Disney significantly increases annual pass prices in US parks, considering dynamic ticket pricing

Posted Sunday, October 4, 2015 9:48 AM | Contributed by Jeff

Disney is increasing the prices of its annual pass programs in California and Florida, as well as changing some of the benefits.

For the Disneyland Resort: Read more from The Orange County Register.

For the Walt Disney World Resort: Read more from Brighthouse Bay9.

For the consideration of dynamic ticket pricing: Read more from NASDAQ.

Monday, October 5, 2015 6:30 PM
slithernoggin's avatar

Lord Gonchar said:

I think you're seeing the fruits of years of cultivating a customer base in a very specific, emotional, ingrained and effective way. Going to Disney World is a right of passage for a large segment of people.

Absolutely. Disney Parks has done an amazing job of creating that level of connection with its customers -- and with monetizing that relationship as well. I still think there's a ceiling to how much Disney can charge for annual passes or for tickets, but as they approach that ceiling I think they'll change their pricing strategies a little ahead of the curve.

Then again, I went to art school, so take my business musings with a grain or twenty of salt.


Life is something that happens when you can't get to sleep.
--Fran Lebowitz

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Monday, October 5, 2015 7:26 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

Slightly related, and I looked it up but couldn't find anything I consider reliable...

What percentage of the US population has visited Disney World at any given time?


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Monday, October 5, 2015 7:58 PM
slithernoggin's avatar

Jeff said

We may complain that coaster enthusiasts are completely disconnected from business concepts, but Disney people definitely bring it to a new level. I don't know how you complain about a lack of new attractions while acknowledging attendance growth and not understand that basic supply and demand are in play.

^^That there. Jeff's post snuck in while I was replying to Lord Gonchar's post.

Last edited by slithernoggin, Monday, October 5, 2015 8:01 PM

Life is something that happens when you can't get to sleep.
--Fran Lebowitz

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Tuesday, October 6, 2015 12:23 PM

Hanging n' Banging said:
Disney keeps on raising prices across the board year after year (far beyond inflation levels) and they keep on posting record attendance gains.

[...]

The bubble has to burst eventually, history has proven this.

It's not just Disney, and it's not just theme parks. In general, entertainment costs seem to grow faster than inflation. I've never really seen an analysis as to how that is possible, but it seems to hold consistently across a wide spectrum of venues; movie theaters, sports, live performances, theme parks, ski resorts, hotels, etc. That's continued despite some discounting during the recession.

As for a bubble bursting: others have said it, but it's unlikely to happen, because they keep making a new crop of five year olds every year.


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Tuesday, October 6, 2015 1:07 PM

One thing that makes me scratch my head. Disney has a great formula of providing entertainment for everyone In the family, no matter what their thrill level is. It's a hugely successful formula that draws huge crowds even as make large price increases. You would think more theme park chains would take notice and go more this direction, instead of constantly installing coasters that attract the same exact people back again year after year.....these parks are missing a large segment of the market.

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Tuesday, October 6, 2015 1:32 PM

super7* said:

Disney has a great formula of providing entertainment for everyone In the family, no matter what their thrill level is. It's a hugely successful formula that draws huge crowds even as make large price increases.

A former GM whom I worked for years ago had an interesting saying/perspective; one that makes complete sense.

He often said, "Most parks are built with a "kiddie section" carved out with elements for the kids to enjoy. The Magic Kingdom is one giant kiddie park with elements for the adults to enjoy..."

Last edited by Hanging n' Banging, Tuesday, October 6, 2015 1:32 PM
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Tuesday, October 6, 2015 7:56 PM

Can't speak for Orlando, but it's painfully clear this was coming in SoCal. Once again Fridays in September are busier than summer Saturdays. Total gridlock around the resort the past three Friday afternoons. . The Annual Pass crowds, and their contrary flow patterns have to be curtailed. This is the only way. Christmas at the DLR is going to suck so hard as all the prior year's christmas gift renewals are going to clog the parks for as many visits as they can get before their passes expire.

If you haven't experienced annual pass Hell at Disneyland it's hard to comprehend (and I'm a contributor to the problem). Something had to give, hopefully this will do it.

Of course the better answer may have been to just eliminate the Annual passes. That would certainly defuse the "money grubbing" argument. But they didn't and won't. Can't blame them for pricing their product appropriately

Last edited by CreditWh0re, Tuesday, October 6, 2015 7:59 PM
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Wednesday, October 7, 2015 3:49 AM

Here is an interesting way to forecast attendance and it is public too! Some times ago, Disney went from having cast member "blackout dates" private and only accessible on the employee cast portal to having it public. It has revealed some interesting trends attendance wise...

Here is how Disney complimentary admission work for cast members: full time employees receive a main gate pass and 3 (more if you have more than 3 dependants) "guest tickets". Those tickets are to be given to a guest when a cast member goes into a park and technically, the cast member has to stay with his guests for the duration of the visit. The cast member has to pick up his guest tickets at the end or else, if they are lost, there is a steep replacement fee. If there is a blackout that day, cast member spouses, guests and sometimes the cast member themselves cannot be signed into the park.

For example, the supposed "quiet period" in September and October is no more. Cast member spouses and guests are currently blacked out for the whole month of October, most of November and all December at the Magic Kingdom. It is a sign the Magic Kingdom is either bursting at the seams or WDW is trying to limit the one perk they give to their employees.

https://blockoutdates.disney.com/


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Wednesday, October 7, 2015 7:49 AM

My parents had just asked me a week or so ago to look into Disney World annual pass pricing. After a bit of sticker shock upon seeing the initial price, I was surprised at how much of a value passes still are.

