July 24, 2024

Genie+ Price Plummets Post-Peak of Spring Break at Disney World

Genie+ reached a new record high price at Walt Disney World during the weeks around Easter 2023, before plummeting post-peak of spring break. This post covers when the paid FastPass service sold out (and didn’t!), crowds, Lightning Lane availability, and our commentary about this pricing structure and what it could mean going forward. (Updated April 15, 2023.)

For starters, let’s talk crowds. That the week leading of Easter was busy should come as little surprise. Our Spring Break 2023 Crowd Calendar for Walt Disney World predicted that this past week would be the second-worst of spring break. As discussed in our most recent report on wait times and crowds in the parks, that likely will be wrong–because we’re now expecting Easter week to be worse.

During the peak of the Easter holiday at Walt Disney World, crowd levels hit 10/10 with an average wait time at Walt Disney World of 59-61 minutes. That may not seem bad if you’re thinking about headliners, but it’s the average–factoring in perpetual low waits for films and walkthroughs with thrill rides. We’ll be back with a full post mortem crowd report on spring break, but it was more or less as expected.

April 15, 2023 Update: The Genie+ service was first priced at $35 on April 4. Between then and April 6, Genie+ sold out–that’s three consecutive days. On all three of those days, the service sold out at or around 10 am. For those keeping score at home, April 6 was a new record for the earliest Genie+ has ever sold out, going unavailable at around 9:45 am.

Previously, our expectation was that prices would drop over the weekend of Easter. As we noted back when originally published this, during previous weeks of spring break, wait times peaked between Monday and Wednesday, with Thursday plateauing and Friday starting the downward trend before significant drops Saturday afternoon and throughout Sunday. Genie+ has tended to follow suit, with lower prices Friday through Sunday (which is essentially the opposite of how the service had been priced last Christmas season).

However, that did not happen. Genie+ has not sold out since April 6, but wait times have declined significantly. As predicated, the Saturday and Sunday of Easter weekend were significantly less busy than the heart of the week leading up to the holiday. Despite that, the price of Genie+ held at $35. That continued throughout the most recent week, which was still technically part of the spring break season, but is post-peak.

Finally, the price of Genie+ has plummeted today and is now back down at “only” $25 per person. This amounts to a drop of $10 overnight, which is the largest decrease we’ve ever seen for the Genie+ service–another new record! (Although this “record” feels like one about which no one will care.) It’s also still $10 higher than the paid FastPass service was at this time last year, and $25 higher than FastPass+ cost ($0).

From our perspective, the more interesting angle of this news is the fact that Genie+ prices did not drop last week. Based on crowd levels and past pricing precedent, Genie+ should’ve been reduced to the $22 to $29 range last weekend and throughout the past week, with most dates at $25 or $29. What we’re seeing today is really just a delayed reduction of what should’ve occurred gradually (and did as other busy weeks wound down.)

Again, that was post-peak of spring break, which is relatively common knowledge–including internally at Walt Disney World, as reflected in pretty much all other pricing schemes. So it’s not like their forecasts were predicting attendance and they got caught by surprise when crowds were lower. (And even if they did at first, they could’ve reduced the price of Genie+ by mid-week.)

There are a few possibilities as to why Walt Disney World maintained the $35 price point for the last week. One possibility is that the company has found the “sweet spot” for pricing during popular tourist seasons, and it’s $35. Another is that price points have been “reset” and $35 is now the baseline for busier days, with the number only going higher when we enter the next big holiday season. (Thankfully, no week as busy as Easter should arrive until October or November.)

A final possibility is that, after 3 huge days when Genie+ sold out so quickly, Walt Disney World decided to “set it and forget it” until the end of spring break season. That technically happens on April 17, but with the weird weekend fall off we’ve been observing thus far in 2023, the price was instead (appropriately) lowered today instead. The fact that the price dropped down to $25 rather than ‘stair-stepping’ down to $29 first is itself slightly reassuring (although given anticipated crowd levels the next two days, $22 would be more keeping with pre-April 2023 precedent).

Regardless, it’ll be interesting to watch Genie+ pricing play out over summer and into the holiday season. If crowd levels on April 9 or 13 justified $35 pricing for Genie+ (and that wasn’t just a ‘set it and forget it’ oversight), there are going to be a lot of $35 days this summer. More importantly for fans of the Halloween and Christmas season, it’s possible–if not probable–that there are days when Genie+ hits $50 in October through December.

