Returned Disney CEO Bob Iger acknowledged that fans had a right to be irked as theme park ticket prices crept higher under the previous regime and said it wasn’t the best way to manage the brand.
“I always believed that Disney was a brand that needs to be accessible,” he told a Morgan Stanley media conference Thursday. “And I think that in our zeal to grow profits, we may have been a little bit too aggressive about some of our pricing. And I think there is a way to continue to grow our business but be smarter about how we price so that we maintain that brand value of accessibility.”
Iger stepped back into Disney’s corner office in November after former CEO Bob Chapek left in a sudden move that ushered in a wave of changes.
At theme parks, Iger made a move by January, lowering some prices and adding perks at Disneyland and Walt Disney World. That included, at WDE in Orlando, resuming complimentary self-parking at resort hotels, relaxing reservation requirements for annual passholders and offering free photo downloads with Genie+ service. At Disneyland in Anaheim, he expanded park-hopping hours and added more of the lowest-price day trip tickets, as well as the complimentary photos.
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The shifts “have resonated extremely well with consumers, and we will not only continue to listen to consumers, but we will continue to adjust,” Iger said.
He noted the perpetual challenge of trying to improve the guest experience by reducing crowding. Moves to do that can “actually end up increasing the price, or putting features into your pricing that are viewed by consumers as being a little too aggressive.”
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And he hinted at more expansion with “new capacity and new attractions” — including, maybe led by, California — and focusing on Disney IP like the recently announced rollout to Disneyland of another Avatar experience such as the popular Pandora – The World of Avatar at Disney World’s Animal Kingdom.
The parks are a massive business for Disney and have bounced back vigorously from the Covid shutdown, even without a return to normal levels of international visitors. Iger said parks have a history of resilience, citing grim periods during the recession of 2008-09 and the terrorist attacks in 2001.
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