I haven't looked at regional park season passes in years, but back when I used to get them I recall things like "pays for itself in 2 visits" and many of us said that they were giving them away. Considering what a "visit" to Disney World entails and these passes are still an amazing bargain. An annual pass (non-platinum, non-resident) at $749 is less money than two 4-day ticket packages with park hopper options. Throw away the hopper option and add parking (included with the pass) and the annual pass are even more of a savings. I'm amazed that a Disney annual pass situationally still pays for itself in 2 visits.

That being said, Disney, please don't raise prices again until my parents make their decision. :)


If I were more clever, something funny would be here.
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Wednesday, October 7, 2015 8:35 AM
Jeff's avatar

Forecasting attendance is not a mystery or complex. Aside from the obvious condition that kids not in school will result in larger crowds, look at closing time. The later the park is open, the more crowded it's going to be.

Last edited by Jeff, Wednesday, October 7, 2015 10:41 AM

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Silly Nonsense

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Wednesday, October 7, 2015 9:26 AM
Jason Hammond's avatar

From a Disney Fan site.

I was there at the end of January this year and Magic Kingdom was still too crowded for my personal comfort level. If those were light crowds, I really have no desire to ever go back to Magic Kingdom.


854 Coasters, 34 States, 7 Countries
http://www.rollercoasterfreak.com My YouTube

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Wednesday, October 7, 2015 9:56 AM
Pete's avatar

It always surprised me how cheap most season passes are to parks. Coming from a ski resort tradition in addition to amusement parks, even a medium size ski resort will charge from $800 to $1000 dollars per person for a season pass. The "pays for itself after two visits" pass that most amusement parks have is kind of shocking how cheap it is. That said, Disney pricing doesn't surprise me as far as value goes, it is surprising though compared to the amusement industry in general.


I'd rather be in my boat with a drink on the rocks, than in the drink with a boat on the rocks.

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Wednesday, October 7, 2015 10:39 AM
sirloindude's avatar

I actually think that the suggestion in the other related thread that maybe it's time for Disney to really start expanding is true. Granted, you have Pandora, Star Wars Land, and Toy Story Land opening over the course of the next few years, but this is actually the longest stretch WDW has ever gone without adding a new park. I have to wonder if maybe it's time to start planning out a fifth gate.


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Wednesday, October 7, 2015 10:50 AM
Jeff's avatar

Jason Hammond said:

I was there at the end of January this year and Magic Kingdom was still too crowded for my personal comfort level. If those were light crowds, I really have no desire to ever go back to Magic Kingdom.

It's funny you say that, because in our visits to Cedar Point and Kings Island the last two years, we were talking about how our perception of "busy" has changed. We were sitting in Columbia Harbor House at Magic Kingdom in the room that goes over the midway (between Peter Pan and Haunted Mansion), and the "trickle" of people we observed walking under us seemed small. But in the context of one of the seasonal parks, it would have been busy.

And I think our new perception is actually realistic. It might appear crowded to you, but I can tell you from experience that the volume of bodies on the midways doesn't mean that there are long waits for the attractions. It's a different animal. Several times a day, thousands of people are camping out to see parades or fireworks. Many attractions bring in and release huge numbers of people at a time (mostly shows), while omnimover rides have a continuous stream of people coming in. The longest waits at Magic Kingdom, unless you get Fastpasses for them, are Seven Dwarfs and the Anna/Elsa character meet. Thunder and Space Mountain standby times vary greatly, but they're usually well under an hour (compare that to any big ride like Millennium Force or Banshee).

I suppose what I'm getting at is that "crowded" Magic Kingdom actually does a pretty good job of entertaining people without a lot of waiting. That's not an anecdote, that's my consistent experience.


Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Silly Nonsense

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Wednesday, October 7, 2015 10:56 AM

the ski resort angle is interesting because there are two models in the industry. Places like Jackson Hole in Wyoming currently charge $1760 for their complete pass (although I am sure there is probably some minor amount of pre-season discounts). Then you have the Vail Resorts in Colorado (Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, etc.). Their pass is $789 before discounts and that pass throws in access to resorts in California, Utah and other places. If you were willing to forgo complete unfettered access to all of Colorado i.e. there is blackouts at Beaver Creek and Vail then the pass is only $599 before discounts. At that price they are essentially trying to entice every citizen of Denver and Boulder to buy a pass. With daily ticket prices in the ~$80-$110 price range, this isn't far off from the model of King's Island trying to sell everyone in Cincinnati a pass.

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Wednesday, October 7, 2015 11:47 AM
Jason Hammond's avatar

Jeff said:

"crowded" Magic Kingdom actually does a pretty good job of entertaining people without a lot of waiting.

I totally buy that. It's just that I'm a bit to claustrophobic to deal with it. From what my world traveling friends have told me, I'll probably hate the parks in Japan for that very reason. :-)


854 Coasters, 34 States, 7 Countries
http://www.rollercoasterfreak.com My YouTube

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Wednesday, October 7, 2015 11:50 AM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

I'm with Jason on this. "Crowded" is more than long waits for rides and attractions. In fact, I'd take marginally longer waits for less bodies.


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Wednesday, October 7, 2015 11:55 AM
Jeff's avatar

Yeah, I get that. Especially in the heat of July, because people stink.


Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Silly Nonsense

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Wednesday, October 7, 2015 12:29 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

And crowds tend to be stupid.

Stinky, stupid and probably other adjectives that begin with "st" as well.


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