Paid Premier Access Line-Skipping Coming to Tokyo Disneyland
Oriental Land Company announced that Disney Premier Access line-skipping will be sold on the official Tokyo Disney Resort App beginning on May 19, 2022. This post details the Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea attractions that’ll sell paid FastPass, plus our commentary on how this differs from its counterparts at Walt Disney World and Disneyland, and what to expect going forward.
Let’s start with the announcement from OLC. Disney Premier Access is a new digital service that provides guests with the convenience of reserving certain theme park attractions by using the app while at Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea. By using this new service, guests will have more flexibility, be able to customize 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 options for how guests experience TDL and TDS, offering convenience and added flexibility for those who want 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 approximately $15.50 per person per attraction.
For the two attractions eligible for Disney Premier Access, Standby Pass is suspended starting April 25, 2022. However, guests can still experience these attractions as usual by waiting in line. Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea will continue to operate with the goal of creating a seamless guest experience by reducing the daily capacity to a number lower than before, and by introducing innovative services that will empower guests to enjoy the parks their way.
This shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. Oriental Land Company has hinted at paid FastPass in multiple earnings reports dating back to 2020. Most recently, in its 2024 Medium-Term Plan, OLC repeatedly emphasized the importance of “working on initiatives to enhance Guests’ experience value” while recovering financially and finding new ways to monetize the guest experience.
The 2024 Medium-Term Plan is worth skimming, if only because it has a high level of transparency that Disney itself seldom offers. Rather than being written in flowery marketing language or arcane financial terms, it’s relatively straightforward. The goals are healthy and balanced, wanting a better guest experience and improved performance for the company. Goals that, if that report is any indication, don’t necessarily have to be in conflict.
To that end, it’s also worth underscoring the backdrop against which this occurs. For the last two-plus years, Tokyo Disney Resort has operated with capacity caps in place, with attendance limited as low as 5,000 guests per day until last fall.
That number has gradually increased this year, but only within the last few weeks have physical distancing markers been removed from the parks. Temperature checks, mask rules, and other health safety policies dropped over a year ago in the domestic parks all still remain in place at Tokyo Disney Resort. This is mentioned more for their financial impact on the parks than the policies themselves.
Despite this, the Japan parks brought back their daytime and nighttime parades faster than Walt Disney World or Disneyland. Those parks have also resumed most, albeit not all, entertainment.
More significantly, Tokyo Disneyland opened its large scale expansion of Toontown, Tomorrowland, and Fantasyland–highlighted by an area themed to Beauty and the Beast. This occurred in Fall 2020 during the phased reopening when attendance was at or near its lowest point.
Additionally, construction has continued full steam ahead on Fantasy Springs, the ambitious Peter Pan, Tangled, and Frozen expansion to Tokyo DisneySea. Work stalled for only a few weeks back in Spring 2020 before OLC got right back to business, and they’re now moving fast. In total, these projects are costing OLC approximately $3 billion, with the newly-announced Space Mountain adding another ~$400 million to that total.
All of this is despite Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea continuing to hemorrhage money, with no alternative sources of revenue to recover the losses. Not to make excuses as to why it’s different for OLC to start selling FastPass as compared to the domestic parks…but frankly, it is a bit different.
If this makes us biased and lacking objectivity towards OLC, so be it. Between their increased corporate transparency and our unequivocally positive firsthand experiences at Tokyo Disney Resort over the last decade, we are willing to give that company the benefit of the doubt. They’ve earned it.
The big question for us is what happens next? This seems more like a trial balloon for Disney Premier Access than its final form; the assumption among many Tokyo Disney Resort fans has been that free FastPass will never return and will be replaced by a fully paid system.
That assumption seems logical given what has happened at Disneyland Paris, Walt Disney World, and Disneyland in the last year. However, Tokyo Disney Resort is its own beast, and has unique guest demographics.
For one thing, the Japan parks have the most fervent fanbase, exceeding even Disneyland when it comes to hardcore locals. Whether those diehards would pay for something equivalent to Genie+ is a good question, and it’s possible OLC is not confident in that.
It’s also possible that OLC does not want to get overly aggressive in rolling out new monetization plans at a time when travel is only beginning to recover for fear of alienating average Japanese consumers. The dynamics are not quite the same in Japan as the United States, where pent-up demand is fueling increases in per guest spending of 40%.
As a general matter, Japanese consumers have a reputation for being extremely frugal and cost-conscious. (Here’s a fascinating video from the Wall Street Journal: ‘Japanification’: As U.S. Inflation Surges, Here’s Why Japan’s Prices Have Held Steady)
While inflation remains low by international standards, it is starting to impact prices in Japan. The key difference is that Japanese consumers are famously sensitive to rising prices, a consequence of the “Lost Decades” of economic stagnation following the collapse of an asset price bubble in the early 1990s. Many companies in Japan are thus reluctant to raise prices, even if their hand is forced by higher input costs, for fear of losing customers.
