Editorial on current Walt Disney World prices

Monday, April 8, 2019 1:17 PM

ApolloAndy said:

I think the real question will be what happens next time the economy hits a downturn. What kind of discounts, if any, will we see to keep all the infrastructure, hotels, etc. full? Or will they still be able to keep cranking up the prices, offering the extras, and raking in the cash?

I've been thinking this for a few years now and I too am very curious to see what happens when the economy hits a downturn.

Atlantic City, NJ was in a similar situation in the 1990's and early 2000's where they couldn't print money fast enough. The resort was booming; today, quite the opposite and they can't give hotel rooms away (during the week at least).

The WDW bubble inevitably has to bust sometime and when it does, will they find themselves in a position where they out priced the market?

Last edited by Hanging n' Banging, Monday, April 8, 2019 1:18 PM
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Monday, April 8, 2019 1:56 PM

I also wonder (worry?) that the perceived value of the experience fails to live up to the increased expectations. Eventually, long lines will turn people away (again, at one point do people decide they're not getting enough of the experience for their money?). Also, the WDW parks are no doubt nicer than most others, but they're not flawless. It's not difficult to find problems in any direction (flaking paint, broken animatronics, blown speakers, etc.) and those are things that shouldn't be at those prices.

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Monday, April 8, 2019 2:25 PM

I think you're hitting on two things that the average park goer at Disney doesn't care that much about. Most people go to Disney expecting to wait in lines because Fastpass only goes so far and waiting in line is something you do at amusement parks. Multiple 1 hour+ lines are pretty few and far between at each park and waiting in those is expected for most people. Add that to the fact that, when you get FPs and figure out how to wrangle more, you get that satisfaction that you're somehow beating the system. Waiting 5 minutes for Big Thunder Mountain or Soarin' or Tower of Terror can lessen the blow of having to wait 60-90 minutes for Space Mountain or Test Track or Rockin' Roller Coaster.

Same goes for aesthetic or repair issues. The number of average people on vacation that notice that type of thing is pretty small and the number of people that allow it to devalue their experience is probably in the range of the number of people that will cancel their trip because they moved the designated smoking areas out of the park.

Disney has positioned themselves well to weather an economic downturn. Their beefing up capacity, hotel room inventory, and adding quality experiences. They have to be running at a pretty high margin. Filling rooms at a deep discount and giving away dining plans isn't going to cause them to fall into the red.


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Monday, April 8, 2019 2:26 PM

Rob Ascough said:

Eventually, long lines will turn people away (again, at one point do people decide they're not getting enough of the experience for their money?). Also, the WDW parks are no doubt nicer than most others, but they're not flawless. It's not difficult to find problems in any direction (flaking paint, broken animatronics, blown speakers, etc.) and those are things that shouldn't be at those prices.

Neither of these are problems. The average guest is seeing more/waiting less. They have to be. The total capacity of the park hasn't really changed.* The attendance has gone up, but by single-digit percentages. So, the same number of people are going through the attractions. If you and I are waiting longer/doing less, then someone else must be waiting less/doing more.And only enthusiasts and the Disneyana community counts burned out light bulbs.

*: They have gotten better at matching capacity to attendance, but it's at best a coarse tool.

Last edited by Brian Noble, Monday, April 8, 2019 2:27 PM
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Monday, April 8, 2019 2:29 PM

bigboy said:

Filling rooms at a deep discount and giving away dining plans isn't going to cause them to fall into the red.

And if things get *really* bad, like they did post-9/11, they will just close resorts. They've done it before.


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Monday, April 8, 2019 2:46 PM

I represent one person who decided not to go to Disney because I felt the price of admission did not justify the large crowds and wait times. Had the cost been lower or the crowds smaller we would've booked our next vacation there. Instead, we decided to take our daughters to India.


tall and fast but not much upside down

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Monday, April 8, 2019 3:02 PM

I feel like that is comparing apples to zebras. If you opted to book your next vacation at Universal or another US amusement/theme park destination because of a poor perception of the Walt Disney World product, that’s something the folks at WDW would take note of if it became a legitimate trend. Opting to travel abroad or do something non amusement/theme park related is something (almost) everyone who may regularly take a WDW vacation is going to do at some point or another and I don’t think that is a concern for anyone.

