Paid line hopping with priority access is coming to Tokyo Disneyland

Oriental Land Company has announced that the Disney Premier Access FastPass will be sold on the official Tokyo Disney Resort app starting May 19, 2022. This article details the Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea attractions that will sell paid FastPasses, along with our commentary on how it differs from its Walt Disney World and Disneyland counterparts, and what to expect in the future.

Let’s start with the OLC announcement. Disney Premier Access is a new digital service that offers guests the ability to book select theme park attractions using the app at Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea. By using this new service, customers will have more flexibility, be able to personalize their visit and get the most out of their day.

With Disney Premier Access at Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea, guests will have the ability to select their preferred time and make reservations to experience attractions. This service, available for a fee, will provide customers with options for how customers experience TDL and TDS, providing added convenience and flexibility for those who wish to personalize their experience and get the most out of their visit.

Two attractions will offer Premier Access: The Enchanted Tale of Beauty and the Beast at Tokyo Disneyland and Soaring: Fantastic Flight at Tokyo DisneySea. Each will cost 2,000 yen, or about $15.50 per person per attraction.

For both attractions eligible for Disney Premier Access, the Standby Pass is suspended from April 25, 2022. However, customers can still experience these attractions as usual while waiting in line. Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea will continue to operate with the aim of creating a seamless guest experience by reducing daily capacity to fewer than before and introducing innovative services that allow guests to enjoy the parks at their leisure.

That shouldn’t be a huge surprise. Oriental Land Company has alluded to paid FastPass in several revenue reports dating back to 2020. More recently, in its Medium term plan 2024OLC has repeatedly stressed the importance of “working on initiatives to improve the value of the customer experience” while recovering financially and finding new ways to monetize the customer experience.

The 2024 Medium Term Plan is worth skimming over, if only because it has a high level of transparency that Disney itself rarely offers. Rather than being written in flowery marketing language or arcane financial terms, it’s relatively simple. The goals are healthy and balanced, wanting a better customer experience and better business performance. Goals that, if this report is any indication, don’t have to be in conflict.

To this end, it is also worth pointing out the context in which this occurs. For the past two-plus years, Tokyo Disney Resort has operated with capacity caps in place, with attendance limited to 5,000 guests per day until last fall.

That number has gradually increased this year, but it has only been in recent weeks that physical distancing markers have been removed from parks. Temperature checks, mask rules and other health safety policies abandoned more than a year ago at national parks are still in place at Tokyo Disney Resort. This is mentioned more for their financial impact on the parks than for the policies themselves.

Despite this, Japanese parks have brought back their daytime and nighttime parades faster than Walt Disney World or Disneyland. These parks also took over most, but not all, entertainment.

More importantly, Tokyo Disneyland opened its large-scale expansion of Toontown, Tomorrowland and Fantasyland, highlighted by a Beauty and the Beast-themed area. This happened in the fall of 2020 during the phased reopening when attendance was at or near its lowest point.

In addition, construction continued at full speed on Fantasy springs, the ambitious expansion of Peter Pan, Tangled and Frozen to Tokyo DisneySea. Work stalled for only a few weeks in the spring of 2020 before the OLC resumed operations, and it is now advancing rapidly. In total, these projects cost OLC approximately $3 billion, with the new space mountain adding about another $400 million to that total.

All this despite Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea continuing to hemorrhage cash, with no other sources of revenue to recoup the losses. Not making excuses for why it’s different for OLC to start selling FastPass versus National Parks…but frankly, it’s a bit different.

If that makes us biased and lacking in objectivity towards OLC, so be it. Between their increased corporate transparency and our unequivocally positive first-hand experiences at Tokyo Disney Resort over the past decade, we’re willing to give this company the benefit of the doubt. They deserved it.

The big question for us is what happens next? It looks more like a trial balloon for Disney Premier Access than its final form; the assumption among many Tokyo Disney Resort fans has been that the free FastPass will never return and will be replaced by a fully paid system.

This assumption seems logical given what happened at Disneyland Paris, Walt Disney World and Disneyland last year. However, Tokyo Disney Resort is its own beast and has a unique guest demographic.

For one, Japan’s parks have the most fervent fan base, even surpassing Disneyland when it comes to hardcore locals. Whether those diehards would pay for something equivalent to Genie+ is a good question, and OLC may not be convinced.

It’s also possible that OLC doesn’t want to be too aggressive in rolling out new monetization plans at a time when travel is only beginning to pick up, lest it alienate average Japanese consumers. The dynamic isn’t quite the same in Japan as it is in the US, where pent-up demand is fueling a 40% increase in spend per customer.

Generally speaking, Japanese consumers have a reputation for being extremely frugal and cost-conscious. (Here’s a fascinating video from the Wall Street Journal: ‘Japanification’: As US Inflation Rises, Here’s Why Japan’s Prices Have Held Stable)

While inflation remains low by international standards, it is starting to have an impact on prices in Japan. The main difference is that Japanese consumers are notoriously sensitive to rising prices, a consequence of the “lost decades” of economic stagnation after the collapse of an asset price bubble in the early 1990s. Many businesses in Japan are therefore reluctant to raise their prices, even if their hand is forced by higher production costs, for fear of losing customers.

This reluctance could be why OLC only charges for the newest attraction at each park. Or, it could be that the app functionality is still under development and Tokyo Disney Resort doesn’t want to rush to release a botched product with glitches and poor user experience. Only time will tell.

Ultimately, it will be interesting to see what happens with Disney Premier Access and if it receives a Genie+-like component at Tokyo Disney Resort. While I obviously don’t want to pay more for anything, tickets average around $70 a day there, food and drink is cheaper, and merchandise is generally cheaper (minus Duffy, who subsidizes apparently the whole operation).

If the paid FastPass costs about $15 more per day to use a skip-the-line service, that’s something we’ll pay (but not for individual attractions). The overall cost is still low enough to visit the Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea, and I’m confident OLC wouldn’t release a fundamentally flawed or frustrating service. But that’s just us!

Planning a trip to Tokyo Disney Resort? For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea Planning Guide! For more details, our TDR Hotel Rankings & Reviews page covers accommodation. Our restaurant reviews detail where to dine and snack. To save money on tickets or figure out which type to buy, read our Money Saving Tips article. Our What to Pack for Disney article takes a unique look at smart on-the-go items. Venture elsewhere in Japan? Check out our Ultimate Guide to Kyoto, Japan and Tokyo, Japan City Guide.

Your thoughts

What do you think of OLC’s plan to charge around $16 each way for The Enchanted Tale of Beauty and the Beast at Tokyo Disneyland and Soaring: Fantasy Flight at Tokyo DisneySea? Do you expect this to be extended in a way similar to Genie+ or do you think that’s it for the monetization plan? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Questions? Hearing your feedback, even when you disagree with us, is both interesting for us and helpful for other readers, so share your thoughts below in the comments!

About Jimmie P. Ricks

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