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Monday Mouse Watch: Disney World uses coupons to promote off-peak dining & shopping

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Monday Mouse Watch: Disney World uses coupons to promote off-peak dining & shopping

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Maybe you’ve heard about this coupon that Cast Members have been handing out at WDW’s Magic Kingdom? The one that gets Guests 20% off on all food that they purchase at Columbia Harbour House, Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe, Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Cafe, Pinocchio Village Haus and Tomorrowland Terrace Noodle Station?

Or how about those Buy-One-Get-One-Free coupons that were distributed to tourists as they entered Disney’s Hollywood Studios earlier this month? Which then allowed them to double up on entrees at the ABC Commissary, the Backlot Express and the Studios Catering Co.

Or – better yet – how about the coupon that certain WDW visitors have been scoring once they dine at these quick service locations? Which then gets these Guests 20% off on select merchandise at:

The World of Disney Store in Downtown Disney
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

“So why is Disney World suddenly doling out discounts?,” you ask. “Have WDW managers grown concerned with the amount of money that the typical Guest is spending while they’re visiting the Parks?” Not hardly.

No, the real answer can be found in the fine print on these coupons. Which clearly states that – in regards to this 20%-off dining discount that’s being offered at the Magic Kingdom – all food must be purchased “ … before 11:30 a.m. or between 2:30 – 4:30 p.m.” And for that 20%-off merchandise discount, that this coupon only works on purchases made between 9 a.m. and 12 noon.

Picturesque Cinderella's castle marks the entrace to Fantasyland in Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

You getting the picture yet? Disney World management didn’t issue these coupons because it wanted Guests to eat more of their meals at quick service locations and/or do more of their souvenir shopping on property. But – rather – because Disney was looking to convince a certain number of visitors to start doing their dining and shopping during off-peak hours. Which would then translate into a better overall Guest experience for everyone who visits the WDW Resort during the extremely busy Easter / Spring Break travel season.

Truth be told, Mickey does stuff like this all the time at WDW. Deliberately scheduling events at the Parks (EX: the historic pattern for night-time entertainment at the Magic Kingdom – parade, fireworks, parade. Which virtually guarantees that not every Guest will leave that theme park at the exact same time. Which would then completely overwhelm the MK’s transportation system) so that most visitors to the Resort have a good Guest experience.

Mind you, Disney World will sometimes use this technique to boost its bottom line. I mean, you don’t seriously think that it’s a coincidence that most of Future World’s restaurants, rides and shows close at 7 p.m. ? The whole point behind shutting down this part of Epcot during the early evening is to then drive Guests into World Showcase. Where– because “IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth” is always presented at 9 p.m. More importantly, because catching a performance of this nighttime spectacular is still considered one of the “must sees” of a WDW vacation – folks are now forced to kill time by either shopping and/or eating their way around World Showcase Lagoon.

Fireworks at Walt Disney World
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

So did this 20%-off coupon program (which – after being extended beyond the two weeks surrounding Easter – is now officially being discontinued at the Magic Kingdom today) work as well as WDW managers had hoped it would? Well, there’s some anecdotal evidence which suggests that offering MK visitors a discount for quick service dining may have had an incremental impact that theme park’s table service locations. But beyond that, this seasonal program seems to have been successful. In that a certain number of Magic Kingdom visitors were convinced to do their dining & shopping during off-peak hours. Which then resulted in a far better overall Guest experience for those folks who visited Disney World during this super-busy time of year.

So will WDW now begin handing out 20%-off coupons during other super-busy times of year at the Parks (i.e. the summer months, holiday season)? Let’s remember that – back in 2009 – Mouse House managers tried to influence Guests’ typical traffic patterns by handing them a Magic Kingdom dining guide as they entered that theme park in late March / early April.

And because most Guests immediately discarded and/or simply disregarded this additional brochure after entering the Magic Kingdom (Because – let’s face it – people don’t come to a theme park to read. They come to the Parks because they’re looking to experience all of those rides, shows and attractions that Walt and his Imagineers designed & created over the years) … Well, that’s why WDW went with a coupon-based program this time around. With the hope that something like this would be easier for Disney World visitors to comprehend. Which would then make it far more likely that they’d actually do their dining & shopping during off-peak hours.

The entrance to Disney's Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World in Orlando
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

So I’d imagine that Disney World execs are now going to review the results of this 20%-off program, see how many Guests actually made use of those coupons and then did their dining and/or shopping during off-peak hours. It’s those numbers that will hold the key as to whether WDW will ever revisits this idea. Whether coupons like this will then be regularly offered to Guests who visit this Resort during the super-busy times of year.

But what about you folks? Did any of you visit Walt Disney World during the two weeks surrounding Easter? And – if so – were you then offered one of these dining or shopping coupons? Was it easy to use? More importantly, what sort of impact did eating and/or shopping during off-peak hours have on your overall WDW vacation? Let us know, okay?

Your thoughts?

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  • Received a dining coupon in DHS the weekend before Easter.  It was actually after the morning period had passed, but they were still handing them out for the afternoon.

    I like the idea in theory, but it was a little troubling having the Streetmosphere characters actively hyping the coupons over the P.A. system.  Just blatent, somewhat out-of-character advertising right in everyone's face.  Basically the same way I feel about the "Tronorail" which we also saw that weekend.

  • We got a 20% off coupon after eating at the Sunshine Seasons Grill in EPCOT, but we didn't look that closely at the reciept so we didn't use it. Later I looked at it and it was too late.

    The other thing they did to get people to move around was at the Studios. At the rope drop we got a "special fastpass" to the first show of Lights, Motors, Action. We used this and it worked out great. We didn't have to get there early and we got to get seated before the people waiting in the standby line which meant we got better seats. Here is a hint for the first show. It was hot, so everyone was sitting in the shade. I noticed the angle of the sun and figured out that in a few minutes another row would be in the shade, so we got prime seats in the middle. We were only in the sun for 10 miinutes.

  • We received both coupons. We loved the dining discount because we always eat early anyway so it didn't affect our touring and we got a discount! We rarely shop at DTD but we already get a VISA discount or AP discount so it didn't help us any.

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