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Thread: Are Touringplans crowd numbers inflated?

  1. #51
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    The underestimating attendance is where my mind went
    I do think of they had anticipated the crowds they would have staffed better
    Since they did the week before
    I did find it very surprising Disney can still be surprised at attendance
    I'd have thought by this time they had it down to such a science they could predict crowds better than that

  2. #52
    who gon stop me? HUH? josh's Avatar
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    I really can't overemphasize how much of an impact maximum FastPass+ distribution has had on wait times and crowd flow. We are to the point where there is literally no day-of FP+ availability for Rock n Roller Coaster, Toy Story Mania, Tower of Terror, Star Tours, Indiana Jones, and Frozen Sing Along. That means a tremendous amount of people are arriving with priority as early as park opening. It does not take a lot of people in standby to push wait times up when 70% or more of your capacity is given to FP+. And it also seems to be pulling people to the park earlier and causing them to stay later. If the only FP+ you can get at Toy Story is 9:15am - 10:15am then you are going to arrive by then even if you were not originally planning to get there until 11am. If you have a Rock n Roller Coaster FP+ for 7:30pm - 8:30pm then you are staying that late even if you were planning to return to the resort at 7pm to swim.

  3. #53
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    And it also seems to be pulling people to the park earlier and causing them to stay later.
    ...which was a big goal of FP+, to better utilize the attraction capacity they had, spreading people out both by time-of-day and by attraction. If Studios is fully booked for FP+ before it even opens, that's mission accomplished from the perspective of park ops.

  4. #54
    Quote Originally Posted by josh View Post
    I am going to write a post about this past week as it has been rough no doubt about it. I was at Magic Kingdom Wednesday, Animal Kingdom Thursday, and Hollywood Studios/Epcot Friday. And I have over 800 theme park visits under my belt in the last five years so you might say that I've seen a lot.

    There are a variety of problems at the moment. The biggest for this past week has been underestimated attendance and underestimated staffing to go with it, in addition to significant reductions in staffing, operating hours, and entertainment. I usually use an Olive Garden analogy though people always get too clever with me about it. But say you operate an Olive Garden and you are expecting 300 people for dinner. And 296 show up. Things probably go pretty well as you have the staff to accommodate that number of people. Now let's say you are expecting 300 people for dinner and 500 show up. Now you don't have the number of servers to work the tables, don't have the chefs to prepare the food, don't have the staff to clean the tables, etc. Now you could have handled 500 people if you were expecting it, but when you aren't everything goes to hell. On Wednesday, Disney was expecting 52,000 people at Magic Kingdom and got over 70,000. That's a Thanksgiving week number. Overall crowds are not Thanksgiving level, but Epcot attendance is down 15% on the year and those people are predominantly spending an additional day at Magic Kingdom. The park is crushed almost every day. Disney has found that extending the hours isn't profitable because so few people arrive for an 8am open or stay to a 1am close. Those hours are fantastic for people that can do it, but Disney has not found it necessary to offer those hours for the number of people that are there. If the number of people that are there at 1pm were there at 12am, you would see 12am and later closes. But if you look at a chart of how much money the park is making versus how much operating it costs, those numbers are obviously much worse early and late.

    As far as TouringPlans, they have been terrible at crowd prediction for well over ten years. They have not updated their models to account for higher wait times in the FastPass+ age. Before FP+, a 35 minute peak wait at it's a small world would be virtually unheard of and resigned to days immediately following Christmas. Now a 35-minute peak wait means you visited in the afternoon on a Tuesday in late January. It is a common occurrence. But TouringPlans biggest problem on the customer service front has always been that they underestimate crowd levels. This is something I can sympathize with because people also tell me I'm wrong all the time, even if the numbers I provide are typically within 3% of the actual attendance that ends up arriving. Park crowds from day to day fluctuate much more depending primarily on weather and that's something that I've discussed at length in the past. People don't go to Magic Kingdom when it rains, generally speaking. So I think TouringPlans is just saying every day is a 7, 8, 9, or 10 so they don't have to deal with people saying "You said it was going to be a one and it felt like a seven." But I could go on for 50 pages about how misguided their methodology is. They don't even do their crowd stuff in house anymore. It's funneled through a third party.
    That does it!!!...I'm going to The Peoples Court and suing them for my $12.95! Josh will you be a witness for me?

