The global pandemic has changed the way that we all live on a daily basis. Once the virus is under better control thanks to the vaccine, most things will hopefully go back to normal. Still it's undeniable that some aspects of life have probably changed forever. In some cases, it's simply better to move forward from where things are now than to go back to the way they were before. Certainly one doesn't expect the limited capacity and social distancing to last inside theme parks any longer than absolutely necessary, but one new element to the parks from the pandemic will be around for the foreseeable future. Namely park reservations.
This week Walt Disney World released its vacation package options and ticket pricing through January 1, 2023. And along with those came the reservation system that was implemented when the parks reopened in July of last year. When you purchase your park ticket you must also select which park you plan to visit that day. If you use a park hopper ticket, you must select which park you plan to visit first.
It's not too shocking to see the reservation system continue forward. Disney Parks, Experiences, and Products Chairman Josh D'Amaro had previously stated that he fully expected the reservation system to become essentially a permanent addition to way theme park tickets were purchased; this simply reinforces that idea. While reservations are an added step and thus might not be embraced by guests, by using the systemWalt Disney World is able to get a better handle on what crowds will look like on any given day. At least in theory this means the parks can better manage the guest experience. making sure everybody has a good time and enjoys themselves.
Adding a reservation system like this out of the blue would have been a difficult process for Disney. The change would have needed to be announced early so as not to impact existing vacations that had already been booked and that would have drawn criticism from some. How reservations would work with Annual Passes, people who did not expect restrictions on when they could visit the park, would have presumably been a point of contention. But the pandemic allowed Disney to make this change it likely wanted to make anyway. While most people didn't like it, it was understood why it needed to happen. And now that it's in place, it's not going anywhere.
It's very similar to the recent decision at Disneyland Resort to end the Annual Pass program altogether. The program had clearly become unwieldy for Disney and it needed a major redesign, but starting from scratch wasn't going to be an option previously. However, now that's exactly what has happened.