NEW YORK – Walt Disney Parks and Resorts on Thursday announced a new promotion to admit visitors free on their birthdays next year.
"Every guest gets in free to one of our parks on their birthday in 2009," Jay Rasulo, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, said at a news conference in Manhattan.
Visitors will have to show valid identification and proof of birthdate to qualify. Details are available at http://www.disneyparks.com, where birthday visits can be registered in advance.
Mike Lynn, a professor of consumer behavior at Cornell University's School of Hotel Administration, said admitting guests free to the parks on their birthdays could very well make money.
"The only thing they lose is the revenue from those people whose birthdays it is who might have come anyway," he said. "Having an extra customer in the park doesn't cost them anything. Those people are still a benefit because they have to buy food and drinks, and their friends and family are accompanying them."
The birthday offer is part of a larger Disney promotion announced Thursday called "What will you celebrate?" It includes a 30-city tour with public events featuring Disney costumed characters, beginning in Minneapolis on Sept. 25 and ending in Phoenix in February. Next week Disney will also start running "What will you celebrate?" TV ads featuring kids blowing out candles and brides in limousines.
In addition, the parks will offer buttons to wear that identify guests with phrases such as "Just Married," "Just Graduated," and "First Visit."
"Our goal is to mark the special moments in your life in a way that your family will remember forever," Rasulo said.
Peter Yesawich, a consultant on lifestyle trends, said at the Disney news conference that Americans often arrange vacations around personal milestones such as anniversaries and birthdays. He called the phenomenon "celebration vacations."
Miley Cyrus, star of the Disney show "Hannah Montana," plans to celebrate her 16th birthday at Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., Oct. 5.
The birthday promotion is only good at U.S. parks. Visitors with multi-day passes or who are otherwise already ticketed on their birthdays can either get a one-day one-park ticket for use in the next year; a "Fastpass" for four rides for up to six people; or a card with a dollar amount equal to the free ticket, usable toward merchandise and other purchases.