  5. #55
    won't let you order a nice scotch texhanddoc's Avatar
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    Across the board though. Epcot has Soarin' down and Frozen ride in Norway is not yet open. DHS just closed the back 1/4 of its park to build Star Wars land, etc. AK is still considered a half to 2/3 day park. Where is everyone going to go? MK. It makes sense.
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  6. #56
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    Quote Originally Posted by tentex View Post
    That does it!!!...I'm going to The Peoples Court and suing them for my $12.95! Josh will you be a witness for me?
    No need for People's Court (I know you're joking anyway). I posted a very critical comment over there when they were doing a series of posts analyzing park attendance and basing it on their made up crowd numbers. I got an email from the guy who runs it offering a refund and to keep the subscription. I declined, because the site can be good for some things (haven't used any of them though). The offer was a nice gesture.
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  7. #57
    I was there this past week, and will try to write a full trip report as we learned so much, but I can tell you we thought it was awful in the parks. This is our third straight trip in April in four years (different weeks each time) and we previously have seen nothing like it based on how we tour. So bad we left before our 12:30 mine train FP one day because the mornings were so exhausting already. We still had fun, but for the first time I looked at my wife after the trip and said I didn't feel we received much value from our tickets that cost a lot (3 adults, 4 kids, no hopping or water parks, 7 days, forget how much but over 2K). So much so, if we go back next year, we aren't planning on buying tickets and just using the resorts. But More on that later.

    Also, regarding Epcot, our plan was three days MK, two AK, one each Epcot and HS turned into three MK, one AK and HS while no Epcot with two days just an hour in the evening at MK and HS. it doesn't make sense to go to Epcot even though I love just walking that park, the kids get bored.

    Ray

  8. #58
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    Josh, we didn't go to Disney in 2015, but I still remember the "holy cow what happened" posts after our last trip the same week in 2014. I personally don't think this week was nearly as terrible as the same week in 2014, but maybe that's because I was better prepared mentally for the new longer lines post-FPP. Is Disney using resort & restaurant advance booking to anticipate attendance? Maybe Disney is underestimating how cheap Georgia and/or Michigan tourists are, and they think we aren't coming because the resorts aren't booking as far in advance?

    They definitely were understaffed. PW almost killed our AK morning. I sent my daughter & mother to go ride PW around 9:30 without noticing they were only running one side. I didn't think to tell them to get out of line for our EE FPP window that ended an hour later. We barely made it - actually by the time we got to the front of the long FPP line, we were three minutes after our grace period ended.

  9. #59
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    I renew my touringplans membership for trips solely because of their personalized touring plans & their phone app (especially having their restaurant ratings handy). Here's my personalized touring plan for the MK last Sunday, which is based on Josh's MK two day plan day 1: http://touringplans.com/plans/print?id=1823734

    I check their predicted waits against Josh's cheat sheets and note any big discrepancies and plan a ride to cut (or sometimes I'll just create a break called "Buffer" & put it in for the number of minutes in the discrepancy). If the app gives me anything whacky I delete the attraction and write it in manually as a break instead. Here, steps 13, 14 & 19 are breaks I've customized.

  10. #60
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    Quote Originally Posted by AngiTN View Post
    Wow, impressive recording keeping. Curious, what method do you use to keep it? I wouldn't mind doing something like that on our trip next week but knowing me, I'd take 5 min to log those times (and I can't walk and type or write) ;)
    I just keep it in a draft email. I looked at the time as we exited AO, then as we entered what looked to be a long boring line at WtP I wrote the first few lines & listed all of the rides we were planning in the email. On subsequent rides I just had to note the minutes.

