On Thursday, Disney announced that it will be ending and issuing refunds for its annual passport program which gave regular visitors discounts on park admission at its two California parks and other benefits.
The company said it was discontinuing because of “continuing uncertainty” around the reopening of the Disney theme parks amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but added that it could eventually offer other similar programs in the future.
In an email to current passport holders, Ken Potrock, president of Disneyland Resorts, said that Disney would soon create new membership perks for visitors of Disney‘s theme parks and resorts.
“For nearly four decades, our Annual Passport program has been an important part of connecting with some of our most valued Guests,” Potrock email stated. “I know that sunsetting the Annual Passport program will be disappointing to many of our Passholders who are just as anxious as we are to reopen our gates and welcome Guests back when the time is right.”
The change will only affect Disney’s California venues and won’t apply to Florida’s Walt Disney World resort, according to the San Diego Union Tribune. Potrock also told the publication that the company will consider developing alternative discount programs for regular patrons, priced depending on how often and when they visit the park.
Despite pleas from Disneyland executives asking California’s Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom to allow its parks to stay open, amid rising COVID-19 case counts last autumn, Newsom issued guidelines that restricted Disney’s parks from reopening. Over the last year, Disney laid off 100,000 of its workers, the Tribune states.
The California parks initially closed mid-March 2020 and had hoped to reopen in July of last year, albeit with required temperature checks at the entrance, enforced mask protocols and no daily parades or character meet-and-greets.
Dr. Clayton Chau, director of the Orange County Health Care Agency has said that Disneyland and the Disney California Adventure Park may not be allowed to open until summer of this year or later, according to The Los Angeles Times.
Disneyland first started issuing annual passes in June 1983. The park offered different levels of pass, based on how many days a passholder wanted to spend in the park each year. Low-level passes allowed people in only on weekdays and during the off-season, while the most expensive pass gave year-round access.
In October 2020, Tokyo Disney also discontinued its annual passport program for similar reasons. However, Tokyo Disney reopened on July 1 at 50 percent capacity to help accommodate social distancing between visitors.
The Disney World theme park in Florida is currently open although its associated hotels, restaurants and other offerings may be modified or unavailable, limited in capacity or subject to limited availability based on precautionary measures related to the pandemic.
Newsweek contacted Disney for comment.
Disneyland Winds Down Annual Pass Program After 37 Years Due to COVID-19 The British Journal Editors and Wire Services/ Newsweek.