Archive for March, 2009

Top 5 Misconceptions About Crowds

by on March 31, 2009

We added the Blog to the site so that we could speak to common problems or questions that we get on a regular basis, sometimes daily. He’s a sample of some questions and/or comments that we get a lot, maybe these explanations will help understand what goes through our little Disney-obsessed minds.

1. “I was able to book an ADR 60 days out for our vacation but you have the crowd estimated at a level 8. How can this be? Shouldn’t dining availability be an indicator of low crowds?”

Dining availability is only one of thousands of pieces of information that we collect on Disney World. In general, difficulty getting dining reservations can indicate higher crowds but not necessarily. The size of the restaurant, the location of the restaurant, the popularity of the dining plan can all affect the availability of reservations. Don’t assume that your experience booking dining reservations will forecast the size of the crowds.

2. “The Studios were packed on Tuesday but your calendar said it was a ’6′ – what gives?

Remember, our crowd predictions represent the maximum wait time you are likely to observe at the Magic Kingdom headliners. They say nothing directly about crowds at the other parks. We are working on a new crowd calendar structure that will provide a more complete picture of what crowds will be for all parks.

3. “I booked my dining reservations based on the best days recommendations but now the recommendations have changed.”

We collect data on Disney World daily. When the data warrants a change to the recommendations, we do it. Our philosophy is that it is better to have accurate information than to keep things the same purely for consistency’s sake. Keep your dining reservations, its easier (and less important) to deal with a park that isn’t recommended than re-booking dining.

4. “Does your calendar take into account the economic downturn? That should make the crowds lighter right?”

We get this question every day. We have dozens of direct and indirect economic factors that have always been included in our crowd estimates. Its an important piece of the puzzle when predicting crowds. Incidentally, there is no evidence that the economic downturn is making crowds lighter. In fact, Disney’s promotions, cut-back hours and less staff are making the wait times longer in the parks. Check for a blog post about the latest crowd measurements coming soon. 

5. “I call Disney every day trying to book a room but they say they are completely booked. Why do you only have crowd estimates of ’6′ for that week when it seems like every room is occupied?”

Surprisingly, on-site hotel occupancy is not a strong predictor of the wait times you will experience in the park. Similar to dining reservations, its not one thing that predicts crowds but rather all factors put together that give the best estimates. Certain factors balance out others and we spend a lot of time examining our model to make sure it does the best job it can with the information we have.

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Voices of Liberty

by on March 30, 2009

There are several groups who perform throughout Walt Disney World, and many of them can be found around World Showcase in Epcot. They provide a glimpse into the customs and artistry of these countries without needing a passport. Although there are so World Showcase performers to pick from, it is easy for me to say which is my favorite; without a doubt it’s the Voices of Liberty. These talented a cappella singers perform before the American Adventure show begins in the building’s rotunda, providing perfect acoustics. They dress in colonial costumes and thrill visitors several times every afternoon.

So why do I love this group so much? Those who know me know that I’m not only a Disney dork, but an American history dork as well. The old time Americana and patriotic songs they sing give me the warm and fuzzies and they have brought a tear to my eye on more than one occasion. The American Adventure is one of my favorite attractions in Epcot, and the Voices of Liberty only enhance my affection. Additionally, the talent pool is simply incredible. As someone who can’t carry a tune to save my life, I am in awe of their raw talent. And hey anyone who has sung for five sitting American presidents can sing for me any time. They are definitely something I make to see on every trip.

The Voices of Liberty have been singing at the American Adventure since Epcot’s opening in 1982 and hopefully they’ll continue well into the future. They are truly one of Disney World’s hidden gems. Be sure to pick up a Times Guide when you enter the park for the day for show times.

Next time I’ll share some very exciting news!

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So Spaceship Earth is finished, who knew?

by on March 29, 2009

We asked the managers. We asked the CM’s. We asked guest relations. We sent a letter to Siemens and we even annoyed their PR guy.

We have been told enough times to finally accept it: Spaceship Earth is finished in its current state. There are apparently no plans to add anything to the bleak black curtain finale and nothing is just sitting there waiting to be turned on.

We wish it weren’t true, but it is. If anyone would like to present us with physical proof or a statement from Disney or Siemens on the matter we will happily sing a different tune.