  11. #61
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    Quote Originally Posted by bnoble View Post
    ...which was a big goal of FP+, to better utilize the attraction capacity they had, spreading people out both by time-of-day and by attraction. If Studios is fully booked for FP+ before it even opens, that's mission accomplished from the perspective of park ops.
    If that's what is happening then we are the exception the rule, as we tend to leave the parks earlier. Under the old FP system, we'd accumulate and use FP's for our favorite rides, which would extend our "rope drop 'til after lunch" to 2-ish. Now it's more like RD. lunch, out by 1-ish. And I'm in no rush to get back to the parks after dinner.
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  12. #62
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    I was at Disney last week and it overall was pretty bad. The Wednesday Josh took a picture of was recommended by TP. Yikes! I created my own plan on TP and it did pretty well. I think the TP crowd levels are not inflated. I have had 4 coworkers go to Disney this year at different times (Nov, Dec, Feb, April) they seemed very accurate. There were still a ton of spring breaks last week. I have many teaching friends in Indiana and Michigan and we were all on Spring break. Never mind other areas of the country.

  13. #63
    the jeweled acrobats only perform amazing stunts for him DopeyRunr's Avatar
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  14. #64
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    I think she means very accurate in general, but that last week was an anomaly - which seems to be the case for any crowd calendar and what last week's numbers really were. It seems josh has access to actual attendance numbers that other people don't, and even those were way off - the 50k vs 70k, for instance. Judging any crowd calendar by last week would make them all questionable as far as accuracy.

  15. #65
    We were there last week and it was definitely more crowded than seemed predicted. Following Josh's plans made things mostly doable and enjoyable still, but Thursday at MK was bananas. We waited 40 minutes for Dumbo a little after 10 AM. They were only running one side, so I was a fool to get in line. We ended up going straight from Dumbo to lunch which at least bought us an upstairs window table at CHH to watch the crowds from a safe distance.

    Later that night, we got a 4th FP for Winnie the Pooh and there was no cast member at the link up between the FP and standby lines, so people had basically turned it into a four way stop, letting one group go from each line at a time. It was not a terrible wait and everyone was polite, but MK definitely seemed understaffed for the crowds.

  16. #66
    the jeweled acrobats only perform amazing stunts for him DopeyRunr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by snappity View Post
    I think she means very accurate in general.
    I guess that depends upon how you define "very accurate," because , as a lot of this thread has pointed out, they are in general not much better than an educated guess.
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  17. #67
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    so we are going to the world 4/25-4/29. This is New York city schools vacation week. Based on this information Do any of the crowd calendars take this into consideration? Anyone know where to look to see how many states have this as a break? I subscribe to TP and have based my plans off of this as well as other sites but not sure if this was taken into consideration based on what I read here.

  18. #68
    Well, all the ones I know of do! The issue is not crowd analysts "missing" spring breaks--they aren't remotely that stupid.
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  19. #69
    the jeweled acrobats only perform amazing stunts for him DopeyRunr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Shute View Post
    Well, all the ones I know of do! The issue is not crowd analysts "missing" spring breaks--they aren't remotely that stupid.
    On the touringplans blog they said they look at the 50 largest school districts, and only 5% had off last week, so they may need to re-think how they sample. So they didn't exactly "miss" that a large number of schools had spring break last week, they just didn't consider those school districts at all, apparently.
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  20. #70
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    We just returned on Saturday and noticed high crowd levels at MK, even on the recommended days. Thankfully we did well with our touring plans and did not have long waits for any attraction. HS, Epcot and AK seemed on point in terms of crowd levels.

  21. #71
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    But even easywdw had the week at 5/6, yourfirstvisit at 5, KTP moderate, etc - I guess I don't quite get the hate on TP (I have no connection to them, except a membership to plan my own trip) when they clearly weren't the only one to mis-predict the first week of April (but they are the only one to have the follow up that shows/admits that. - so far, I'm really looking forward to Josh's post on it, because I'm a data nerd) So, do other crowd calendars just crib from TP? I know this one at easywdw claims to use Disney numbers (which I can't find anyplace else, only references that disney does NOT share those numbers, so I assume there's an insider that Josh knows to get those?) but for those of us that are trying to plan a vacation and use crowd calendars, best guesses made on average wait times using past dates seems about as good as one can get (and I assume Disney uses a similar methodology to plan staffing) and the real mystery (data wise) is what was it about the first week of April that surprised the corporation as well as the people making crowd calendars.

