I have no secret, insider information and while I do think there is a very good chance we’ll see a Disney World free dining promotion for this fall, for the first time, I think this could possibly be the last year it is offered. Here are my thoughts - Zika virus fears, the popularity of the Harry Potter attractions at Universal Orlando and the fact that Disney has cancelled Star Wars weekends at Disney's Hollywood Studios* have impacted the number of summer bookings at Disney World this year. These are all good reasons to think Disney will roll out a proven performer like free dining to keep people coming through the gates this fall. The thing that makes me wonder if this is the last year that Disney will offer the free dining promotion we all know and love is that, for the first time, they have released a modified "Free Meal" offer that includes only one quick-service meal per guest, per night for guests staying at a value resort this summer. This is actually a really great deal compared to typical summer offers (and it expires on February 28th) but I can't help but wonder if Disney is testing the response to this promotion as a potential way of phasing out full free dining promotions once they start opening those new Avatar, Star Wars, and Toy Story lands they're building. Those new lands are very ambitious projects that are sure to drive big numbers of guests to the parks and Disney may find that they don't need to feed us for free to get us to come.
Wouldn't it be great if I am wrong? People have been predicting the demise of Free Dining for years and Disney continued to offer it; perhaps they will continue to do so for years to come. I hope so!
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Note on Star Wars Weekends: I should note that Disney's Hollywood Studios has opened the new Star Wars Launch Bay with exhibits and character meet-and-greets, Star Wars themed fireworks, and (coming April 4) a new Star Wars stage show and Stormtrooper Processional that will be available to guests visiting all year long, rather than just drawing people on select Star Wars Weekends in May and June.