Disney CEO Bob Iger admitted that the theme park was too ‘aggressive’ in many of its recent price hikes, shortly after the theme park cut prices on its $20,000 two-night stay at a Star Wars-themed hotel when bookings dried up.
During remarks at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media and Telecom Conference Thursday, Iger said that Disney made the grave mistake of putting profits first in recent years, leaving even its most zealous fans disenchanted with the happiest place on Earth.
Iger said: ‘I always believed that Disney was a brand that needs to be accessible.
‘And I think that in our zeal to grow profits, we may have been a little bit too aggressive about some of our pricing.
‘And I think there is a way to continue to grow our business but be smarter about how we price so that we maintain that brand value of accessibility.’
‘Some of those rip-offs included the park’s top access tickets being hiked to $244 for a single day’s pass – a ticket which in 2017 cost just $124.
Iger – who previously retired as Disney’s CEO in 2021 – returned as the company’s top executive in November after his successor Bob Chapek was ousted amidst plummeting stock prices and irate customers.
On Thursday he said his focus was going to be on cost cutting measures at Disney to make it more affordable for customers, and announced a plan to reorganize the company and find $5billion in savings. Part of that plan is to cut 7,000 jobs.
Disney CEO Bob Iger admitted that the theme park was too ‘aggressive’ in many of its recent price hikes
Some of Disney’s latest rip-offs included the park’s top access tickets being hiked to $244 for a single day’s pass – a ticket which in 2017 cost just $124.
Iger said Disney was focused so much on profit that it undermined the brand that had won so many devoted fans.
‘In our zeal to grow profits, we may have been a little bit too aggressive about some of our pricing,’ he said.
‘I think there’s a way to continue to grow that business, but be smarter about how we price so that we maintain that brand value of accessibility.’
In announcing those intentions, he vowed ‘to continue to listen to consumers [and] we’re going to continue to adjust.’
The parks have already begun scaling back some of its pricing, including returning free overnight parking for hotel guests, and increasing how many days Disneyland offers its lowest-price $104 adult ticket.
At Disneyland, free downloads of photos taken of guests on rides were returned to all ticket admissions after customers were forced to pay an additional fee for them. At Disney World, Genie+ tickets will once again come with free downloads.
Iger said the parks are also going to focus on regulating how many people they let in to preserve the quality of experience inside.
‘One of the things that we had to do was we had to improve the guest experience by reducing crowding,’ he said.
‘It’s tempting to let more and more people in, but if the guest satisfaction levels are going down because of crowding then that doesn’t work. We have to figure out how we reduce crowding but maintain our profitability. And we did that well.’
Walt Disney recently opened its Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser experience in Florida, which puts guests into a story set on the Halcyon space vessel. Above is one of the 100 Starcruiser cabins that guests can stay in
The hotel ship’s ‘Bridge,’ where guests can interact with action taking place on screen
But Iger said not everything had been priced to high – on the contrary, he said Disney’s streaming platform was started at far too low a price.
‘One of the key things that we have to figure out is a pricing strategy that makes sense,’ he said. ‘In our zeal to grow global subs[cribers], I think we were off in terms of that pricing strategy. And we’re now starting to learn more about it, and to adjust accordingly.’
When Disney+ kicked off in 2019 subscribers were charged $6.99-a-month, but the platform now charges $10.99 for its advertisement-free subscription after it started hemorrhaging billions and contributed to tanking Disney stock prices.
Iger also said Disney may have harmed its Star Wars and Marvel brands by making too many movies. He said going forward those films and shows would be closer scrutinized.
‘Marvel has 7,000 characters, so there are a lot more stories to tell,’ he said. ‘What we have to look at at Marvel is not necessarily the volume of Marvel storytelling but how many times do we go back to the well on certain characters? Sequels typically work well for us, but do you need a third and a fourth [installment] for instance? Or is it time to turn to other characters?’
The exterior of the windowless $20,000 per stay Disney Star Wars themed hotel in Orlando
Bunks inside the rooms of the expensive Star Wars-themed immersive hotel
His comments come after Disney rearranged the schedule of its billion-dollar Star Wars themed hotel due to low demand.
The hotel, which opened in March 2022 in the Orlando-area to much fanfare and sold out ‘voyages,’ charges guests anywhere between $5,000 and $20,000 for an immersive two-night experience in which they are thrust into a story taking place in a galaxy far far away.
The booking portal for Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser shows that there are reduced dates during October, November and December.
Starting in the fall, the hotel is only open for bookings three or four times a week. Many hardcore Disney and Star Wars fans have long been critical of the resort’s exorbitant prices and the fact that it is windowless.
Among the price gauging going on inside the hotel include, $13 beers and $23 cocktails as well as $99 for an official Star Wars themed photo, The New York Times reported at the time the park opened.