    I love data and trying to find patterns and such, so the concept of predictive crowd calendaring is interesting to me on an academic level, not just "dear god, I hope my trip is a good one!" For instance, I find it strange that TP doesn't use 7DMT in it's calculations - is it because it is so new, or because it's an outlier? If you take the dataset from post FP+ (which has had a ripple effect on wait times) would the calculations be different?

  22. #72
    Quote Originally Posted by DopeyRunr View Post
    On the touringplans blog they said they look at the 50 largest school districts, and only 5% had off last week, so they may need to re-think how they sample. So they didn't exactly "miss" that a large number of schools had spring break last week, they just didn't consider those school districts at all, apparently.
    I don't believe that it was a sampling issue. In my case I review everything longer than a three day weekend all year at 180 school districts--the 100 largest, then 80 more next-largest in east of the Mississippi districts whose states are otherwise thinly represented. This covers ten million kids--20% of the US schoolkid population. After weighting for propensity to travel (e.g. Georgia and Florida get more weight than Oregon) I ended with 10% of my weighted population off last week--as compared to 30 to 40% off the weeks before and after Easter. Based on the eight years I've been doing this, 10% spring break in April is not enough to move the needle, even when you add back in the second half of UK breaks.

    The needle instead--I'm guessing--got moved by 1. A secular and general change in propensity to travel, given being on break. This could have come from the continually improving economy. 2. A specific change in propensity to travel from the warm winter, leading some north-easterners to shift travel from say February to April. 3. Reduced staffing and capacity even if the week had been normal, yielding skyrocketing stand-by waits.

    Basically everyone--including WDW itself--missed last week, and everyone of any remote competence reviews all the major spring break calendars. While the scope of those reviews varies--WDW looking at the most kids, TP the least--there's no math reason why the sample validities would have suddenly changed this year...
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  23. #73
    Senior Member cdmurphy727's Avatar
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    I think the point everyone is trying to make is that last week was a moderate week in terms of overall resort attendance. The surprise came from more people spending time at MK instead of the other parks. So MK was understaffed and unprepared for the people. When you compare a "level 5" now to a "level 5" from two years ago it will seem like the crowd calendars are wrong. But it's really expectations that need to be adjusted to account for a much higher overall attendance in this year than there wells two or so years ago.

    The reason TP is getting so much flack is that they now say every single day has wait times of a level 7,8,9,10. The problem with that is that they have not accounted for the rise in wait times caused by fast pass plus. So, yes, stand by waits are longer but it isn't because of a higher crowd level it's because of FP distribution. To say that last week was a 10 and also that Christmas week is a 10 is crazy. There's a huge difference in crowd level. TPs needs to adjust their data collection/comparison process to reflect FP+ or their numbers will continue to be unreliable.

  24. #74
    the jeweled acrobats only perform amazing stunts for him DopeyRunr's Avatar
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    TP doesn't say every single day has wait times of 7-10. Look at last week - three of the days were 4,5,6.

    It's not that TP blew it miserably last week (although they did) in some kind of unique circumstance... but that they are consistently bad, despite assurances that their systems is based on solid statistical models.

    If I was super interested I would build a spreadsheet of their predictions, what they call "actual" wait times and see how far off they are over the course of a year, and see if their models are really any better than a random number generator set to spit out a number from 5-8 every day. I'm betting it's a toss-up.

    And I agree, if last week was a 10 then I guess there are at least 10-15 weeks that are 10s per the TP model. I appreciate that Josh adjusts for the current reality, acknowledging that a 2 today is VERY different from a 2 at the nadir of the economic recession.
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  25. #75
    Senior Member cdmurphy727's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DopeyRunr View Post
    TP doesn't say every single day has wait times of 7-10. Look at last week - three of the days were 4,5,6.
    Exaggeration for emphasis. 😜

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