Florida ticket prices go up, getting too high for some

Posted Wednesday, January 4, 2006 12:55 PM | Contributed by Jeff

As Disney follows Busch's lead, with Universal expected to follow, some wonder if the annual ticket price hike is getting out of control.

Read more from Florida Today.

Wednesday, January 4, 2006 4:33 PM
Anybody complaining about ticket prices has obviously not seen the crowds at these parks! I know I'm a minority in my opinion (who really likes higher prices?)...but I think all the Orlando parks are way under priced! They need to do something to reduce the crowds/lines. They have trouble providing an enjoyable day during any busy period due to severe overcrowding. When food lines start taking longer than ride lines, there is a problem! The parks simply were not built to handle the amount of people they let through the gates. The only reasonable way I know to decrease the demand is to raise prices...and raise prices severely they should!

...unless of course the plan is to reduce demand through pissing off paying guests through crappy service and thus taking away repeat visitor numbers...?

*** This post was edited by Jeffrey R Smith 1/4/2006 4:33:20 PM ***

Wednesday, January 4, 2006 7:06 PM
Jeff's avatar The Disney pricing is not horrible... if you're willing to spend several days there. I think that's the thing a lot of people have a problem with. Twenty-somethings especially will be vocal because they make less money and aren't going to spend a week there.
Wednesday, January 4, 2006 7:23 PM
There are cheaper ways of getting most Parks tickets but to go and visit the parks and leave is IMHO getting a little out of hand.

Why? They are getting the hundreds for the resort stays and basically giving the parks gates away in packages.


Wednesday, January 4, 2006 7:47 PM
Last week at Disneyland the parks were so crowded that they had traffic control move people behind Mainstreet USA with the dumpsters/etc to exit. Furthermore...during the day you could not enter Adventureland...you had to go through Frontierland and all the way around! This was all done in the name of traffic control. I waited 45 minutes for a bowl of clam chowder at DCA while the park was still open to public...? This was the short line!

My point of view...is that this is crazy! They are cramming more people into the parks than they can handle! At least during crowded periods...the pricing structure has to increase!

Wednesday, January 4, 2006 9:22 PM
Acoustic Viscosity's avatar Or.....they could just put a cap on how many people they let in the gate each day. Doesn't Busch Gardens do that? I remember hearing that on one of those Discovery Channel shows several years ago.

Obviously, expansion to handle the capacity would be better, but I think Disneyland is pretty much lanmd-locked, right? WDW on the other hand has LOTSof room to grow. :)

Wednesday, January 4, 2006 10:33 PM
They used to cap the number. They still claim to do so. But anybody who has been going for multiple years realizes that the threshold has increased to unbearable levels! When food lines get over 30 minutes with full staffing…and the Disney experience includes temporary exit pathways in and about the dumpsters…needless to say…they’ve outgrown their capacity. Again…at least during the busy periods (which admitantly is about all I have off and is all I’m ever at the parks)…they need to reduce demand! The only way to do so is to raise prices so a good portion of those who now overcrowd the parks will not come!

I went with friends last week (one day) who vow never to return! They hated Disneyland because of the ridiculous overcrowding! They said nothing about the ticket prices. Their complaint was with the experience itself, which was certainly not so magical given their complete inability to manage the numbers they allowed through the gate!

I do not pretend to be an expert…but for the busy times it seems Disney has chosen to admit the masses to the detriment of the overall experience for all. This strategy leaves people like my friends pissed AND certainly does not meet the expectations the Disney name has come to represent! I would think they could maintain if not improve profit margins by greatly increasing admission (at least during busy times) prices and in park amenities, which should limit crowds and allow them to better manage the guest experience for those who come through their gates! Wouldn’t the majority of people leaving happy (and a little more broke) be preferable to a large percentage leaving pissed (at least they could afford admission though)? This would also seem to be better in terms of staffing needs and maintenance issues when the crowds are regulated at a more manageable level.

