Disneyland to launch Genie apps with new fees to avoid long lines

To reduce overcrowding, Disney is rolling out a new app program in its parks. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Hoping to alleviate the overcrowding problem at its theme parks, Walt Disney Co. on Wednesday announced plans to launch new mobile apps that will allow park goers willing to pay extra to avoid the wait for most popular attractions.

The new apps, dubbed Disney Genie and Genie +, represent Disney’s latest effort to solve the parks’ biggest puzzle – long lines for attractions – while adding new ways to generate income from people. visitors who already pay up to $ 154 per trip to the park. Both apps will launch this fall at Disneyland, California Adventure Park, and Walt Disney World Parks in Orlando, Florida.

“We’ve made significant investments in this new technology, which guides you through our theme parks with tips that can help you reduce wait times,” the company said in a backgrounder.

Industry experts have said the new fees may elicit grumbling from some Disney fans, but charging extra for a better experience is a growing trend in the theme park industry.

“It may cost you a little more, but there are always people willing to pay for it,” said Dennis Speigel, president of consulting firm International Theme Park Services. “This is where the industry is going to be heading to serve the guests.”

The new apps replace two old systems at Disneyland – the Free Fastpass and the Maxpass, which cost $ 20 per day – that allow park visitors to reserve a time slot for an attraction to avoid traditional queues and to instead of sneaking into an accelerated Fastpass lane.

The new system consists of three elements:

  • Disney Genie is a free application that offers a tour route based on the attractions, shows and restaurants 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, park visitors can make reservations to take a ride at a specific time, skipping traditional queues, much like visitors used the Fastpass or Maxpass, today at retirement. Customers who make a reservation on the app have access to a new “lightning lane”. Disneyland will operate more than 15 attractions with light lanes, and the Walt Disney World Resort will include more than 40 attractions with light lanes. Users can only make one reservation at a time.

  • Popular attractions, such as Radiator Springs Racers at Disney California Adventure and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train Park at Magic Kingdom Park, will not be offered for booking times on Genie +. Instead, park visitors who wish to skip the lines for these attractions will have to pay a separate fee through the Genie app which will vary based on date, attraction, and park. Disney representatives said they would offer more details “as the launch approaches.”

The Genie + app will automatically collect charges from a credit or debit card account connected to the app. To use the app, park visitors won’t be required to connect to the resort’s Wi-Fi network, but Disney officials say this will improve app performance.

At the 2019 fan rally known as D23 Expo, Disney officials showcased the Disney Genie, promoting it as an app that allows park visitors to customize their tour routes by giving them tips and updates. up to date in real time. The app was due to launch in late 2020, a start likely delayed by the closure of Disneyland and California Adventure Park for more than a year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The parks will continue to offer the traditional waiting lines and virtual queuing system used in attractions such as Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance at Disneyland’s Galaxy’s Edge.

Earlier this month, the Disneyland Resort announced another effort to manage crowds by revamping its 37-year-old annual pass program, which was canceled in January.

Instead of annual passes that allow holders to visit as often as they like – with the exception of certain blackout days – Disney plans to launch a program this month called Magic Key that will require visitors to make reservations before going to the parks. The new pass program will continue to restrict access on many of the busiest days. Sales begin Wednesday.

By requiring reservations, the Magic Key program allows Disney to manage the number of park visitors who visit Disneyland and California Adventure Park each day, making it easier to get crowded on high demand days such as weekends and days. holidays. The price of the new annual pass program ranges from $ 399 for residents of Southern California to $ 1,399 for the pass without blackout dates.

Industry experts say the old annual pass program allowed too many local visitors to enter the parks, discouraging international and overseas visitors who tend to spend more per visit.

Disneyland’s original Fastpass system was introduced in 1999 to give park visitors a way to avoid long lines. Guests grabbed paper tickets handed out at kiosks and showed them they had to drive operators within a specified time slot to jump into shorter Fastpass lines.

In 2017, Disney released a digital version of the system, called Maxpass. It worked from the park’s smartphone app, but unlike the free Fastpass reservation system, the digital Maxpass cost $ 20 per day and included unlimited downloads of photos taken by park photographers.

The advantage of the Maxpass was that park visitors did not have to queue at a Fastpass kiosk to collect a reservation ticket. The Maxpass app could be used to book travel times as soon as guests entered the park.

This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

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