Iit didn’t take long to Walt disney (NYSE: DIS) to let his new Genie out of the bottle. On October 19, the theme park giant is improving the way its customers rely on its app to optimize a day at Disney World in Florida. Disneyland’s app receives a similar update.
I had a hands-on demonstration of the new app at a media event Thursday at Disney World, ahead of Friday’s official announcement. It was impressive, and I am a rather difficult customer to please. Despite social media outcry this summer over the additional premium features, the free version of the platform is in itself a dramatic upgrade from the current My Disney Experience. The guests will like it. Shareholders? Well, yeah, they’re gonna like it even more.
Image source: Disney.
A wish is a dream made by your app
We’ll get back to premium stuff soon, of course, but the new Disney Genie will still do a lot for people who don’t want to spend the money to get more out of the experience. The current app is smooth and relatively easy to use, but ultimately it’s a passive experience. It waits for you to explore restaurant reservations or initiate mobile orders at some quick service points. In pre-pandemic times – when the FastPass + system was still a thing – guests would choose hour-long return windows for up to three attractions to access fast-track lines. There wasn’t a lot of advice. There wasn’t much of a recommendation engine, and this is where Disney Genie sets the bar higher.
Customers can enter up to eight attractions they would like to visit. Are there any favorite dining establishments they would like to check out? Are they interested in character dating or specific Disney franchises? The more inputs users give to the app, the better it can use years of customer analysis and machine learning algorithms to craft a suggested itinerary for a visit.
Disney Genie will optimize the game plan based on when the desired rides and attractions are expected to have optimal wait times, naturally also taking into account the need to navigate the target park itself. If a desired restaurant requires a reservation – and there is availability – the optimal window will be there for the reservation. Heatmaps showing historic wait times for rides are the kind of information Disney has never made public in its official app until now.
The new platform never sleeps. It constantly monitors what the customer is doing as well as their own operating factors. If an upcoming trip is interrupted due to a weather delay or a mechanical issue, the app will offer alternatives that its algorithm says will appeal to that particular guest. If a guest deviates from the plan and cancels a future trip earlier, the itinerary will be updated accordingly.
Disney Genie doesn’t offer free access to fast-track queues like the pre-pandemic platform, and that’s a pressure point for many theme park enthusiasts. However, the new Disney World app optimizes navigation through queues, meals, and park experiences in a way that enhances the overall experience. There will always be consumer demand for third party planning platforms like TouringPlans.com. The market will always need this kind of external objectivity. However, Disney Genie is a hardware update that respects a guest’s time in a way that technology has never done before.
An app is a wish your dream makes
Let’s dive into the compensation features, because that’s what will ultimately make shareholders happy. Just as toll roads and expressways can save a driver’s time, Disney Genie offers paid features to improve the efficiency of the navigation process. Anyone can pay $ 15 per day per person for Genie +, an upgraded version of the original FastPass +, to access the renowned Lightning Lane queues with shorter waits than the queues.
It’s not the only way customers can pay more to make the most of their time on the rides. When it launches on October 19, each of Disney World’s four parks will remember two of its most popular rides from Lightning Lane availability in Genie +. This will be another profit center for the House of the Mouse, as these rides will have Lightning Lane + fast-track queues that guests can pay for separately. Prices can fluctuate over time, but for the first week, access to these eight rides will cost between $ 7 and $ 15 each way. Visitors won’t be able to pay for more than two unique Lightning Lane + experiences.
The price will vary in some cases. Epcot’s Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure will retail for $ 9 on its first weekday on October 19, but that will drop to $ 11 on the busiest Saturday of that week. Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance at Disney’s Hollywood Studios will remain at $ 15 throughout the first week.
No one likes to pay for something that was free before, but it won’t be as bad as naysayers think. Since far less than 100% of guests will pay for Genie + and there are even more limitations for Lightning Lane + attractions, the lines are expected to move faster than in the days of FastPass.
The free Genie platform will also be an experience upgrade for those who don’t want to pay for Genie + or Lightning Lane +. Beyond the constantly updated suggestions and advice, there is a lot love here. The hungry finally have a single destination where they can make meal reservations, place mobile orders, and even sign up for waitlists all from the same page. There are a few new things, like the Disney Snapchat-like filters for selfies and recorded clips. There are even audio tours, although these are only brief audio descriptions of places throughout the park.
Many Disney Genie critics will be pleasantly surprised on October 19. Shareholders in the travel and tourism industry won’t care at all.
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Rick Munarriz owns shares of Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares and recommends Walt Disney. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.
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