Good question! According to my local newspaper, The Sun News of Myrtle Beach, S.C., Disneyland® did away with the popular annual pass for Southern California residents due to crowds on weekends in the Anaheim park. According to the newspaper article published on Sunday, May 25th, industry experts say the only way to control the over-crowding is to keep raising prices so that less people will come or to expand the park. The SoCal Annual Pass spiked in popularity when Disney began allowing it to be purchased with a monthly payment plan.
Discontinuing the SoCal Annual Pass is an attempt to reduce Sunday visitors since this pass did not block out weekend usage. Disneyland will continue to sell the SoCal Select Annual Pass that does limit usage and does not allow visits on weekends. Most of the sources quoted in the article are not Disney sources, they are theme park industry “insiders” and the founder of the popular Disney blog site, MiceChat.com. The only quote from a Disney spokesperson (Suzi Brown) stated “Our goal is to always provide the best possible experience for all of our guests, and we will continue to look for ways to achieve the right in-park balance.”
Disney does not not make money on local pass holders that very often crowd the parks but spend little while leaving less room for out of town travelers who pay to stay in Disney resorts, eat in Disney restaurants and buy lots of souvenirs. Local pass holders in both California and Florida go to the parks regularly to meet up with friends and to spend a day out with family. They often bring their own lunch and drinks, not spending any additional money in the parks at all.
Unlike Walt Disney World® in Florida, Disneyland has limited space for expansion. They have recently begun the process of buying a lot that will allow them to expand parking spaces for employees so that more parking will be free for guests. The infrastructure of Disneyland is old and increasingly stressed by larger crowds. Many pass holders have emotional attachments to the parks and feel some of the decisions made are a slap in the face to loyal guests. Part of me agrees, however, many often forget Disney is a business. Disney needs to make money and they will always go after the demographic that makes them the most money. That demographic is not the local pass holder. Will there come a day when there is no longer any local pass holder programs at all? I wouldn’t be surprised if that happened in both California and Florida. What do you think?