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OM in the News: What Happens When Disney, Universal, and Legoland Reach Capacity

January 1, 2012

While the rest of the country is enjoying the brief holiday respite, here in Orlando–with temperatures in the 70’s– the theme parks are jammed. So much so that most reached capacity this week as crowds crushed into the parks. The Orlando Sentinel (Dec.29, 2011) reported that Legoland Florida (our newest park), Universal Studios, and 3 of Disney’s 4 theme parks  (Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom) all reached capacity this week and had to temporarily shut their gates. Traffic was so heavy that drivers were warned it would take an extra 45-60 min. just to exit Interstate I-4.

How do the companies handle the surge–and losses from turning away customers willing to pay the $85 a day admission fees?  Legoland simply closed its parking lot at 12:30 pm. It also extended its operating hours by 1.5 hours to 8:30pm. Universal similarly hit capacity at 12:30 pm and stopped admitting guests. But it set up a queue for customers to wait outside the park and allowed them to enter as early arrivals fizzled out and went back to their hotels. Universal also delayed closing, from 11 pm till midnight.

Disney’s tactic was different. It limited access to guests staying at hotels that it owns, to people with high-priced tickets (like park-hoppers or annual passes), and to those who had made dining reservations inside one of the parks. At 2:30 pm, Disney then resumed normal admission.

This can provide an interesting example of how different companies deal with capacity when you teach Supp.7. The theme parks also bring in extra workers, open more food and drink stations, add more parades and street entertainment–anything to keep the visitors happy once they enter.

Discussion questions:

1. How does this differ from issues other service firms (like hospitals, restaurants, etc.) face when they are at capacity?

2. How does Disney’s policy differ from its competitors?

2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 2, 2012 8:04 pm

    Many years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting some of the designers at Disney. One of them explained to us (to me and my class) that Disney has two kinds of days. They are “Design Days” and “Capacity Days.” A Design Day is the number of people that the parks accommodate most efficiently and effectively. In other words, the parks are specifically set up to run best with a certain amount of visitors. (I can’t remember the exact number, but it was fairly high). A Capacity Day was, of course, the largest number of people the parks could legally hold. The number of people on a Capacity Day was much, much larger than a Design Day. Disney does its best to make these capacity crowds feel good about their experience, but as a long-time park visitor, I can tell you that even Design Days feel crowded. But, at least at this time of year, you won’t pass out from the heat!

  2. January 2, 2012 11:56 pm

    Thanks, Professor Quain. This is an important addition to the topic and it’s useful to point out to students that there are indeed two types of capacity that we discuss in Supp.7.

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