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Monday, April 8, 2019 3:25 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

Remember when FlashPass was going to kill Six Flags and FOL was the death knell for the industry? Or when exorbitant parking prices were going to shutter parks across the country? Or when low capacity additions would drive customers away from the large chains?

Yeah. This conversation feels a lot like that.

Disney is fine and hasn't even begun to push the limits of what people will tolerate in terms of crowd/price in comparison to what they offer.

May 12, 2008 - Disney is a machine and we love giving them our money

They still are and we still do...and that ain't gonna change.


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Monday, April 8, 2019 3:29 PM

BrettV, your feelings have been noted. But, I can assure you that during dinner on Friday my wife and I asked "should we take the girls to Disney next year?" And, after talking it through for 5-10 minutes we concluded that going to WDW was not worth the money we would spend and that we would rather use that money to go to South Asia. I'm not sure why I should believe executives at Disney are only tracking the likelihood of families traveling to other amusement parks over Disney amusement parks. In my opinion, Disney is competing for a share of families' vacation budgets. In our case, WDW's value proposition was not as compelling as India's.


tall and fast but not much upside down

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Monday, April 8, 2019 6:36 PM

Going back to the airport discussion for a minute. When the Reddy Creek Improvement District was created the Orlando legislature gave Disney the right to build a nuclear plan and an airport on their property. I'm assuming that Disney felt that they wanted to make sure that they could take care of their own needs (including transportation and energy) in case Orlando and the surrounding area couldn't.

I also wonder if Walt wasn't thinking, "if they land here on property and we shuttle them to their hotels, they will never have to leave." Today that seems logical but back in the 60s the idea of any real competition in the middle of nowhere was pretty visionary.

As early as the late 80s and early 90s the leaders at the time were less visionary, shunning mass transit stops on their property if Universal was going to receive the same stops. That might have been strategic short term thinking but if Orlando had better transportation infrastructure it would be better for everyone...including both park. Think I4 between 192 and the Turnpike on just about any given day. People sitting in traffic aren't spending any money in any of the theme parks.

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Monday, April 8, 2019 8:00 PM

wahoo skipper said:

Today that seems logical but back in the 60s the idea of any real competition in the middle of nowhere was pretty visionary.

Disneyland was built in the middle of an orange grove. It didn't stay that way long, and the lesson was learned.


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Monday, April 8, 2019 10:18 PM
ApolloAndy's avatar

urumqi said:

Had the cost been lower or the crowds smaller

Unfortunately, these two have an inverse relationship to one another.


Hobbes: "What's the point of attaching a number to everything you do?"
Calvin: "If your numbers go up, it means you're having more fun."

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Monday, April 8, 2019 10:23 PM
ApolloAndy's avatar

Lord Gonchar said:

Remember when FlashPass was going to kill Six Flags and FOL was the death knell for the industry? Or when exorbitant parking prices were going to shutter parks across the country? Or when low capacity additions would drive customers away from the large chains?

Well, to be fair in this very narrow case, Disney crushes it on capacity. They still have long lines, and maybe that's all that matters anyway, but I feel a lot better about waiting in a long line for RnRC than I do for RailBlazer or a Premier Skyloop and not just because it's constantly moving.

Last edited by ApolloAndy, Monday, April 8, 2019 10:23 PM

Hobbes: "What's the point of attaching a number to everything you do?"
Calvin: "If your numbers go up, it means you're having more fun."

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Monday, April 8, 2019 10:28 PM
ApolloAndy's avatar

Brian Noble said:

Neither of these are problems. The average guest is seeing more/waiting less. They have to be. The total capacity of the park hasn't really changed. The attendance has gone up, but by single-digit percentages. So, the same number of people are going through the attractions.

I have absolutely no data to back this up, so it's just wild speculation, but I would think most people do their 3 FP's and then turn their attention to the ultra high capacity rides like People Mover, the shows, and theater style rides (Bug's Life, Philharmagic, Muppets 3D, etc.) since the standby lines are so long now. I think FP has successfully moved a lot of guests from riding mostly headliners w/ 1 hour waits to riding 2 or 3 headliners and a lot of second and third tier attractions with little-to-no waiting for any of it.

