Disney introduces variable pricing based mostly on seasonal demand

Posted Saturday, February 27, 2016 6:59 PM | Contributed by Lord Gonchar

For the first time, tickets to Walt Disney World in Florida and Disneyland in California will cost more during holidays and some weekends — up to 20 percent more — than during slower periods, as the bursting-at-the-seams parks seek to spread out demand.

Read more from The New York Times and The Orlando Sentinel.

Saturday, February 27, 2016 9:10 PM

This is what I would call dynamic pricing (rather than just discounting to sell tickets during slow periods). Charging more for peak demand periods. NYT article says that it only affects single day tickets and not multi-day packages. I would expect that the new pricing will at some point flow to the multi-day packages such that a 7 day pass during peak periods will cost more than a 7 day pass during regular or value periods.

Move for single day tickets makes a lot of sense to me. As would/will similar pricing model for multi-day passes.

Saturday, February 27, 2016 10:52 PM

GoBucks89 said:

I would expect that the new pricing will at some point flow to the multi-day packages such that a 7 day pass during peak periods will cost more than a 7 day pass during regular or value periods.

Yea, but think about Disney's multi-day pass model. Operationally, it might be difficult or impossible to pull this off. At least how the system works today.

Currently, you can purchase any multi-day pass at the time of booking a vacation package; or at any time before your visit for that matter. The "14 day" expiration kicks in at the first use of the multi-day pass, not when you purchase it. So, unless Disney plans to "red light" a ton of guests at the turnstiles, and send them back to a ticket booth to pay for some "up-charge", this will be a very difficult thing to deal with operationally.

Same holds true for annual passes; outside of blackout dates.

Saturday, February 27, 2016 11:22 PM

Seems like it would be a fairly simple matter to base multi-day pass pricing on the posted pricing for the first day of the vacation or visit, and since the more days you buy, the more money you save, as they say, there would be no reason to be sending people back to ticket gates to pay upcharges.

Aside from being customer-unfriendly, the more days guests are on-property, the more money they'll spend. I'd take a small loss on a day or two at the gate, knowing that the difference will likely be more than made up on in-park and resort purchases. You may save more money each day on a 7-day pass than a 4-day pass, but your Dole Whip is still going to cost the same each day.

Sunday, February 28, 2016 7:44 AM

I just heard this and immediately thought of Lord Gonchar as I think he envisioned this like 7 years ago (though I dont know in which post). However, IIRC, his structure was even more dynamic - hourly even.

Sunday, February 28, 2016 12:23 PM

Here's the thing that nobody seems to be seeing:

Disney just raised their "list" ticket price from $105 to $124.

And it might just be nomenclature, but from there they discount them for slower times - regardless of how you want to categorize it in your head.

It's an 18% increase. Pretty huge in a time when we discuss if they're pricing people out.

And if you don't want to look at it that way, then...

At WDW 29% of days are "peak", 49% are "regular" days and the remaining 22% are "value" days. This puts their ADR (average daily rate) at $112.96 - or $113 for simplicity's sake. Still almost an 8% increase on average. Again, not something you do if you're concerned about not enough people showing up. (which doesn't mean they're not pricing a segment out, just that it doesn't matter)

I guess the real question is:

Is this enough to make people change their habits and patterns or is it more an attempt to cash in on the fact that people won't change their habits and patterns?

Or both?

Sunday, February 28, 2016 12:52 PM

Regardless, this is what Universal should have done in Hollywood, which was frankly dynamic discounting, a subtly different process.

Sunday, February 28, 2016 2:28 PM

I'd say it's a percentage of both. I'd also say the largest percentage falls in the latter.

Gotta pay for all that new stuff somehow, right? Are today's visitors paying for tomorrow's attractions? Can you imagine where prices will be once Avatar Land, Star Wars Land, and Toy Story Land are actually up and running? Yikes!

I thought I heard something, and it must've been the Internets exploding when this news hit the fan.

Sunday, February 28, 2016 5:12 PM

Lord Gonchar said:

Is this enough to make people change their habits and patterns or is it more an attempt to cash in on the fact that people won't change their habits and patterns?

Or both?

It is an interesting question and I'm sure Disney has thought extensively about it, but it's a win/win so maybe they don't even care?

Sunday, February 28, 2016 5:43 PM

As a former WDW Cast Member and current AP holder for both Disney and Universal, I can say the true slow seasons have really gone away. Back even just 4-5 years ago, you were guaranteed an empty park and near walk-ons for the big rides for a good part of January-February, the period from about 2 weeks after Easter through Memorial Day, September, and the first two weeks of December. I think over the years folks already realized these were the slow seasons, and when you add the hotel/dining deals often found during these time periods as well as special events like the WDW marathons that are carefully scheduled during the slow season, I personally find moderate crowd levels to be the new normal in the Orlando parks.

This may discourage a few from visiting during the peak periods. But those times (particularly the busiest Christmas-New Years week) are usually filled with many first timers who "can't understand why it's so busy."

Sunday, February 28, 2016 8:33 PM

And I think with the more consistent occupancy, that comes from the right-pricing of the rooms in the "off-season." I still think there are plenty of opportunities for slower days, as the operating calendar shows. Wishes at 8 = easier day.

Sunday, February 28, 2016 10:08 PM

BrettV said:

I can say the true slow seasons have really gone away.

Totally agree, but I think that you (and Jeff) hit the nail on the head.

