American leisure spending way up, including theme parks

Posted Friday, May 18, 2012 9:06 AM | Contributed by Jeff

After several years of forced frugality, we're all ready for some fun. So suggest the results of the Chase Freedom Lifestyle Index, which compares spending in the first quarter of 2012 with the same period last year. Theme park spending was up 21%.

Read more from MSN Money.

Friday, May 18, 2012 1:33 PM

Attendance has been up (for the most part) for the last couple of years. If it's going to be even busier this year, I can't wait to see what those dividends end up being. :-)

Friday, May 18, 2012 3:17 PM

Of course spending has gone up at theme parks. We have front-of-the-line schemes to thank for that.

Friday, May 18, 2012 5:44 PM

We may not be able to count on the economy, but one thing we can always count on is Travis chiming in on fast passes.

Friday, May 18, 2012 5:51 PM

Didn't say anything against them here. I'm being serious. If it costs more to have fun a theme park, then theme parks are going to make more money.

Saturday, May 19, 2012 3:36 PM

And almost on cue, Disneyland raised their prices, especially on their APs. The Premier Passport went up $150! Not surprising, given the AP situation out there and trying to preemptively deal with crowd issues that are sure to happen with the opening of Cars Land, and they've been dealing with anyway.

Sunday, May 20, 2012 1:28 PM

I would guess Disney had planned to increase well before a report was released indicating that business was good.

Sunday, May 20, 2012 1:58 PM

I hate high prices, however Disney can raise prices to whatever they want, as far as I am concerned. They are usually very busy despite what they charge.

Sunday, May 20, 2012 2:56 PM

Travis, I don't know if you've been to a park lately, but that's true of every park. Despite what they charge, parks are doing well. And it has nothing to do with everyone being forced to buy pay to cut/line management. Parks are doing well, spending is up. Notice that the headline was American LEISURE spending way up, INCLUDING theme parks.

Sunday, May 20, 2012 5:40 PM

Fun said:

I would guess Disney had planned to increase well before a report was released indicating that business was good.

Well, yeah, that's a given. The "on cue" comment was more kind of tongue in cheek than literal/serious. Just thought it a relevant point to the topic.

Monday, May 21, 2012 3:34 AM

Well, I do tend to go when the parks are not very busy. If they are busy, I spring for the special upcharge ticket. I rarely find Kings Island to be dead, but I went to Dollywood last month and the park was very empty all week long. I haven't been to Disney for a while now, but as far as I know, a slow day at Disney is still busy.

Monday, May 21, 2012 12:12 PM

Last time I went to Disney it wasn't nearly as busy (in all 4 parks, and it was a busy weekend) as the last time I went to Dollywood.

You're an enthusiast. You know when to go and not hit crowds.

Monday, May 21, 2012 12:14 PM

If FOL passes have anything to do with the increase in spending, it's not likely due to their price alone. It would be more likely that folks accessing the product are spending more elsewhere in the park because their time and money is no longer being wasted by being stuck in line.

Monday, May 21, 2012 12:21 PM

Carrie, I tried to un-vote you, so I could vote you up a second time. I already *knew* that you got it, but it's nice to see someone else saying it out loud. (or, at least typing it in a forum post)

Monday, May 21, 2012 3:52 PM

I thought everyone that bought FOL passes sprinted from ride to ride cramming as many as possible into their 12 hours in the park to get their money's worth; they wouldn't have time to leisurely shop for stuff and spend their money elsewhere.

...Oh, wait. I'm thinking of the people that don't buy FOL access and complain that people who do were cutting in front of them all day so they missed out on 1.2 of the 47 possible rides they could have ridden.

Monday, May 21, 2012 4:50 PM

Re: spending money while not in line.

As I understand it, this was the original motivation for Disney's FP service. But, if you go back and look at the financials from that period carefully, I don't think you'll find an unusual bump in per-capita spending---at least, I didn't see it. So, to the extent that very coarse measure actually means anything, people might well have just gotten in another line, or maybe just sat on a park bench somewhere, but it doesn't appear that they spent a bunch more money.

I suspect this is part of the reason why the other operators who tried a free version of virtual queueing abandoned it (Cedar Point's Freeway, Universal's Express)---it doesn't pay for itself in excess guest spending.

Monday, May 21, 2012 5:13 PM

I think the bigger win is people leaving feeling like they did more than stand in line, and are therefore willing to return and/or pay more.

Monday, May 21, 2012 6:24 PM

I definitely don't have any data to support any notion. I would hesitate to make Disney's model the text for all, though. Again, purely anecdotal fodder, but in my mind, a Disney vacation is far more budgeted for spending by visitors, so it would make sense that FP might not increase the overall volume in spending. But other theme parks, maybe.

But even still, should the theory not hold water in visitor behavior, I still wouldn't guess a reported increase in spending is due to the cost of the FOL passes themselves. The article speaks to increased spending in various entertainment venues, not just theme parks.

And it's interesting the article is based on a study of credit card spending. You could do an entire study on the basis for which people become more comfortable using credit cards and I would imagine that pure subjective emotion would rank somewhere on the list of reasons. :)

Monday, May 21, 2012 8:22 PM

Economic theory supports the notion of "pent-up demand." During downturns, people refrain from buying goods and services they want, but don't necessarily need (like a theme park visit). When they do get around to spending again, the theory supports the notion of a *splurge* mentality. Is this what's happening? To a large degree, I'd say yes....but as always, there's a whole host of conditions at play.


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