I had a search hit on this blog with the phrase “Do you think Disney will extend free dining through October?” and that’s a really good question, and so I’m going to make a quick post about it.
First of all: THIS IS ALL SPECULATION. NONE of this is official and it’s not even Official Rumour. It’s me looking at facts, thinking about a few things I’ve heard, and pondering a bit. This is all MY idea and not something I heard through the grapevine, I have NO sources, none of that. So don’t take this anything but a bit of thinking on my part, okay?
With that out of the way, here is what I’ve heard.
The biggest thing I’ve heard lately is that Disney Parks’s revenue is up 73% for the last quarter. That’s pretty huge. With all the new attractions at both Disneyland and WDW, plus the two new cruise ships, they’re obviously making really good money.
Now, in terms of discounts: in the past Disney has used free dining to drive attendance throughout the year. In fact most of my recent big trips had free dining, and they were in October (several years ago) and February (2011). I can’t remember the last time there has been a mid-to-late Fall period without free dining. But this year, nothing in the winter; it’s announced (a bit late) for one month only, in September, with no indication as to whether it will be extended… what’s up?
So putting these things together, here’s my thinking. Disney is doing EXTREMELY well right now. Stocks are up, attendance is up, all the money they’ve poured into Cars Land and New Fantasyland is paying off and they’re huge. But the Free Dining Plan is the single most popular promo that they run. There are people who quite literally count on that package and wait for it each year – rely on it for their vacations. How much money do you think Disney actually makes off of it? (This is entirely me speculating, and I don’t know the answer.) They usually run it during their off-seasons to drive attendance when they might otherwise be much slower than usual, which is why it traditionally isn’t offered in the summer, or spring break, or etc. Now looking at this past winter, when they didn’t have a free dining plan, the question is: WAS there an off-season? Price-wise yes, but attendance-wise?
My thinking is that September-only free DDP is a test, to see just how much more attendance jumps from this promo in September compared to a rough comparison to Jan/Feb or so without the DDP. If they see a significant bump from it, I’m betting it will be extended later in the fall. If they don’t – if the numbers stay about even – who knows? Would they get rid of the free dining plan entirely when it’s as popular as it is? Disney actually does play close to the chest when it comes to their discounts – they don’t announce early so people look for hints wherever they can. The answer is I have NO idea.
If the plan will be extended, we’ll probably hear around June or so, which is about when the discounts for October are usually announced anyway. So let’s keep our fingers crossed! And meanwhile, remember that you can book a trip and cancel for a full refund any time up to 45 days before your arrival date, so there’s no harm in getting a reservation in early just in case!