Walt Disney (NYSE: DIS) introduced several policy tweaks that will go into effect at its stateside theme parks next month. The ban on smoking, as Disney World and Disneyland eliminate designated smoking areas on both coasts, is garnering most of the media attention, but the new changes won't just affect smoking and vaping inside the gated attractions.
Young families will also have to comply with new stroller restrictions going into effect on May 1. Guests will no longer be able to bring in strollers longer than 52 inches or wider than 31 inches. Traditional wagons aren't permitted in the parks, but starting next month, stroller wagons will also be banned inside any of the Disneyland or Disney World theme parks.
Rolling with the changes
Disney conveniently rents single or double strollers that meet the new requirements, so at first glance this may seem like a selfish money grab. Disney World charges $15 a day for strollers and $31 for double strollers, with discounts available for multi-day rentals. Disneyland also asks $15 a day for strollers. The original California resort doesn't currently offer double strollers, though it soon will, but it does discount two single strollers for just $25 a day.
One can argue that Disney's stroller rental revenue is about to spike, but in reality most outside strollers already comply with the new size regulations. Disney is simply trying to make it easier to get around at its theme parks. Stroller wagons and larger strollers are challenging to navigate in a crowded park, and that's becoming the norm at Disney these days, with the attractions generating record attendance levels. The larger strollers are also cumbersome for the rest of the park visitors trying to work their way around them.
It's also worth noting that the new stroller policies won't have the same kind of impact on Disney's attendance as its smoking ban. Families with young children can still wheel their kids around the parks, as long as it's not being done with mammoth-sized vehicles.
There will inevitably be some cancellations, especially if a family invested in a new set of wheels with the intention of using them at the parks. The number of smokers cancelling future trips to Disney's stateside parks should be greater, but at least there you can partially offset the impact through other guests who may come more often given the cleaner air. The new stroller and stroller wagon policy isn't going to create incremental visits elsewhere, as those Disney strollers will still ram the back of your ankles just as hard as the now-banned vehicles.
Disney has obviously put a lot of thought into the controversial measures kicking in at the end of this month. Disney's theme parks -- now lumped together with its consumer products division -- make up the largest revenue-generating segment in its latest quarter, and it has also been the media giant's most consistent producer. Disney also has enough new rides and attractions coming to both coasts in the next few years to keep attendance at record levels.
Smokers and owners of large strollers aren't happy with Disney right now, but revenue and operating profits should continue to grow in May and beyond.
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