I mean, I never thought I'd see a 4 hr wait for anything in my lifetime, let alone a ride that's been open more than 12 months, but Flight of Passage is still commanding that. I assume that's mostly due to the volume of FP's and consequent low standby throughput.


Hobbes: "What's the point of attaching a number to everything you do?"
Calvin: "If your numbers go up, it means you're having more fun."

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Tuesday, April 9, 2019 9:59 AM
Jeff's avatar

That's generally how we roll, even on half-day visits. "Spend" your FP's, then go do People Mover or the train or something with a reasonable wait.

We just got Universal passes for the first time in 10+ years (actually, pre-Potter days), and I have to say, Disney's ability to move people and their sense of urgency is something to behold compared to Universal. It's frustrating and disappointing.


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

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Tuesday, April 9, 2019 12:24 PM

Agreed, and that's how I do it when in the area (on average, a few days every month). I book my Fastpasses, trying to group them together as much as possible, and riding other stuff in between. It works well for me but I understand there is a huge difference between AP mentality and vacationer mentality. My frequent visits mean the pressure is never on to accomplish as much as possible (to get my money's worth, so to speak). But the average vacationer? I don't know. Maybe this sounds similar to conversations we've had in the past, and maybe it IS a repeat of those conversations, but I still have to wonder if there will come a breaking point. I mean, there has to at some point. It's money.

For the average middle class family, I imagine the cost of a Disney vacation increasing at a rate that exceeds that of inflation is eventually going to turn people away. It hasn't, yet, but that doesn't mean it never will. And maybe the average vacationer isn't like an enthusiast wanting to experience x number of things in a given day, but there are surely families aware of having spent $100/day to get into the park and only riding four or five rides (meaning a ride on Pirates or Splash Mountain costs between $20 and $25).

I would suggest this is Disney's way of addressing ride capacity (there are new rides going in, but not all are going to add capacity because stuff like Mickey and Minnie's Railway thing at the Studios is only going to replace the crowd-eating Great Movie Ride) but is that what they want to do? Make the park experiences more exclusive for people willing/able to spend the money? After all, there are restaurants and hotels and Downtown Disney to fill with people. WDW isn't like a Six Flags where fewer people paying more money is going to increase profits. At WDW, theme parks are only part of the equation.

I wonder about this not as an enthusiast or a Disney fanatic or even a Passholder. I wonder about this as a stockholder, because while I'm thrilled to see the theme parks doing so well, I'm hoping that greed doesn't take over and set things in the wrong direction.

And I do think people care about burned-out light bulbs. At the very least, replace them. Details are what separate a Porsche Cayenne from a Chevy Traverse.

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Tuesday, April 9, 2019 12:58 PM

I find Rob's thoughts to be important and would add that like revolutions, "breaking points" seem inevitable only in retrospect but improbable beforehand.


tall and fast but not much upside down

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Tuesday, April 9, 2019 5:34 PM
ApolloAndy's avatar

Rob Ascough said:

there are surely families aware of having spent $100/day to get into the park and only riding four or five rides (meaning a ride on Pirates or Splash Mountain costs between $20 and $25).

And that's just ticket price. Most families are paying double(?) the ticket price to get there, stay there, eat there, etc. But, as mentioned above, there are lots of things to do that basically never have any wait. They may be older attractions or not quite as exciting, but you can always find interesting things to do if you're at a Disney park. Heck, even just walking around and taking in "the magic" is a pretty neat experience. Granted not a $100/day experience, but pretty cool.


Hobbes: "What's the point of attaching a number to everything you do?"
Calvin: "If your numbers go up, it means you're having more fun."

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Wednesday, April 10, 2019 8:52 AM

I often ask this question on the Disneyana boards: Why are you planning a Disney vacation? is it to ride a bunch of rides, or is it to have a great time with family and/or friends?

Usually, the answer is "have a great time." And, if that's the answer, and you can remember that that is the answer, it's a lot easier to navigate a vacation there.


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Wednesday, April 10, 2019 10:09 AM

Brian Noble, I think I understand your point, but can you provide a scenario in which a people planning a vacation would not state "having a great time" was the primary reason for why they are planning their vacation?


tall and fast but not much upside down

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