Sunday, June 27, 2021

Additive vs Exclusive Theme Park Add-Ons

Over the past few weeks DisTwitter has been up in arms over Disney's After Hours Boo Bash. The first event offered after the COVID-19 shutdowns in 2020, Boo Bash is an evening event for guests to ride rides, grab candy, see characters, and get some unlimited snacks. It's also NOT Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party, the long offered popular event that offers fireworks, parades, and more. For many Boo Bash seems to be a weak offering, cutting many popular entertainment options, and also raising the price. For others it's a "lol shut up people will still pay for it"... commentary? Trolling? I'm not sure.

Anyway, the worry is Boo Bash is in and MNSSHP is out. I don't think this is the case as the After Hours events are an already established brand offering low capacity for high prices so guests can ride more rides. With Disney, at the time of the event announcement, still controlling the number of guests in the parks, no fireworks, shifting the Halloween event to After Hours in nature made sense. MNSSHP has a certain amount of name brand recognition where if it was offered with reduced offerings it would tarnish that brand. I find hand wringing over the death of MNSSHP, or that Disney is just going to jack up prices and offer less, to be unfounded.

Yet there is a more interesting discussion to be had over guest experiences, obviously, some people are adverse to the Boo Bash and others are attracted to it. But why? Can we qualify that difference in opinion? After some hemming and hawing in the shower over the past few weeks I think I came up with my hypothesis.

All amusement parks have a standard base level of offerings in the parks they consider part of the single-day admission, we will call those base offerings. These things include rides, shows, fireworks, parades, characters, entertainment, etc. But when it comes to offering more off the base offerings things split into two categories of options: Additive and Exclusive.

Additive experiences take the base offerings and add to them with new experiences, exactly what MNSSHP did through special fireworks, parades, etc. Up I-4 the same thing is offered at Halloween Horror Nights which adds haunted house walk-throughs, scare zones, and shows; even SeaWorld is getting in on the game with Howl-O-Scream.

Exclusive experiences take the opposite approach by offering the same base experience (or a rough approximation) and removes barriers for people to experience them. Those barriers are usually waiting in queue lines, and to do that it means removing people from the park. Exclusive experiences predominantly focus on what you can do with what they already have. Purchasing Express Pass, for example, is an exclusive offering. 

Of course, there are middle grounds here, dessert parties are a good example of this. On one hand, they offer guests a way to not stand crowded around others to watch a nighttime show. Yet on the other, there is the additive factor of desserts and drinks. For situations like this, I come down on the side of reading the marketing copy if the product is sold: After Hours is exclusive as it's pushed mostly for low wait times while Dessert Parties is additive as the snacks and drinks are front and center.

So what this comes down to are two factions of Disney guests debating how Disney should market to them: additive or exclusive. For some Disney should be creating more experiences for guests to draw them. This includes, but not limited to, more shows, more rides, and more entertainment. The other side finds no issues with what Disney has, or even the lack of new, and would prefer to see what is already there but quicker/less people.

The new wrinkle, as pointed out by Tom Bricker at Disney Tourist Blog, is Disney adding more tickets to the After Hours Boo Bash. While there might be several benign reasons for such a change, such as adding more attractions to the line-up, the worry I have is Disney tasted the forbidden fruit of sell-outs and is slowly increasing capacity to increase profits. When After Hours is sold on exclusivity and low queue waits making it less exclusive with longer waits tarnishes a brand.

In the end Disney should continue to add new attractions in a timely manner and not succumb to the temptation of offering a quicker way to ride Pirates of the Carribean.

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