That reticence could be why OLC is only charging for the newest attraction in each park. Or, it could be that the app functionality is still being developed, and Tokyo Disney Resort doesn’t want to rush to market a sloppy product with glitches and poor user experience. Only time will tell.
Ultimately, it’ll be interesting to see what happens with Disney Premier Access and whether it receives a Genie+ like component at Tokyo Disney Resort. While I obviously do not want to pay more for anything, average tickets cost ~$70 per day there, food & beverage is less expensive, and merchandise is generally cheaper (minus Duffy, who seemingly subsidizes the whole operation).
If paid FastPass costs an extra ~$15 per day to use a line-skipping service, that’s something we’ll pay (albeit not for individual attractions). The overall cost is still low enough for visiting the superior Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea, and I trust that OLC would not release a fundamentally-flawed or frustrating service. That’s just us, though!
Planning a trip to Tokyo Disney Resort? For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Tokyo Disneyland & DisneySea Trip Planning Guide! For more specifics, our TDR Hotel Rankings & Reviews page covers accommodations. Our Restaurant Reviews detail where to dine & snack. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money post. Our What to Pack for Disney post takes a unique look at clever items to take. Venturing elsewhere in Japan? Consult our Ultimate Guide to Kyoto, Japan and City Guide to Tokyo, Japan.
What do you think of OLC’s plan to charge ~$16 per ride on the Enchanted Tale of Beauty and the Beast at Tokyo Disneyland and Soaring: Fantastic Flight at Tokyo DisneySea? Expect this to be expanded in a manner similar to Genie+ or think this is it for the monetization plan? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Any questions? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!
Because it’s Tokyo, when you pay a premium to experience an attraction at the Tokyo Resort, you know all of the attraction’s show scenes and effects will be working properly. That seems reasonable.
I could not fathom paying extra for a ride like Radiator Springs Racers in California where numerous major scenes have literally not been working for months.
Although there is an English language app, I’ve heard it lacks a lot of the functionality present on the Japanese language version. Or, lacked, possibly, some of those reviews are a year or two old. People reported being unable to purchase certain merchandise or display park tickets with the English language version. Any idea if that’s still the case?
I’m not sure–I still use the Japanese version. Even that doesn’t work for merchandise due to my location.
I understand the rationale for it and I understand cutting OLC some slack, but I’m never going to be a fan of a tiered system where people with more money wait in shorter/less lines than people with less money.
Thank you for your continued Tokyo coverage it’s always appreciated. We booked our dream first ever Japan trip for August 2020 haha. Now we are hoping 2023 will finally be our time, we figured at this point we should wait until the Tokyo sea expansion opens. Any guesses without delays the latest that would be? After cutting Hong Kong Disney from the initial trip for safety concerns we are talking about including it this time (Shanghai is too scary for our comfort). Do you think Hong Kong Disney as of now is a no worry place to travel to in the same vein as Japan when it re opens?
When I went in Feb 2020, getting the app installed from Japanese iTunes and translating it was a huge pain. So it’s great to see they’ve finally released an English app.
Everything I’ve read about the Japanese parks just makes me more and more excited to visit them (I’ve got my fingers crossed for 2023). You said it really well in the above article, and hammered it home in a reply to one of the comments below: the consumers at TDLR are value-conscious, which means if we’re seeing higher prices we’re also getting a better product. That’s well in line with my own desires for a theme park, as I’ve got no problem with spending more for a higher quality experience. I’ll be following this with some curiosity to see how it plays out…
Not that I know you well, but based on all of your comments and expressed interests/preferences here, I’m pretty confident that you’ll absolutely love TDR–and Japan, for that matter.
(Also, sorry we couldn’t stop to chat last week! It was a very busy day. Good seeing you briefly and hope you had a fun trip, though!)
We haven’t spent much time together, but I’d bet you’ve pegged me right! If I don’t enjoy Japan, it’ll surprise ME anyway.
No worries about not being able to stop–I think even non-seasoned Disney-goers understand the pressure of making it to a reservation on time. Judging from your Rewind preview photos it looks like you were successful and had a great evening, which I am SUPER JEALOUS OF but only because I really wanted to experience the ride before my next trip in September. (My frustration at this is on Disney, which I have made sure they’ve heard about in a mostly polite manner.) I hope we get the chance to talk again on another trip though–you and Sarah both provide refreshingly intelligent discourse while still clearly loving what you do, and that’s an awesome combination.