Anyway, what follows is our original commentary about Genie+ pricing, availability, and so forth at Walt Disney World…

I bought and tested Genie+ one day that it sold out and others when it (presumably) came close during spring break, and it was a mix of good and bad. On a positive note, Lightning Lane availability was much better than I had expected–or experienced on past peak dates.

However, Genie+ did not work better at EPCOT or Disney’s Hollywood Studios than conventional strategy. On top of that, the return lines for Lightning Lanes were longer than normal (discussed at length in What Went Wrong During Spring Break at Disney World) and I ended up spending significantly more on Genie+ than the last time I did a week of testing. For me, the negatives outweighed the positives–except at Magic Kingdom (as usual).

When it comes to commentary, the short and simple of it is that there’s a certain amount of price inelasticity when it comes to paid line-skipping. Most guests who don’t balk at the $29 price point also are unlikely to be dissuaded from buying the service when it’s priced at $35.

With that said, we’re now getting to the point where that may no longer be true for many guests. It wasn’t that long ago that Walt Disney World switched to date-based pricing for the Genie+ service; prior to that, every day was priced at $15 plus tax. Many of the people traveling today likely planned their trips back then, budgeting for the old price.

That means the $35 price amounts to an increase of over $20 (post-tax) per person. For a family of 4, that’s a difference of more than $80 per day. That could be a significant added expense in the grand scheme of things, especially since the Genie+ price increase did not occur in a vacuum–everything else increased, too.

However, it is still not a major cost when compared to the cost of a Walt Disney World vacation as a whole, which has been precisely my concern with the company incrementally increasing prices like this, in search of a ceiling. I’m not sure they’re going to find one anytime soon, and worry about where it could eventually end up.

In a nutshell, my position is that demand for Genie+ is relatively inelastic with incrementally higher prices for the line-skipping service. This is because Genie+ is still a relatively minor cost in the grand scheme of the price of a Walt Disney World vacation.

Think about it this way: if you spent $8,000 for your family to visit Walt Disney World and were willing to pay peak season room rates for hotels and tickets, are you going to balk at paying a few dollars extra to avoid long lines and crowds? Or are you going to spend ~$80 more for your family to have Genie+ and “ensure” your experience is good and that $8,000 wasn’t wasted?

Worse wait times creates a higher incentive for bypassing lines, meaning higher uptake of Genie+ even when it costs more. Demand for beating crowds increases as crowds increase, and as such, Genie+ will always be a relatively small price to pay in the grand scheme of things.

Complain as they might, most people will reluctantly fork over the extra money rather than risk a bad trip. They’ve already spent so much–what’s another “few dollars” on top of a multi-thousand dollar trip if it’ll offer a competitive advantage?! (Another way to think of Genie+ is like an insurance policy–it’s not cheap, but $80 is a small price for peace of mind to safeguard the value of that $8,000 vacation.)

In various ways, we’ve seen all of this play out for years with date-based pricing on everything else at Walt Disney World. Whether it be for park tickets, resorts, or the Genie+ service, date-based pricing is an effective way for the company to accomplish its desired optimizations at Walt Disney World. There are certain times of year that experience higher demand for a number of reasons–school schedules, seasonal events, weather, etc.

Charging incrementally higher prices for these times of year allows Walt Disney World to capitalize on and profit from that inherently higher demand. That’s the goal–not preserving the guest experience or whatever the talking point might be. Increasing prices on that quasi-captive audience is simply savvy business or opportunism, depending upon your perspective. I could go on and on. This already isn’t exactly an “in a nutshell” explanation as promised, so I’ll cut it short. (Sorry, it’s a sore subject for me and I let myself get carried away.)

The alternative to continually incrementally increasing prices in search of a ceiling is determining a fair price that balances demand with guest satisfaction, and letting Genie+ sell out at that level. Due to the aforementioned price inelasticity, who knows what the limit is for Genie+ during peak season.

When it moved to date-based pricing, I was inclined to believe $25 would be the magic number. As I sit here today, I truly wonder how much sales would even slow down at $40 or $50. People are willing to throw a lot of money at making problems on vacation go away; long lines and high wait times are the ultimate problem at Walt Disney World.

