For theme park empires like Disney, the guest experience is everything.
Attractions, restaurants, and character meet-and-greets often bring people through the park gates, but it’s the little things like shorter wait times, faster service, and ambiance that keep them coming back.
On Wednesday, the company unveiled Genie, an app designed to ease the process of planning a trip to Disney’s domestic parks.
After it launches this fall, guests can tell the app what they want to do and where they want to eat during their stay, and the program will create an itinerary. It’s designed to be adaptable and flexible, so if guests decide they don’t want to take a ride or try another restaurant in the park, Genie will reorganize the schedule.
Park-goers can also use the app to order food and pay for merchandise. Current and expected wait times for attractions are also displayed.
Customer experience is “the product” that theme parks sell, said Bill Coan, president and CEO of theme park consultancy ITEC Entertainment.
“When people leave, the legacy of their visit is that they’re going to tell one person, ten people, a hundred people,” he said. “Second, and probably more important, they come back. Once you bring the people to your park, you’re done with the marketing and sales activities. They come back because they’ve had a great experience.”
Genie, first announced in 2019 at Disney’s D23 Expo, comes at a time when theme parks have become increasingly reliant on technology. Most of the entertainment industry has adopted online ticket reservation systems as a way to manage capacity. Parks have also added mobile ordering and payment options to reduce contact points between employees and guests.
These innovations were adopted to prevent the spread of the coronavirus but have improved the guest experience, said Josh D’Amaro, head of Disney’s parks, consumer products and experience division. It has also helped theme park companies like Disney staff busy areas of the park and redistribute traffic to less crowded locations.
As a bonus, consumers tend to spend more on purchases through mobile ordering and payment options than they do on traditional cash or credit card purchases, said Eric Wold, senior analyst at B. Riley Securities.
“The turnout has returned and, more importantly, the turnout is almost back to 2019 levels, but with higher revenues,” Wold said. “[Parks] are getting more dollars out of these consumers and technology is only going to run the parks more efficiently.”
A paid version, called Disney Genie+, will replace the domestic park’s FastPass, FastPass+, and MaxPass offerings, which were discontinued during the pandemic.
For $15 per ticket per day at Walt Disney World and $20 per ticket per day at Disneyland, guests can use the new Lightning Lane at select attractions. Visitors can make one selection at a time to bypass the mainline at a scheduled time for attractions such as Haunted Mansion, Big Thunder Mountain, and Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run.
Genie+ also includes new audio and photo features, such as augmented reality lenses at Disney World and unlimited Disney PhotoPass downloads at Disneyland.
In addition to Genie+, Disney will also offer individual attraction selections. Guests can schedule a time each day to drive to two of the most in-demand attractions. This includes attractions such as Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at Magic Kingdom and Radiator Springs Racers at Disney California Adventure. Prices vary by date, attraction and park, the company said.
Queues and virtual queues for attractions such as Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance will remain available.
“Whether you’re in your 50s or your first visit, I want you to feel that same special feeling,” D’Amaro said. “And that means I want to make sure I get you to the things that matter most to you.”