Here I follow up on Disney’s 4th Quarter FY 2015 reporting from last week, which stated domestic theme park attendance (Disney World and Disneyland) for was up 15% year-over-year including the extra week in 2015, 7% without it.
Disney’s fiscal 4th quarter ran from June 28 through October 3, 2015. Here’s a look at the change in number of people in line at Walt Disney World, by park, versus the same dates in 2014, with the same methodology we’ve been using:
The biggest gains were at the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom. My guess is that the Animal Kingdom is getting a lot of traffic from Hollywood Studios. And as The Motley Fool just pointed out, the long-term trends indicate Epcot might be WDW’s least-visited park by 2020 .
Interestingly, the attendance gains were not evenly distributed across months or weeks. Here’s the Magic Kingdom, broken down by month for 2014 vs 2015:
July numbers looked down slightly. August was above average, and September was legen- wait for it like you can’t get a FastPass -dary. Disney said hotel room occupancy was up 1% for the quarter, but didn’t break it down by month. That 1%, though, would seem to indicate that most of these additional guests stayed off-site. We have a question in to Disney on this.
Disney’s Q1 for fiscal year 2016 started on October 4, 2015. October gains at the Magic Kingdom look to be solid, too – up 8%. The first week of November looks a little slow, but we’ll see what happens with the Christmas parties.
As for Hollywood Studios, remember that the year-over-year numbers span the closing of The American Idol Experience and The Magic of Disney Animation. Neither of those had posted wait times. (Neither did the Frozen trailer film preview that ran at the old Sounds Dangerous location from June 17-September 7, 2015.)
For the attractions still open that had wait times, the number of incremental people in line during Q4 looks essentially the same as we’d shown earlier for August and September, which was around +650 people:
That said, there’s a lot of ways the Studios’ attendance could be up or down a couple of points and have that be hidden in whatever’s left, plus special events, character greetings, and whatnot. I don’t see it, but I could be wrong. I’m sticking with my 0% estimate because I have faith in y’all to choose a better park.
We’ll take a look at Disneyland numbers shortly.
Letters … We Get Letters
Our blog posts on Disney World wait times and Disney’s Q4 earnings call prompted lots of emails. Here’s one about FastPass+:
The increased waits come down to an increase in Disney’s efficiency with the FP+ system. I have read a whole lot of threads and trip reports, and the standby lines are pretty much at a standstill when the FP users come through.
I think better FP+ handling is a small part of increased standby wait times, and noted it in our blog posts for DHS, Epcot, and the Animal Kingdom. Is it the majority of wait time increases? I don’t think so. For one thing, it doesn’t explain the Magic Kingdom chart above, which shows decreasing average wait times in July and November month-to-date. Why would Disney Cast Members be super-efficient with FastPass+ handling, but only in September?
 It’s worth remembering that we’re using wait times to estimate park attendance, using popular rides, shows, and attractions across Walt Disney World. That’s generally an objective, transparent way to determine crowds. It wouldn’t be able to count, as an example, anyone who came to Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival just for the eating and drinking. Those folks wouldn’t show up in our numbers.