MagicBands adorn the arms of millions of Walt Disney World visitors, giving them quick access to FastPasses, hotel rooms and credit-card accounts.
At the Walt Disney Co.‘s other theme parks, guests will someday likely enjoy similar conveniences through the swipe of a smartphone rather than a flick of the wrist.
The MagicBand, a microchip-embedded bracelet that serves as a ticket, credit card, hotel key and FastPass, is a feature of the MyMagic+ program that debuted in 2013 at Disney World. Ever-evolving smartphones, however, can likely perform similar functions in other parks, Disney Chief Executive Officer Bob Iger told stockholders last month. For example, Shanghai Disney Resort won’t distribute the bands when it opens in June.
After using the first three passes selected on My Disney Experience, visitors can obtain additional ones in the app rather than only at kiosks. You can still only order three FastPasses per day in advance. Visitors also will be able to select just one or two; until now, they have had to take three, even if they didn’t want that many.
MyMagic+ is meant to increase customer loyalty — and spending — by making visits more efficient and personalized. So far, it is not at Disneyland or other Disney parks.
Guests don’t have to wear MagicBands to take advantage of the program’s other features, including the My Disney Experience site. Passholders receive the bands free and other visitors can purchase them.
More than 18 million guests have used the wristbands, with more than 100 designs including basic colors and pictures of characters. Disney also sells MagicBand accessories. It is developing “next-generation” bracelets, such a slimmer one that launched last year.
“MagicBands were an instant hit with our guests and will continue to be an important part of the Walt Disney World experience, ” the company said in an emailed statement.
A few weeks ago, people wearing MagicBands started seeing their names on screens in “It’s a Small World.” More “personalized moments” will follow, Disney said.
Disney cruise ships have also been using the bands.
The company has not said how much it spent overall on the MyMagic+ program. The initial rollout took longer than expected, and there has been analyst and online speculation that the project went over budget.
For MagicBands, “I think it’s too massive of an outlay of capital to justify doing again, ” said Martin Lewison, an assistant professor specializing in theme parks at Farmingdale State College in New York. “You can mimic at least a number of those benefits with the technology that people are already carrying around with them.”
If Disney had developed MyMagic+ today, Lewison said, “I don’t know that they would have gone through with it (the MagicBands) because phones have become so ubiquitous.”
But the bands offer some unique benefits. For example, kids may not always own smartphones, but they can wear the bracelets. Experts point out Disney World is a much different destination than other parks, so the wristbands make more sense there. Tourists tend to have relatively lengthy stays at the Orlando resort, meaning the company can more easily recoup costs through increased spending MyMagic+ is meant to generate.
Earlier this year, some people reported getting a survey from Universal Orlando that asked questions about MagicBands too.
A similar system with radio-frequency identification bracelets would make sense for Universal’s Volcano Bay water park opening in 2017, experts said. For years, water parks including Universal-owned Wet ‘n Wild have used such bracelets to let guests pay for food and merchandise.
Universal did not respond to a request for comment.
But “they have experimented with RFID technology specifically a lot in the past couple of years, ” said Taylor Strickland, editor of the Universal-focused Orlando Informer website. That’s primarily been through interactive games at Halloween Horror Nights.
“I think it’s a small piece of the larger goal of just improving guest satisfaction and increasing guest spending, ” Strickland said.