WDW has a long history of deeply discounting their resort room rates (sometimes 35%+ off of rack rates) in the "off" season. In addition, there is often the "free" dining plan offered, which is a suckers deal if you know how the pricing system works, but most people don't do the math and bite at a free dining plan anyway (you can almost always save more with a deep room only discount and paying cash for your meals).

Having said that, some families are just willing to take their kids out of school for a week to save a few hundred bucks (or significantly more) to do WDW when traditional American schools are in session (which is pretty much when WDW slow seasons are anyway). But it's kinda funny; when I walk around the parks in January, October and/or early December, I often say to myself; "don't all of these kids have school today?"

Now, add in "off season" perceived ticketing savings? I can't see how this won't cause "some" number of families to adjust their vacations to the slow "cheap" seasons. But in the end, I don't think the needle will move all that much and this is mostly more about incremental revenue growth to satisfy Wall Street for another year.

Sunday, February 28, 2016 10:12 PM

Jeff said:

Wishes at 8 = easier day.

It's kinda funny. You practically have MIT students analyzing WDW crowd trends and developing algorithms for WDW crowd calendars. Want the best chance to avoid mass crowds at the MK? Just visit on a day that park closes early (6pm/7pm). Especially if there is an evening event scheduled.

It's really that simple.

Last edited by Hanging n' Banging, Sunday, February 28, 2016 10:14 PM
Sunday, February 28, 2016 10:22 PM

Lord Gonchar said:

Or both?

I'm going with "or both".

At the moment, this only applies to one-day tickets. There will be people who just don't care how much a one day ticket costs; they'll pay the price, And there will be people who will study the calendar and plan their visit around the lowest priced days.

When it is expanded to multiple day tickets, the same qualifications will apply. Some people won't care, and some people will plan their trip based on pricing.

Monday, February 29, 2016 12:56 AM

Hanging n' Banging said:

WDW has a long history of deeply discounting their resort room rates (sometimes 35%+ off of rack rates) in the "off" season. In addition, there is often the "free" dining plan offered...

Which is another interesting point that's pretty unique to WDW - they have multiple sliders they can adjust to fine tune or hook different customers.

For someone booking a standard week at disney there's the three biggest costs - food, room and tickets. It's also three things that can be adjusted accordingly. Even if you think of each of those costs as a category and each category having just three levels of pricing (peak, regular & value rather than the realistic infinity shades of grey) then right there you have 27 different price combos you can throw at the customer based on time of year and the customer's value perception.

Monday, February 29, 2016 7:01 AM

There's actually several sliders on room. The easy two are peak, regular and value for time of time of year and peak, regular and value for the class of resort.

For DVC, the year is broken down into 5 seasons.

  • This used to be the super slow time (Adventure - Jan, Sep, 1st 2 weeks of Dec)
  • Not bad, kind of the new normal (Choice - Oct and most of Nov, next 2 weeks of Dec)
  • The average crowds (Dream - 1st 2 weeks of Feb, May to early June, end of August)
  • people everywhere (Magic - rest of Feb, March, April, June, July, August, Thanksgiving)
  • OMFG why did we come here (Premier - weeks around Easter and Christmas Eve to New Years)

Add to that the day of week slider (weekends cost more than week days). Then their is the view slider. At Bay Lake, a view of the lake can be 20% more than a view of the parking lot, and a view of the castle 30% more than that parking lot view(depends on room and season, I just glanced at studio rates for Adventure season). Then just how nice of a room do you want with that view. We can easily get by with a studio, but we have done a 1 bedroom at Kidani because my wife loves the king size bed and the huge bathroom with separate shower and garden tub.

Going back to Bay Lake, the most expensive night (3 bedroom with view of the Magic Kingdom on a Friday or Saturday the week of Christmas - 206 pts) is 1,400% more than the cheapest night (studio with no view on a weekday 1 week later in January or 3 weeks earlier in December - 14 pts). To be fair, the 3 bedroom sleeps up to 12, while the studio only sleeps 4, so almost 500% more per person at max occupancy.

Monday, February 29, 2016 2:28 PM

Here's the article on MiceAge about the new pricing.

The article's mildly interesting, but the fun here is in the comments, of course.

All sorts of folks with no apparent understanding of how businesses work -- "...they're just adjusting their price hikes to suit themselves and ensure that they make more money in the long run!" -- with side trips through this price increase being one more thing teachers need to deal with besides standardized tests and Common Core (because it will tempt parents to pull kids out of school to go on value days, you see) and how Disneyland went to hell when they started letting people buy Annual Passes on a monthly payment plan.

Monday, February 29, 2016 2:59 PM

I'm still amazed at how relatively well informed and rational coaster enthusiasts are by comparison.

Monday, February 29, 2016 4:41 PM

For what it's worth... the guy behind The Disney Blog says that the number he's hearing tossed around by "those who would know" -- so I make no claims as to accuracy -- is that about 15% of park attendance on any given day is on one-day tickets.

Monday, February 29, 2016 5:57 PM

I couldn't imagine going an entire day. With our passes, we've gone about once a month for the past 6 months. We get there right at opening and it usually takes a few hours to get uncomfortably crowded. Those early hours are awesome. We were able to get about major 8 rides from 8-11 a couple weeks back. After a nice lunch, we took it easy and took in the mellow stuff for the rest of the day (Railroad exhibition, main street cinema, street entertainment, etc.)

My point is that we ended up getting passes because we had multi=day passes and were looking down the barrel of a "let's get as much in as possible because this is so expensive" 3 days at the park. For a bit more, we could relax.


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