Why The UK Gets Better Disney Free Dining Deal
Disney has offered us Brits a rather generous free dining offer for many years now, and there has always been some bitterness from people that side of the pond regarding the dining deals we get offered. While only Disney know for sure why they give different offers to different countries, I can speculate why us Brits might get it a little better. Trolling comments like "just to go to paris instead" aside, I'll try to break down why I think Disney offers us Brits a better free dining offer than the do to their own Americans.
It's an 8+ hour flight to go to Orlando from any UK airport, plus travelling time to the nearest airport. I'm not disregarding that there are places in America where you may have to get a couple trains and then a couple flights to get down to Orlando. Generally speaking, if you're near a major city airport, you can get a rather swift flight down to the Florida. Also keep in mind is we don't have the inconvenience of things like ESTA's, customs, and also generally have higher insurance premiums etc.
The issue for us isn't the flight time – it's the cost. Most of the UK travellers going to Disney World are families. That means children in school. It is not easy (or free) to take children out of school for holidays, which means they're restricted to when the can travel. The airline companies know this and increase prices to extortionate levels due to high demand.
Looking at average flights for August 2019, they're going for around £1300 a seat. That really adds up if you're paying for a family of 4 or more. Average flights for September 2019 are £400 a seat for comparison.
While the free dining offer is offered all year round, you have to remember that most families are restricted to the school holidays and have to pay these huge premiums.
We Stay Longer
UK and other international guests tend to stay longer. The average UK guest will stay between 2 and 3 weeks each time they visit. As we stay longer, we may very well on average spend more. More money on drinks, merchandise, activities etc. It's easier for some Americans to "pop down" to Orlando for a few days when they desire or when Disney have a local promotion running, but it's simply not worth for us to be doing that, even with promotions active.
The main promotion we get is the free dining offer. Later in the year, Disney usually offers a couple free nights on a two-week stay, but the actual percentage saving is quite low. In the USA however, you regularly get room discounts for anywhere up to 40%. Many Americans have shunned the free Disney dining offer they get and take up the room discounts and pay for the food out of pocket, which often might be a better deal overall. However, we don't get such room discounts. The only discounts we can really get is what we can haggle with travel agents, which usually only ends up being a couple hundred pounds off. So for us it's really only this good free dining offer, or nothing at all.
Other than Disney's regular price increases, generally the costs of being at Disney World are constant. For us, we have to battle with currency exchange rates, too. Over the last few years, the British pound has sunk to record low levels, which increases the cost for us either more.
Although the strength of the United Stats Dollar is not Disney's problem or fault, they have to be sensitive about currencies and prices around the world. American companies like Apple who simply convert the Dollar price of their products into Pounds only recently announced they're going to start adjusting prices for the markets they're selling in, instead of simply converting the Dollar cost they charge in America. Disney have to keep in mind the increase or decrease in spending power of the markets they market to.
Disney can offer a more generous free dining offer to help offset the extra costs for us, as lots of people get priced out due to currencies exchanges as it is. I remember back many years ago when the exchange rate was touching £1 > $2. With it now hovering at around £1 > $1.30, that means taking £1000 worth of spending money is now worth only $1300 instead of $2000 – its a huge difference. It would be curious to see if the exchange rates went back to previous levels whether Disney would keep offering this dining offer as it currently stands.
Offering the free dining offer to help offset the extra cost for us to go (even though Disney do not profit from that extra cost), is a good idea. Giving free dining has a lot of cost and value associated with it, but doesn't necessarily cost Disney that much to give. For example, it would be impossible for a human stomach to eat even half the cost of the food value of the $60 it costs to eat at Chef Mickey's, but the free dining offer makes that looks like we've saved $60 for getting it free.
At the end of the day Disney don’t need to give a reason. We can only speculate like I have here. They can offer whatever discounts and free deals they want to who they want, for whatever reason they want. Regardless of any justification from either side of the argument, If Disney didn’t need to offer these deals – they wouldn't. They’re not doing it because they're kind, they're doing it because their research and data shows that they most likely make more money offering us this free dining deal than offering something less or nothing at all.
The argument over whether the free dining offer is worth it will be ongoing, but I know many families in the UK count on it and wouldn't be able to go without it.
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