What is the Effect of Extra Magic Hours Have on the Parks?
A lot of people go to Disney World with very little knowledge about how to tour efficiently or what to expect from the various attractions, rides, restaurants, and such. However, one thing just about every person staying on Disney property knows about is Extra Magic Hours. It’s one of the biggest selling points of staying on Disney property and just about every travel agent uses Extra Magic Hours to convince people that a Disney vacation package is right for them. On the surface it makes a lot of sense. You’ll hear promises of “zero waits,” “private access” and “exclusive time in the Parks.” The truth of the matter is that there are about 25,000 rooms on Disney property under the ownership of the Walt Disney Company, plus the Swan, Dolphin, and Hilton hotels, which add another 3,000 rooms or so. In total, about 28,000 rooms have access to Extra Magic Hours on any given day. If we assume there’s an average of three people per room, that’s at least 85,000 people with the same “private access” to the attractions during Extra Magic Hours. While not every Disney resort guest goes to the Park with Extra Magic Hours each day, a lot of them do because they think that it’s Disney’s way of telling them where they belong. The additional crowds lengthen the wait times at the rides and attractions throughout the day and actually make the Park with Extra Magic Hours more crowded than it would be on a day without Extra Magic Hours.
Disney is very good about keeping the occupancy rate at its resorts high. Over the last four quarters, Disney resort occupancy has hovered between 80% and 82%. If occupancy is down, Disney offers discounts to fill the rooms. In other words, when the crowd calendar lists a 7 or higher as the overall crowd level, the crowds are coming from outside of Disney World. On-site occupancy is relatively stable throughout the year. Since only people staying at Disney-owned resorts, Swan, Dolphin, Shades of Green, and the Downtown Disney Hilton can take advantage of Extra Magic Hours, there are always about 68,000 people (assuming three people per room and 80% occupancy) that can take “take advantage” of them, even if the overall crowd level is rated at just a two or three.
The fact that the Disney resort crowd level is similar throughout the year causes Extra Magic Hours’ crowds to be substantial during the entire year. Because the Park hours are usually shorter during slower times of the year, Extra Magic Hours remain popular because Disney resort guests will feel like going to the Park with the longest hours is the “best bang for their buck.” It seems like going to Hollywood Studios when it’s open from 9am to 11pm (8pm to 11pm with Extra Magic Hours) makes a lot more sense than going when it closes at 8pm to everyone. However, as I will explain below, the additional crowds often lead to longer lines and a less ideal touring experience.