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What’s Behind The Disney Parks Ticket Price Increase


As they say on ABC’s hit show “Once Upon A Time,” magic has a price. If the magic you want to experience is one of Disney’s theme parks, that price has just increased… again. This time with tax and fees it now costs more than $101 to buy a one day, one park ticket to Disney World. Disneyland is a little cheaper at $92 (no sales tax on theme park tickets in California). With attendance at both resorts still very strong, I’m not surprised by the move.

At Disneyland the cost to buy a one park, one day adult admission is now $92 while 9 and under is $86. The adult price is a 5.7% increase. If you want to hop between the two gates at Disneyland you’ll have to pay $137 for an adult (a 9.7% increase) or $131 for a child. With a stiff increase like that, Disneyland must want to discourage park hopping.

At Walt Disney World an adult one day, one park admission is now $95 and 9 and under is $89. Disney World wants to encourage you to stay longer, so a 5 day one park per day pass only went up five dollars to $265 (9 and under is $244). That’s a much more reasonable $53 a day admission price.

Still, 5 years ago it was just $65 for an adult one park ticket. Compared to $95, that’s around a 33% increase. Other than the price of gas, can you think of anything else that has gone up 33% in cost the last three years? According to the Department or Labor’s consumer price index (CPI), the average price increase has been 9% in the last 5 years. So Disney is definitely way ahead of the normal pace of price increases.

Most of what I’ve read on the twitter-webz is that people think Disney is out of step with their daily reality. In addition to the CPI difference previously noted, it’s true that while Disney has been steadily raising their prices for the last 5 years, wages have remained stagnant and, by most measurements, earning power has decreased (as you might expect during a deep recession). Each increase in the cost of a vacation by Disney slices off another subsection of families who will now choose a cheaper vacation closer to home or are forced to save up longer for that one special trip (and boy, it better be amazing, or they’re going to be even more upset, so the pressure is really on for Disney to perform in the parks).

From Disney’s perspective they’re doing their best to maximized shareholder value. The parks have been experiencing new visitor patterns. In part due to Disney’s hotel expansion and smart marketing of discounts or “Free Dining”, there really is no off-season anymore. Additionally, the parks continue to see very high attendance levels and Disney has been investing heavily with its Next-Gen interactive elements, remaking California Adventure, and expanding Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom.

Disney is also factoring perceived value into its decision to raise prices. The ‘brand’ of the Disney parks is that they’re the crown jewel of themeparks everywhere. So there is pressure to make sure your prices are higher than your competitors. This has created a bit of a pricing war between the three major theme parks in Orlando. Whenever SeaWorld or Universal raises their prices in order to say, “Hey look, we’re as good as Disney,” it forces Disney to raise theirs so they stay atop the perceived value pyramid.

The competition for your theme park dollar is more intense than ever. Both SeaWorld and Universal have rolled out major new attractions in the last few years and Universal is planning to add even more Harry Potter (on both coasts), a brand that already drove millions of new guests to their gates (smartly targeting the brits who love Central Florida). These parks know that Orlando is known worldwide as the place for family vacations.

I know this is a contrary view, but if raising ticket prices allow Disney, Universal, & SeaWorld to continue to invest in the theme parks and improving the vacation experience, then I’m on board. Yes, there is a limit to this dynamic. But as long as multi-day prices continue to be reasonable and it continues to cost more per hour to attend a concert, Broadway show, or see a 3D movie, then I think Disney is still providing a value that its fans will want to pay.