Why Disney World Seems So Crowded Right Now
It’s been a long road to recovery for Disney World after it was closed for a short time at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, but that certainly hasn’t slowed vacationers down!
With crowds neck and neck on Main Street, USA, it seems the days of “slow” time at Disney World are over.
But is it really that crowded? And, if so, WHY are so many people flocking to the parks like we’ve never seen before?
What we see at Disney World
So far in 2022, the parks have been filled to the brim with Disney enthusiasts. In fact, even in February (which is typically Disney’s “slower” season), we’ve seen record crowds waiting for long wait times, even for rides that typically only have a 5-to-5 wait. 10 minutes on average.
But, are our perceptions of crowds skewed due to the two-year road we’ve traveled to return to “normal” park capacity since 2020? Well, there are a few things that suggest we’re not overreacting and the parks are really crowded.
For one thing, the Park Pass Reservation calendar has made it super easy to track park attendance. Disney CFO Christine McCarthy recently revealed that they aren’t running at full capacity yet (although they’re getting close to it), but no matter what capacity limit they’re at, fans are filling up. the parks at maximum most of the time.
For example, during the spring break period this year, there was almost always at least one park filled to capacity with some dates fully booked at all four parks.
Additionally, it is increasingly difficult to find availability at Disney World Resort hotels, even with the reopening of all hotels (except All-Star Sports which reopens on March 31)!
We randomly selected travel dates in mid-April 2022 and only FOUR hotels had availability, two of which were luxury hotels.
And, if park pass reservations and hotel availability aren’t enough to convince you that Disney World is seriously crowded right now, it’s also hard to find nearly ANY restaurant reservations — even those. which we could count on as almost always available.
Of course, Disney hasn’t revealed exactly what capacity the parks, hotels and restaurants are currently operating at. But, based on what we’ve seen, we suspect they’re certainly close to pre-pandemic levels.
So what contributes to these seemingly massive crowds? And will things slow down anytime soon?
Pleasure travel has increased overall in the country
Let’s first look at what is currently happening with travel to the United States. For more than 2021, leisure travel was on the fast track to recovery, with Orlando International Airport (MCO) reporting that air travel exceeded pre-pandemic levels for the first time during the Labor Day weekend.
According to the Wall Street Journalhowever, travel took a bit of a hit when the COVID-19 Omicron variant spread rapidly over the holiday season, but with infection rates dropping, airlines are now reporting that Omicron won’t was just a “temporary decline” and “American demand for air travel remains strong”.
In fact, American Airlines Group Inc. President Robert Islom recently stated that “We don’t see demand as anything other than delayed – we don’t think it’s diminished,” and Alaska Air is expected to be back to pre-pandemic capacity by summer.
When it comes to traveling in Central Florida, according to the Orlando Business JournalMCO estimated that air travel through the airport would see a 34.6% increase in travelers for the same period in 2021. However, it is important to note that this still represents a 5.4% drop from to 2019.
That being said, The New York Times reports that the The World Travel and Tourism Council (which encompasses the global travel and tourism industry) predicts that travel and tourism will fall flat with pre-pandemic levels sometime in 2022.
And, we can see this increase in domestic travel outside of airports too! For example, Airbnb said The Wall Street Journal that they already have 25% more reservations for 2022 than in 2019, and Aramark (which helps run sports stadiums and other major venues), is “preparing for attendance to exceed pre-pandemic levels during the Major League Baseball season.”
Demand for Disney is strong
So how exactly does that translate to Disney World? Well, just as demand for domestic travel is strong, so is Disney demand! In fact, Disney CEO Bob Chapek recently affirmed this on the first quarter earnings call saying they see “really strong domestic demand” for the parks.
Disney has already reported that demand was “stable” with pre-pandemic levels in May 2021, so we can probably expect demand to have only increased past pre-pandemic levels based on Chapek’s comments.
During the same earnings call, Disney also reported that their revenue for the quarter DOUBLE over the same period last year, from $3.6 billion to $7.2 billion. So even though attendance has yet to fully recover (as parks are still operating at less than 100% capacity limits), those who show up are spending up to 40% MORE per capita than in 2019.
And, with park demand and profits recovering rapidly in 2022, even analysts predict that Disney World and Disneyland revenues will “bounce back in 2022, soar in 2023 and jump higher in 2024.” So while it already looks like demand for Disney is at an all-time high, we’ll likely hear more from Disney executives (and see more crowds) in the months and years to come as the world is recovering from COVID-19.
Things are happening at Disney World
While there’s just something about a trip to Disney World that draws vacationers looking to return to travel with a bang, there are also a LOT of new things at Disney World to entice fans.
In October 2021, Disney kicked off the resort’s 50th anniversary celebrations, and the 18-MONTH party includes everything from an all-new cavalcade and castle show, to new merchandise, new dining experiences, and more.
And it’s not just new outfits for Mickey and Minnie that guests should look forward to during this time. Disney is also rolling out all-new restaurants (like Roundup Rodeo BBQ, Connections Eatery & Cafe, and The Cake Bake Shop), new attractions (like Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind), and more a lot After.
Also, things are starting to get back to “normal” with the Festival of Fantasy Parade once again returning to Main Street, USA, with more entertainment returning soon and health and safety measures disappearing.
So now all those Disney fans who have been waiting for things to go back to the way they were are planning a vacation in 2022 along with everyone else who wants to be sure to see it all again – a recipe for MANY people in the parks.
But that doesn’t mean you have to scrap your Disney vacation plans because you’re worried about waiting in endless lines and competing with hundreds of other guests for a great place to watch fireworks! It is exciting to visit Disney World and it is ALWAYS true. So, study all the news, choose your travel dates wisely and read our top tips to help you navigate the crowds. You can always have a really good time in the parks!
Check out 8 NEW things you need to plan for on your Disney World 2022 trip HERE!
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Have you been to Disney World since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic? Let us know in the comments!