The problem with that line of thinking is that it also comes with higher expectations. I still remember the first two months after Genie+ first launched up until the week of Thanksgiving; it worked amazingly well and was priced at $15 per person after tax. Even then, diehard fans were understandably upset at going from free FastPass+ to paid line-skipping.

Today, Genie+ is more than double that price, and most average tourists will score fewer worthwhile Lightning Lanes. But at the same time, their expectations for a $35 per person expense will be significantly higher. This isn’t idle speculation; we’ve seen exactly this happen as costs have increased all around Walt Disney World. Guests didn’t magically become more entitled, stressed out, etc–it was all a direct result of higher prices and rising expectations resulting therefrom.

With this comes greater tensions among everyone (guests and Cast Members; guests and other guests), which negatively impacts the overall mood. (Not to go on too much of a tangent, but this is one of the great things about Disneyland–everything is much more laid back and lower stakes, and the energy is obviously different and better as a result.)

Unsurprisingly, that also impacts guest satisfaction scores and intent to return metrics. Since his return, Bob Iger has taken a keen interest in this, already empowering leaders at Walt Disney World and Disneyland to make changes and roll back previously-made and unpopular decisions. Genie+ pricing would seem to fit squarely within that initiative.

Ultimately, there’s no easy fix to this issue for Walt Disney World. No perfect solution exists that balances supply and demand and keeps everyone happy (both those who purchase Genie+ and those who opt against it). There’s also the company’s obvious and understandable short-term “desire” to maximize revenue and profits, which is precisely how it ended up on the current path–going from free FastPass to Genie+ costing $35 per person per day (plus tax).

It will be interesting to see whether Genie+ increasing by $6 overnight–and costing over $20 more than it did during these same dates last year–moves the needle on demand, sales, or anything else in a meaningful way. Personally, I’m skeptical. I think Genie+ will still sell out today, and be priced at $35 again tomorrow. (If history is any indication, it’ll drop on Friday or Saturday.)

If a family visiting this week spent $10,000 on the trip as a whole, I don’t think ~$85 extra is going to be the balking point for many of them. Now, what could happen is that those visiting any park that is not Magic Kingdom today end up feeling like Genie+ was a waste of money, and opt against purchasing it tomorrow or Thursday. (Again, if history is any indication, it won’t sell out later this week.)

But who knows. Maybe that added cost finally will be what results in enough families hitting their breaking point, and perhaps $35 will end up being the equilibrium price of sorts for Genie+ at Walt Disney World. My foolish hope is that it’ll be rejected outright at $35, and Disney won’t broach the $30 mark again. Given what we’ve seen thus far with Genie+ pricing, that feels like wishful thinking (if not fully delusional). I can hold out hope, though!

Long-term, the solution to all of this is building more attractions. Queueing is a zero-sum game. No approach to lines–not all standby, not paper FastPass, FastPass+ or Genie–changes capacity. The only meaningful way to alter the equation is by actually increasing capacity. That’s done by adding entertainment, attractions, or extending operating hours. Everything else is a matter of rearranging the deck chairs, and having different guests or demographics come out ahead or behind.

Here’s hoping that Bob Iger actually is serious about wanting to build big park expansions at Walt Disney World and Disneyland–and ones that have more than just a single E-Ticket and upcharge offerings. At the end of the day, capacity-adding additions are precisely what’s needed at Walt Disney World. Some fans salivate at the (fictional) prospect of a 5th gate, but what’s really needed is building out the existing parks so they don’t have this type of issue in the first place. (Despite significantly higher attendance, there’s a reason this isn’t as big of a problem at Magic Kingdom as the other 3 parks!)

If you have questions about the basics of using–or not using–the paid FastPass service, see our Guide to Genie+ at Walt Disney World & Lightning Lane FAQ for all of the foundational need-to-know info. This whole system is confusing and convoluted, so you might have a question or two-dozen. That answers all of the most common ones we’ve been receiving from readers.

Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!

YOUR THOUGHTS

What do you think of Genie+ selling out at Walt Disney World today despite hitting a new record high price of $35? Disappointed that it’s happening, or do you see the upside from a lowered demand perspective? Thoughts on our perspective that demand for Genie+ will continue to be highest on the busiest/most expensive days? Any other considerations we failed to take into account or details we missed/got wrong? Will you purchase Genie+ or is $35+ after tax per day too expensive for you? Do you agree or disagree with my assessment? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!

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