ORLANDO - Walt Disney World Resort unveiled Magic Your Way, a change in its pricing strategy that provides significantly greater flexibility for guests and could result in more affordable visits.

Positioned as a "play more, pay less" initiative, the new policy, which goes into effect Jan. 2, enables guests to buy a base ticket for a duration of one to seven days, and then choose among three options to add on or decline.

The potential to pay less is realized if a client or guest declines some of the choices that are currently mandatory in multiday tickets. Should all options that are currently bundled into available packages be selected, however, the guests will actually pay more.

Walt Disney World Resorts President Al Weiss said that the company expects the changes will result in longer stays by guests and will open the parks and resorts to a broader market that couldn't afford to visit before.

"With Magic Your Way, a family of four will be able to spend a week at a value property, complete with admission tickets, for less than $1,500," he said. "Today, it would be at least 25% to 30% more expensive."

Although the amount a guest spends on lodging and admission fees per day may go down, Weiss said he believed that both the company's operating margin and profitability will be enhanced by "leveraging existing assets." He emphasized, however, that the primary driver in making the change was guest satisfaction.

Randy Garfield, executive vice president of sales and travel operations for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts and president of Walt Disney Travel Co., added that the company has seen a correlation between length of stay and repeat business.

Weiss added that surveys show that the trend toward shorter vacations stabilized and that, in recent months, "longer vacations are high on the wish list."

How it works

In the new plan, guests build upon a base ticket price and pay to add-on Park Hopper, no-expiry and Magic Plus Pack (for WDW attractions outside the four theme parks) options.

As an example, if a guest today buys an adult advance-purchase "seven-day Park Hopper Plus" ticket, all of the options above would be included, and it would cost $316 (pretax). Under the new pricing, the same ticket with the same options would cost $334. But if the guests declined the "no-expiry option," it would cost only $279, and if they further declined the Magic Plus Pack, it would drop to $234.

The flexibility also allows guests to create options that are currently not for sale. For example, the minimum duration for a Park Hopper ticket is four days, but under the new plan, guests could purchase a one-day base ticket and, for $35, turn it into a Park Hopper.

Other initiatives:

· Magic Your Way Vacations - Lower-priced packages that include lodging at a Walt Disney World Resort property.

· Extra Magic Hours - In addition to being able to go into designated parks an hour earlier than everyone else, WDW Resort guests will also be able to stay three hours later in the evening.

· Dining Plan - Guests can prepurchase meals for $35 a day.

Weiss said that the new portfolio of products is "distributor neutral" and will be available to retailers, wholesalers and Internet aggregators and will be sold by Disney's own Web site and reservations office. Products of three days or longer and that have at least one option selected are commissionable to travel agents. Garfield said that Disney is counting on agents to help put options together for their clients.

This month, in preparation for the peak selling months of January and February, the sales force will be focused on explaining the new programs to agents through sales calls and a series of "webinars" (online seminars) as well as new collateral material. To enroll in a webinar, visit www.Disneytravelagents.com

To contact Editor-in-Chief Arnie Weissmann, send e-mail to[email protected].
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