic footprint.
    So much has changed though that I don't think this is necessarily very apples-to-apples. The first time I visited Disneyland in the mid-90's, the ticketing worked quite a bit differently. I'm not sure what APs were offered at the time, but I remember a significant single-day discount being given to SoCal residents, which I wasn't eligible for. I'm guessing this substantially decreased the number of SoCal residents who saw an AP as a good value.

    In other words, I'm guessing APs comprise a much bigger share of the local visits than it used to. I'd guess many more locals used to simply buy (discounted) day passes like tourists did.

    My off-the-cuff impression is that DLR is much more of a tourist attraction than it used to be. And I believe the hotel boom around the resort mostly serves as exhibit A.

    Comment


    • #3
      I suspect the same, that domestic and international visitors to Disneyland have been in decline for some time. There are a couple additional anecdotal avenues of reasearch to look into as well:

      Declines in visits from asian destinations, due to the rising popularity of parks in Japan, Hong Kong and Shanghai. Asian tourism had started to increase again around 2016 after a few rough years, due to the strong Chinese economy. That may be trending back down now.

      Disneyland started to move some of their major marketing from the western US to Mexico, in an attempt to generate more international visits from south of the border. This was about the same time they started to add more traditionally Mexican offerings such as Viva Navidad/Three Kings celebrations and Dia de los meurtos.

      The counter to this though has been the recent hotel construction boom. The piece I haven't been able to nail down is whether the total number of hotel rooms in 2016 is actually more or less than what was in Anaheim in 1996. We have seen a lot of older motel style lodging (which typically had more rooms) be destroyed for DCA starting in 1996, and/or eventually replaced for family style suites which generate more revenue. That might mean that hotel capacity hasn't actually increased over the two decades since resort expansion started.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Beavis View Post

        My off-the-cuff impression is that DLR is much more of a tourist attraction than it used to be. And I believe the hotel boom around the resort mostly serves as exhibit A.
        Has the total number of hotel rooms in the area substantially increased?

        Or has Disney just built more of their own to try and steal back market share?

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by longbeachaztec View Post

          Has the total number of hotel rooms in the area substantially increased?

          Or has Disney just built more of their own to try and steal back market share?
          I don't think Disney has substantially increased capacity (since GC) But everyone else in the area has.

          Comment


          • #6
            https://www.ocregister.com/2017/03/1...s-resort-area/

            In the past four years, 18 hotels have opened – including five last year – in the 1,100-acre resort area. One existing hotel is expanding. Four more are slated that would be considered four-diamond, luxury properties.

            The 75 or so hotels in the resort district generated $163 million in revenue for the city, of which $70 million went straight to the city’s general fund.

            The hotel demand is being fed by a record number of people visiting Anaheim – home of Disneyland, the largest convention center on the west coast, the Angels and the Anaheim Ducks. A preliminary report by Visit Anaheim, the city’s tourism marketing arm, reported more than 23 million visitors visited Anaheim last year. It was the fourth year in a row, the city recorded growth.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by longbeachaztec View Post

              Has the total number of hotel rooms in the area substantially increased?

              Or has Disney just built more of their own to try and steal back market share?
              The number of Hotel Rooms is still increasing, and I found some interesting stats from the Anaheim Visitors bureau.

              https://meetings.visitanaheim.org/up...otel-stats.pdf

              That shows that as of August 2017 Anaheim has 21,455 Hotel Rooms(about 20K within the "resort district"). There are another few thousand rooms projected to be added over the next few years, only 700 of those were the new Disney Hotel, which is just a small fraction of the current construction. They may take back some, but it doesn't look like it would be significant.

              Comment


              • #8
                I agree that DL isn't as much of a national/international destination as it used to be. I think that since EPCOT opened and WDW really started expanding that Disney fans world wide saw WDW as the better vacation option. There is more to see and do as well as its easier to have an all inclusive vacation at WDW. Therefore DL suffers with national and international guests . I also think that younger generations don't feel as connected to the Walt factor as us older folks do. I know every time I enter DL I can't help but see and feel Walt's presence. It makes each visit special to know he not only created the park but walked in it for years. So I think this is all part of the decline in non-APs.

