Hoping to ease crowding problems at its theme parks, Walt Disney Co. announced plans Wednesday to launch new mobile apps that will allow parkgoers willing to pay extra to skip the wait for the most popular attractions.
The new apps, dubbed Disney Genie and Genie+, represent Disney’s latest effort to address the parks’ biggest headache — long attraction queues — while adding new ways to generate revenue from visitors who already pay up to $154 per park trip. Both apps will launch this fall at Walt Disney World parks in Orlando and Disneyland parks in California.
“We’ve made significant investments in this new technology, which guides you through our theme parks with tips that can help you reduce time in lines,” the company said.
Industry experts said the new fees may spark grousing from some Disney fans, but charging extra for a better experience is a growing trend in the theme park business.
“It may cost you a little bit more, but there are always people willing to pay for that,” said Dennis Speigel, president of the consulting firm International Theme Park Services. “It’s where the industry is going to be heading in servicing the guests.”
The new apps replace two older systems at Disneyland — the free Fastpass and the Maxpass, which cost $20 per day — that let parkgoers reserve a time slot for an attraction to avoid the traditional queues and instead zip into an expedited Fastpass lane.
There are three components to the new system: Disney Genie is a free app that recommends a visit itinerary based on the attractions, shows and eateries chosen by users at the start of the day. Disney Genie+ is a similar app that costs $20 per day. In addition to creating an itinerary, parkgoers can make reservations to get on a ride at a specific time, skipping the traditional queues, much the way visitors used Fastpass or the Maxpass.
Guests who make a reservation on the app get access to a new “lightning lane.” Disney World will include more than 40 attractions with lightning lanes. Users can only make one reservation at a time.
The most popular attractions, such as the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at Magic Kingdom, won’t be offered for reservation times on Genie+. Instead, park visitors who want to skip the lines for those attractions will have to pay a separate fee through the Genie app that will vary based on the date, the attraction and the park.
Disney representatives said they will offer more details “closer to launch.” The Genie+ app will automatically collect the fees from a credit or debit card account connected to the app. To use the app, parkgoers won’t be required to connect to the resort’s Wi-Fi network, but Disney officials say it will improve performance.
During the 2019 fan gathering known as the D23 Expo, Disney officials introduced Disney Genie, promoting it as an app that allows park visitors to customize their visit itineraries by giving them real-time tips and updates. The app was scheduled to be launched in late 2020, a debut likely delayed by the pandemic.
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The parks will continue to offer the traditional standby lines and the virtual queuing system.
— Hugo Martín, Los Angeles Times (TNS)