I do admit that SoCal seemed much worse than Orlando…but it is an issue that they need to deal with! It is never good practice to have guest leaving angry! This is the kind of stuff that started the Six Flags demise!

Wednesday, January 4, 2006 10:58 PM
Jeffrey I couldn't agree with you more. I had the absolute worst theme park experiences of my life at Disneyland and DCA last week. The crowds were completely insane and you had to wait forever for food. Not only that but there were times where it wasn't clear where the lines for Fastpass and the ride were at. I too have vowed never to go back to anything Disney anywhere near any holiday, excepy maybe Arbor day.

My wife and I figured out that for a three day park hopper we were paying $20 a park per day. Great value and that's the problem. They are "giving away the gate" and making a load of money on rooms, food, and souveniers. After last week I have a horrible opinion of Disney and truly see how the almighty dollar can make parks lose sight of customer service and providing an enjoyable experience.

Thursday, January 5, 2006 12:18 AM
So, I guess being too popular makes the parks bad... Strange, cause that's why they're only ones who can built 80-100 millions rides anymore. Universal hasn't done it since IOA opened, simply cause their ownership situation is a mess. Busch? Yeah, they did do Darkastle this year, but the cost for that is nowhere TOT ("cheap" version for 80 millions, humm...), Indiana Jones Adventures, etc. price tag.

I guess you know what happens when you close the gate of the parks due to capacity? Near riots at the gate, people throwing fits cause they didn't know it was closed, etc. So, Disney is in a can't win situation here. Make people angry cause you don't let them in. Make people angry cause they don't find short lines everywhere.*** This post was edited by Absimilliard 1/5/2006 12:20:19 AM ***

Thursday, January 5, 2006 12:42 AM
How about predicting what days are going to be more busy, and charging more for those days, thus better spreading out the crowds?

And for the MK and the other Disney parks in Orlando, expand already. MK is so busy at times that Ten or so new high capacity attractions would be a blessing. They get enough visitors that they could easily afford to build something new. All they do is replace the old rides.

I thought the admission prices were getting out of hand 4 or 5 years ago when they hit $50. Charge more on the weekends and Holidays, keep the prices reasonable during the offseason and weekdays.

In a few years at the rate they are raising prices, only the rich will be able to visit an Orlando park. It's just like cable TV, which I can not afford...

*** This post was edited by dexter 1/5/2006 12:48:51 AM ***

Thursday, January 5, 2006 2:37 AM
The problem with charging more for some days is that 90-95% of the people (gross approximation) already have multi day tickets purchased for WDW. What do you do for those? Charging more for certain days will NOT work. You already have all the Florida "cheap" passes (seasonal passes) that cost over 200$ and they're already blocked off from all peak periods.

WDW built all those hotels, built 2 waterparks, an extension to Disney Village and 2 theme parks to go with those hotels and its still not enough. Why? Cause for many people, everything resolve around the MK! They think Disney either: owns every theme parks in town (you mean I can't use my Disney pass at Universal? Vice versa too...) or WDW is just the MK and the rest... is owned by another company, etc.

When I worked NYE at Epcot, the parking people at MK, when they closed the parking lot due to running out of parking spaces, tried everything to get them to Epcot! They gave them a coupon with parts for free parking spot at Epcot, free snack at Epcot, Fast pass for a ride at Epcot, etc. Still, it didn't really work, as many just hopped on the monorail once they figured it went to the MK and even if they knew they could not get in there since the place was closed due to capacity.

Adding new rides to the MK would not fix anything... it would just mean more people would try to jam themselves to see the new ride at MK!

Thursday, January 5, 2006 4:08 AM
Lord Gonchar's avatar Sorry to steer away from the prices/crowds comparisons, but I kind of wanted to comment on the news topic of rising gate prices in Orlando.

