California’s Disneyland theme parks are ending their popular annual passport programme due to requiring more control over crowds when they eventually reopen.

The multi-tiered ticketing system at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, which have remained closed for nearly a year due to COVID-19, will eventually be replaced with new membership offerings, Disneyland Resort president Ken Potrock told reporters yesterday (Thursday).

The two Anaheim parks have been closed since March 2020, as infection rates in the region have remained consistently high.

The change, which affects the park’s most loyal fans who used the annual pass to visit the attractions daily, weekly or monthly, will see refunds given automatically to those who paid for days beyond the parks’ closure last March.

While Disney does not release attendance figures, the annual pass programme has long been believed to be around one million, according to the Los Angeles Times newspaper.

The parent company, Walt Disney Co., is reportedly looking ahead to operating the parks at a reduced, reservation-only capacity when the state allows it to reopen.

Potrock said that the move was an opportunity to create a programme better suited to many of Disneyland’s fans, whose financial circumstances may have changed recently, while also potentially having more flexible tiers.

He said, according to the LA Times: “A nice part of this is creating a variety of different ways for people to access the park. If they want to come every single day, do we have a programme that allows them to do that? If they want to come midweek, do we have a programme that allows them to do that?”

The change will not affect Florida’s Walt Disney World resort, but visitors who hold a “premier”-tier pass, which grants entry to parks on both coasts, are to lose their California park admission benefits and receive refunds if applicable.

The move marks a change in ticketing strategy less than a year after Disneyland increased its ticket prices as much as five per cent for one-day tickets – breaking the $200 per day mark.

It also follows a similar step taken by Tokyo Disneyland, which ended its annual pass programme in October.

The pandemic has hit the company’s parks segment hard and in its most recent fiscal year, which ended October 3, the segment posted an $81m operating loss, compared with $6.76bn in operating income the year before.

Image: Tomás Del Coro / CC BY-SA 2.0 / Edited for size