                I think Disney saw this years ago when they started offering SoCal deals on daily and multi-day tickets as well as SoCal specific APs. Of course they couldn't see the future and the crowds of SoCal locals that would take advantage of these offers. Now, they have the balancing act of trying to keep crowds at reasonable levels while still preventing the "offseason" where I would expect that they loose more money than they bring in.

                Further, I think we need to classify APs for any AP argument. There are local APs meaning people living within a 30 minute drive to DLR. Then there are SoCal APs meaning SoCal AP holders living 1-3 hours away. That radius is just a guesstimate by the way. Then there are the rest of the APs. The ones that live several hours away that have to make a multi-day trip to visit the parks. The distance people have to travel to get there also plays a part on how often they go.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Mr. P View Post
                  I agree that DL isn't as much of a national/international destination as it used to be. I think that since EPCOT opened and WDW really started expanding that Disney fans world wide saw WDW as the better vacation option. There is more to see and do as well as its easier to have an all inclusive vacation at WDW. Therefore DL suffers with national and international guests . I also think that younger generations don't feel as connected to the Walt factor as us older folks do. I know every time I enter DL I can't help but see and feel Walt's presence. It makes each visit special to know he not only created the park but walked in it for years. So I think this is all part of the decline in non-APs.
                  Well, I think there are two phases here. Sure, Disneyland lost a ton of tourist traction when Disney World took over as the prime tourist spot. But since the late 90's early 2000's, its growth as a tourist destination again itself has been significant.

                  But if we take OP's reference point of 1997 as the point of comparison, I think it's pretty clear that non-local tourism has increased substantially.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I disagree, I live in Wisconsin and travel a lot. Growing up I only heard about WDW and only saw WDW souvenirs/clothes that has all changed since Cars Land opened. Prior to that if DL was talked about it was referred to as the “smaller older Disney park” not worth your time. I think the 50th campaign started to push DL more to the forefront and the Cars Land ad blitz finally got people going west. You now see tons of DL merchandise and people debate which one to go to. Here’s what I tell people:

                    DL pros:
                    -It’s cheaper (don’t have to stay onsite, don’t have to stay as long)
                    -Way better for smaller kids as it is smaller and it doesn’t involve a 30-60 min commute to get back to the hotel (particularly if said child is a Cars fan)
                    - Disneyland Park is superior to the Magic Kingdom and in general the California versions of copied attractions are better
                    -You don’t need to plan the trip months in advance
                    -Weather is better

                    WDW pros:
                    - It’s a better resort with the “bubble effect” if you stay on property
                    - It has far better sit down restaurants, provided you get reservations
                    -I miss not having Epcot or Animal Kingdom when I’m at DL
                    -Fireworks go off every night and rarely canceled also Happily Ever After is superior to any DL firework show currently. There is also more night shows in Orlando currently

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Is attendance based on how many "tickets" and APs are sold, or how often they are used? For example, let's say one person buys a 5-day ticket. Are they basing the Disneyland attendance on just the one person, or on each of his 5 visits? Furthermore, if he starts the day at DL, park-hops to DCA, then comes back to DL, does that count as one visit or two? It would make sense that since the ticket is linked to their system, even though they come and go twice, it's still one visit.

                      FWIW, the Unofficial Guides say that about 2/3 of Disneyland's guests are locals. Doesn't say whether they're AP holders or not.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by HiddenMickey87 View Post
                        Is attendance based on how many "tickets" and APs are sold, or how often they are used? For example, let's say one person buys a 5-day ticket. Are they basing the Disneyland attendance on just the one person, or on each of his 5 visits? Furthermore, if he starts the day at DL, park-hops to DCA, then comes back to DL, does that count as one visit or two? It would make sense that since the ticket is linked to their system, even though they come and go twice, it's still one visit.

                        FWIW, the Unofficial Guides say that about 2/3 of Disneyland's guests are locals. Doesn't say whether they're AP holders or not.
                        My understanding is that the attendance estimates try to measure bodies through the gates. The same person showing up 10 different days is counted 10 times.