Orlando is like nowhere else. These are destitnation stops. People travel from all over the world and spend time there. Most going specifically for these parks. No price will ever be too high. Why? Because no one is going and visiting for one day. Every park in Orlando offers some way of doing their park on the cheap...with one catch. You have to spend more time there. WDW tix get progressively cheaper the more time you spend.

WDW Breakdown:
1 day - $63.00 ($63.00 a day)
2 days - $125.00 ($62.50 a day)
3 days - $181.00 ($60.33 a day)
4 days - $195.00 ($48.75 a day)
5 days - $199.00 ($39.80 a day)
6 days - $202.00 ($33.66 a day)
7 days - $204.00 ($29.14 a day)
8 days - $206.00 ($25.75 a day)
9 days - $208.00 ($23.11 a day)
10days - $210.00 ($21.00 a day)

Clearly they know they have tons to offer and are a multi-day destination. They don't want you there for one day. If you try to pull that, it means you're frequenting the competition and you'll pay for it. In addition, the longer you stay, the more you'll spend in park and the more likely you are to stay at their hotels or use their other upcharge services. No one is really paying $63 a day to visit WDW. No one. It's a scare tactic to keep you there and in turn spend even more in the long run (which is fine as for most this is THE vacation) all under the guise of those magical words - "perceived value"

I mean look at that pricing structure. $63 for one day. $200 for 4 days and then it goes to $2 extra per day after that. Who seriously thinks Disney is charging anyone $60+ dollars a day to visit their parks?

As for the locals - well it's nice to have a core customer base, but these aren't the folks Disney necessarily wants coming through the gates. There are deals-a-plenty for FL residents. Didn't bother looking up the details, but I know we easily visited WDW for prices equivalent to any large regional theme park at will. To sum it up: No one is paying $63 a day to visit WDW.

As for the rest of the parks:

BGT brags of "7 days of unlimited fun and flexibility" - buy a regular one-day admission and visit the park at will for the next 6 days. That's a full week of admission to BGT for $51.95 ($7.42 a day).

Sea World offers the same "7 days of fun and flexibility" for $55.95 ($7.99 a day).

Universal has a one-day ticket for $59.75, but that's the bait. The real ticket price is $99 for a 2-day/2-park ticket. The catch here is that for each ticket purchased you get a free child's ticket and 3 additional days added to the ticket. ($19.99 a day + free ticket)

In additon the non-disney parks (and it really boils down to WDW vs the rest in Orlando) offer the 5-park flexticket for $224.95. You get admission to Universal Studios, IOA, Sea World, BGT and Wet N' Wild for 14 days. ($16.06 a day) - that's a nice alternative to the Disney vacation.

In the end, no one visiting Orlando for any period of time is paying more than they would for any amusement park around the country. In many cases you're actually paying less, the catch is the tickets are only offered in bulk.

It's like shopping at Sam's Club vs a traditional store. Buy in bulk and get the goods for cheap. This gets your money and stops you from visiting the competition (are you really going to stop at the local grocery store for cereal anytime soon when you just bought a two-week supply at Sam's?) - seems like a very comparable situation to me. I don't think of it as $50 or $60 dollars a day to visit these parks, I think of it as $10 or $20 to visit but I have to buy a week or 10 days at a time.

Like I said before, Orlando is not like any other market. There is heavy competition for those tourist dollars. What better way to get as much of the pie as possible than to get people to stay at your property as long as possible. The longer they're there, the more they spend and the less chance that another park is getting those dollars.

I could spend 16 days in Orlando (a two-week vacation plus a weekend), visit all four WDW parks twice, both Universal parks twice, spend two days at BGT and two days at Sea World and it would cost less than $414 ($25.88 a day) in park admissions. I don't see how that's a bad deal.

You can break out almost any vacation in Orlando imaginable and not pay more than you would to visit the average theme park anywhere else in the country. The only one who get screwed are the short stays (one or two days) or the moderate stays that feel the need to cram all of Orlando into their trip. That's not how it works. You either take a long vacation or make repeat trips - which is exactly what the parks want you to do and how they're best experienced.