As long as Japan is closed to tourists, TDR isn’t reaping as many of the benefits of the weaker yen as it otherwise could. I expect international tourism to be higher than the pre-pandemic average (about 10% I think?) after they can open up. Selling me some of that sweet Country Bear merch directly might help, too.
Great find, Tom! From the Medium Term Plan: “OLC aims to offer a comfortable park environment by bringing down the daily attendance limit to below the level before the pandemic started.” Tokyo Disney seems like it would make an excellent boutique resort, and even repositioning themselves slightly in that direction should allow them to maintain (dare I say increase?) the quality.
The bulk of tourists to Japan come from China, so until they reopen (and who knows when that will happen), I wouldn’t expect a huge increase. Even the weak yen probably isn’t enough to offset the loss of Chinese tourists.
As for attendance, it sounds to me more like they want to redistribute it rather than actually reduce it overall. That could probably be accomplished with a reservation system or better blockout calendar for APs there. The weekends and holidays are absolutely bonkers, but other days are way less crowded than WDW or DLR.
I’m sure this a tired comparison, and I’m missing something obvious here….but I do find it interesting that Disney is choosing to monetize all their latest/greatest attractions with a la carte line skipping while at the Universal parks the only lines you can’t pay to skip are the latest/greatest attractions.
Hope you have a great weekend.
My only guess is that Universal long ago inked a long-term deal with Loews on the unlimited Express Pass for those resorts and that constitutes the bulk of Express Pass users. If so, Universal sees less benefit from adding new attractions to Express Pass–it would actually hurt their paying day guests.
Otherwise, I have no clue how to explain it. There’s no denying that Universal has been most guest-friendly in the past couple of years, so maybe that’s it. In which case, kudos to them.
It never fails to amaze how you have double-down on Genie+. When I first found your blog it was balanced and informative. Your articles were actually well thought out and data based.
Now I find you just have become a “shill” for Disney so much so that after doing a qualitative word search you rise head over heals over other blog when it comes to Genie+ and paid line skipping.
Moreover, my conclusion is that your Disney tourist blog is more about lining Disney’s pockets than helping tourists.
Lastly, please spare me the PR spin. All you have to do keyword searches, level one research.
Interesting conclusions to draw from an article about Oriental Land Company–the Walt Disney Company has zero ownership stake in the Japan parks. If anything, there are multiple jabs at Disney in this post, and how OLC does things differently from the US parks.
With respect to Genie+ in general, there has been a ton of coverage here…but it’s also the most seismic shift to touring in a decade, so why wouldn’t there be? In numerous posts, we’ve recommended not buying Genie+ for 3 of the 4 parks. You can see how it fared in a head to head comparison here: https://www.disneytouristblog.com/genie-plus-versus-standby-strategy-disney-world/
Maybe a “shill” for OLC 😉
Do you understand the difference of OLC vs. Disney?
As for Genie+, Tom is very open about his disdain of the (de)evolution that was MaxPass at DLR, but also has accepted the fact that will never return and Genie+ is here to stay until they have some other thing to take it’s place. So I’m the meantime, why not help tourists who find themselves questioning whether Genie+ is worth it and/or how to use it. That seems pretty Tourist oriented to me. Many articles even announce why it’s sucks in certain parks (::cough:: DHS), but if a tourist decided to add it on to their ticket, well here’s some first hand research and experience if you so make that decision.
Tom’s blog and data was of immense value and help to our planning of our WDW trip last November. Everyone has their preferences and biases and Tom states those upfront and provides information and data to back up his views. His blog single handedly allowed us to make better decisions, plan a better trip, and save us money.
As a someone who works as a research analyst, Tom’s blog and information is often better than what you would get from paid work.
They won’t compromise on quality: that is not how Japan functions. I would welcome a paid all-encompassing FastPass service, and I would pay as much as $40 a day for it since the park tickets cost so much less there. Having been there many times, I cannot imagine those parks without FastPass. The experience of visiting the parks would be a nightmare at full capacity.
They’re already starting to remove FastPass machines, so they’re either going all digital or having an all-encompassing service.
I’d also be fine with it–probably not for $40 per day, but at least $25.
I have to say I’m very worried about the long term for Tokyo Disney if they’re losing money like that. Eventually they’re going to have to compromise their quality to stay profitable, and I feel like nickel and diming the way the American parks do is the first step.
I’m not worried at all.
They have some great projects in the pipeline that will be huge draws. Beyond that, part of Japanese consumers being much more cost conscious is that they’re also more value conscious. Quite simply, their guests hold the parks to a higher standard than we do here.