                        I don't know how TEA estimates park-hopping. Supposedly Disney doesn't figure park-hopping into their internal numbers, but I'm not sure how third parties calculate their estimates.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Beavis View Post
                          But if we take OP's reference point of 1997 as the point of comparison, I think it's pretty clear that non-local tourism has increased substantially.
                          I wonder if it's a case where it has increased in raw numbers, but decreased relative to overall population and overall attendance. When Eisner gave the green light for a second gate, I really don't think the shareholders envisioned 60% or more of guests would be locals 20 years later. But that seems to be where we are.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by longbeachaztec View Post

                            I wonder if it's a case where it has increased in raw numbers, but decreased relative to overall population and overall attendance. When Eisner gave the green light for a second gate, I really don't think the shareholders envisioned 60% or more of guests would be locals 20 years later. But that seems to be where we are.
                            LIke I was saying earlier, I think a lot of them were always locals. They just switched from (discounted) day-passes to APs.as Disney incentivized APs.and got rid of the ticket discount.

                            So the percentage of AP admissions is probably bigger, but that doesn't equate to the percentage of 'locals' being bigger.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              This is relatedly funny and/or depressing from around that time...

                              http://articles.latimes.com/1996-02-...mission-prices

                              Last month, the park boosted its adult single-day entry fee to $34. That's up $1, or 3%, over the 1995 entry price. Disney is also squeezing the kids for an extra buck this year, bumping their admission to $26. It's Disney's sixth gate increase of the 1990s, and it brings the tab for admission and parking for a family of four to a not-so-whimsical $126.
                              However, promotions such as Disneyland's current $24 "Southern California Residents Salute," hatched in the depths of the Orange County recession, continue to grant reduced admission prices for guests who can prove they are locals. Theme park owners may find it tough to discontinue gate discounts to local consumers, said leisure industry watcher Mike Meyer.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Mr P observation .....younger generations don't feel as connected to the Walt factor......is right on.....but this not only applies to Disneyland, it also applies to Major League Baseball and purchasing snowbird retirement homes, my wife has been on her son constantly to come down from the rising costs of Oregon and to Arizona and purchase ready to move in, cheap property in the southwest corner, away from Phoenix.. But it is not in his tradition to visit Disneyland (however they are frequent cruise ship guests), to watch a major league sport of any type ( they watch live Timber soccer occasionally ) or to have retirement property, like his grandparents had, his mother has now and he could purchase now.....but being a snowbird at retirement is as a foreign as visiting Disneyland.

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                                • #17
                                  I think traveling to theme parks in general has dropped a bit all over the country. due to rising costs and the lack of excitement of theme park attractions to many children who have grown up with VR etc. I know my kids are far harder to impress then my wife and I where at there age and the rides have not really advanced enough to out pace that curve.

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                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by Beavis View Post

                                    LIke I was saying earlier, I think a lot of them were always locals. They just switched from (discounted) day-passes to APs.as Disney incentivized APs.and got rid of the ticket discount.
                                    That has to be a major part of it, I agree. There's no way the AP population could increase 400% in two decades without majorly cannibalizing the ticketed guest population. Even taking that into consideration, I just don't see enough room in the estimates to account for a huge surge in non-local visitors.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by longbeachaztec View Post

                                      That has to be a major part of it, I agree. There's no way the AP population could increase 400% in two decades without majorly cannibalizing the ticketed guest population. Even taking that into consideration, I just don't see enough room in the estimates to account for a huge surge in non-local visitors.
                                      The other major factor I see is, while your attendance says 18 million for DLR, that must only be for Disneyland proper. Counting DCA, attendance for both combined has been reported as close to 28 million.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by Beavis View Post

                                        The other major factor I see is, while your attendance says 18 million for DLR, that must only be for Disneyland proper. Counting DCA, attendance for both combined has been reported as close to 28 million.
                                        Yeah, a big missing piece is how many DCA-only visitors there are. I suspect it's not many, but we don't really know.

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