I'd say as long as this pricing sturcture sticks, you'll see 'ticket prices' rise WAY above what they are now.

*note - all ticket prices are adult admission, children's admission runs cheaper in every case.

Thursday, January 5, 2006 9:14 AM

It is all too cheap! A simple look at the crowds and Disney's inability to handle the guests they attract demonstrates the problem. Life is good for them now...people are traveling and the economy is booming. 9/11 is so far away!

Some day they may want to rely on repeat visitors...those they have pissed off with 30 minute plus food lines!

Somewhere in the equation I would think guest experience might be a factor...no? If not...then Six Flags reputations will not be far behind based upon what I've experienced the past 4-5 years!

Thursday, January 5, 2006 10:01 AM
Jeffrey, I understand you had a lousy experience, but you had it in literally the single most crowded week of the year in the theme park that, because it is so "charming" (read: physically small) is least well-equipped to handle crowds. Frankly, I'm shocked that any enthusiast anywhere goes to a domestic Disney park in the week between Christmas and New Years without understanding that the parks are going to be wall to wall, and accepting that as the price of visiting that time. Every Disney guide book/fan website IN THE UNIVERSE makes it clear that---if you have a choice at all---you should never, ever visit Disneyland between Christmas and New Years.

The problem with your analysis is the parks are nowhere near that crowded most any other time of the year.

We went to DLR during President's Week two years ago---a comparatively "busy" time, but not Christmas week, and had only minor trouble getting food---the attractions were all fine, and that was with many being down for refurb (Indy and Space among them). We went to WDW during P-Week last year (again, a comparatively "busy" time) and with careful touring never waited more than 15 minutes for anything other than shows and one sit-down restaurant---and those longer waits were generally sitting in an air-conditioned space or in the shade with a lemon chill or other cool treat.

Gonch is right: these are destinations, and they are completely different markets than regular theme/amusement parks. For most visitors, WDW (or alternatively "everything else in Florida") is a complete vaction unto itself, while nearly every other park in the universe is a day visit from home or a side trip while pursuing some other vacation.

Thursday, January 5, 2006 10:08 AM
...though I will add that there are two sizeable markets for single-day tickets to WDW. The first is conventioneers who play hooky for a day and visit the parks. Those folks are on expense accounts, so everything *other than* park admission is going to get picked up by someone else. I've eaten some very nice meals in Epcot on someone else's dime this way. ;)

The second are the out-of-town visitors hosted by Floridians who take Mary Sue and Billy Bob to Disney for a day while they are in town. The Floridians probably have a FL Resident Seasonal Pass (about $200), and since Mary Sue and Billy Bob are staying with their Floridian cousins, they don't as much mind shelling out some extra dough to get in the park.

Thursday, January 5, 2006 10:19 AM
I agree with Gonch about the pricing -- it's irrelevant to Florida theme parks. While its politically correct to advertise consistant pricing year-round, all enthusiasts know how to find deals and they are much easier to find in the off-season.

But as Jeffery R Smith alluded to, capacity issues are relevant. However, I am of the opinion that capacity is an issue all the time (including off-season), not just during peak holiday periods.

Peak season: waiting 45 minutes for food at DCA
Off season: wandering Cedar Point last May, trying to find a restaurant with enough wait staff to feed us in less than two hours.

Peak season: waiting 2 hours for Matterhorn Bobsleds
Off season: single train operation at any Six Flags park

Peak season: MK open to midnight, or 3:00 am with E-ride
Off season: all Orlando parks closed by 6:00 pm

Peak season: multiple daily fireworks and parade events at MK
Off season: one parade per day and fireworks once or twice per week

Peak season: every attraction operating at full capacity.
Off season: Sorry, <insert ride name> is closed for its annual refurbishment.