In the meantime, please do not email us telling us they have added a blue triangle to the descent in recent weeks – they have not. We have ridden it and seen it for ourselves many times over many weeks and nothing has changed significantly in several months. Sorry.

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Yes, it will have a dock

by on March 28, 2009

Some of our researchers recently had the chance to float past the construction being finished at the Treehouse Villas. it appears the resort will indeed have its own dedicated water taxi service as Disney is working to build a dock at the site. The water taxi will shuttle guests to Downtown Disney.

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Grand gets new floor

by on March 28, 2009

The Grand Floridian lobby will soon receive new marble floors and replace most carpeting.

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Phil Holmes and other management changes

by on March 28, 2009

In a second wave of layoffs several areas of Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resort management are being restructured in the past week.

Most notable in the casualties, we’ve heard that VP of Magic Kingdom, Phil Holmes, is no longer with the company.

Many areas in the parks are losing multiple operational managers (and many frontline CM’s would argue that they were redundant positions). Reports are of attraction groups losing several managers per area and restaurants each losing a few. The most major cuts appear to come from the Studios park.

Management structure has fluctuate over the years at the parks and resorts. The most recent setup involved multiple areas with multiple managers – indeed redundant to some extent. This is compared to previous operational setups where many areas were combined and only a few managers separated the frontline CM’s from the heads of the parks.

Perhaps the best outcome would be the return of “leads” and quasi-management CM’s at individual locations who can make big decisions and remain dedicated to operation. A common complaint among CM’s is that management spends too much time in the back offices and have no idea how to run an attraction or perform their job function properly. We’ll keep our fingers crossed.

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Crowd calendar updates

by on March 27, 2009

Fred Hazelton, our statistician, has updated the May and June crowd calendar based on the crowds we’ve seen thus far this year. Fred’s also updated his crowd blog to explain the changes.

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Updates for May and June 2009 – Again

by on March 27, 2009

Predicting the Unpredictable

Predicting the crowds at Walt Disney World has always been a challenge, but lately its become downright fickle business. Crowds from the last two weeks have been much larger than even Disney was expecting. Park hours were extended, parade performances were added to the daily schedules and fireworks shows were repeated on some nights. All of these factors are important parts of our model that predicts crowds. When Disney gets it wrong, its hard for us to get it right.

Still, if we backcast our model for the previous two weeks including changes to the schedules we get crowd estimates of 9 and 10, exactly what was observed.

The latest numbers on occupancy and attendance also point to increased crowds throughout Spring and Summer 2009. We can only assume that Disney will also adjust hours for April, May and June. In fact, they have already made some changes.

Our latest updates to the crowd calendar show increased crowd estimates for May and June because of the latest data. As always, the estimates are subject to change as the information changes. Perhaps this is a good time for us to recite the TouringPlans.com credo:

Remember, a good touring plan is 5 times more important than choosing the correct day to visit a theme park. A good touring plan is the best way to deal with any crowd.

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WDW Today Episode 542 – Epcot Flower and Garden Festival

by on March 24, 2009

Episode 542 of WDWToday is available for download here. This episode covers Epcot’s Flower and Garden Festival, which runs through May 31.

* Full schedule of events for Flower and Garden Festival
* To hear the bonus audio from this episode, visit our Facebook page and find the link for the bonus audio!

One-click subscriptions to WDWToday:

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Free dining to return August 16 – October 3, 2009

by on March 24, 2009

Update to add new codes: Disney has announced late summer free dining packages for Disney Visa cardholders on March 26, and should announce to the general public on March 30. Travel dates are August 16 through October 3, 2009.

The free Disney Visa dining codes are:

RYI – Disney Visa Basic Dining
EEV – Disney Visa Deluxe Dining
UXQ – Disney Visa Deluxe Dining with Wine

ONLINE CODES

Basic Dine: JMY
Deluxe Dine: EER
Basic Dine plus Wine & Dine: UGS
Deluxe Dine plus Wine & Dine :EES

PHONE CODES

Basic Dine: RYH
Deluxe Dine: UGR
Basic Dine plus Wine & Dine: KEU
Deluxe Dine plus Wine & Dine: NZZ

Deposit must be paid with DV at the time of booking. No courtesy holds.

Guest must check out by October 3. No extensions past that date (we’re hearing conflicting information on this).

Travel dates: August 16 – October 3
Booking dates: March 26 – June 21

Thanks to Small World Vacations for the codes and dates.

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