During the peak season, schedules are more flexible because everything is open and special events (like parades and fireworks) are quite frequent. You do not accomplish much during the afternoon, but can take advantage of significant evening operating hours. Limited capacity attractions require significantly more time to experience, but visitors are benefit from full staff levels at every attraction, shop, and restaurant.

During the off season, queues for major attractions are much shorter, but park hours are dramatically shorter and special events (like parades and shows) take up precious in-park time. Many restaurants, shops and attractions are closed, and those that remain open will be short-staffed, so service is not always prompt.

IMO, theme park visitors should just adjust their expectations for expected crowd levels of their visit. Hint: When visiting Orlando parks around Christmas, Easter or in the summer months, you should expect large crowds. If you go to the same parks in November or mid-January, you should expect very short hours of operation and several closed attractions.

Thursday, January 5, 2006 10:24 AM
Did anyone else notice Busch Gardens Williamsburg in the related parks list?
Thursday, January 5, 2006 11:18 AM
Brian: You may be misreading me! First off...let me say...I still had fun! I've been doing Disney yearly for 20+++ years now (every year) and can play "the game" as good as anybody to get it all done! Not to brag (in fact I’m quite ashamed)…but I could write the book for Orlando and Anaheim better than any I’ve seen! :-)

My point is that the guest experience is faltering! They are presently getting by on a good name built up from years of superior product and service! This is no longer the case during busy times (and frankly during slower times as evidenced by decreased staffing, dark shows, ride capacity, operating hours, etc). The problem has gotten much worse (over the last 10 years) as Disney has raised the number of visitors they allow in the park before shutting the gate!

Most people (like us enthusiasts) do not know how to play “the game” nor do they want to! They want to go and have a good time! They certainly do not want to go and experience 20-minute bathroom lines, inability to even find Fastpass lines (some Fastpass lines were 20 minutes plus), etc… The sheer anger and hatred I saw from guests leaving those parks last week cannot do anything but come back and bite Disney in the ass long term!

I understand how popular these parks are and the whole destination schematic! There was a time that Six Flags had a good name too! I will only surmise that even Disney cannot get away with treating their customers like cattle forever! Some day…the economy and travel industry will have a downturn and they will want to rely on visitors from the good old USA to keep profit margins! Will there be enough left that they have not already pissed off that are willing to return?

Anyhow…I guess I just do not see how it could make good business sense to run theme parks that turn people away angry…It sure must be nice to know that there will be others that will take the angry guests place. Can this go on forever? Or might piss poor customer treatment eventually affect the bottom line?

…the only answer I can think of that can control the crowds is to raise pricing dramatically!

*** This post was edited by Jeffrey R Smith 1/5/2006 11:19:18 AM ***

Thursday, January 5, 2006 12:04 PM
Jeffrey, WDW and DL are not acting like SF here. They're not running a single train on BTM and RnRC. Running one track with 3 cars on Space Mountain and Primeval Whirl? They're running everything with max capacity, max staffing, etc. What more do you want them to do? Some people are just intent (or just can't at any other times) on being at WDW or DL during the christmas week. Even the japanese at TDL have to deal with 3 hours line for the e-tickets and their operation, capacity, etc. is the best in the world I think.

I also said what happens when you close MK and DL for capacity and how, for some reasons, DCA, Epcot, etc. are just not cutting it. WDW is the MK and if I can't get in... I get mad and will wait at the gate for the staff to let me in. For DL, DCA doesn't have the same attraction as DL.

Thursday, January 5, 2006 1:54 PM
Jeffrey, not only did DL experince its biggest season to date this past year, it is also in a major labor dispute. Basically, they toughened up their sick day laws which lead to a bunch of fireings, and suprize suprize no one wanted to work for minimum wage, bad hours, and no benefits. Basically, they need to pay their employees more, if that involves a ticket hike Im all for it.

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