SeaWorld wants to explore dynamic pricing

Posted Thursday, July 11, 2013 8:12 PM | Contributed by VitaminsAndGravy

A top executive with the Orlando-based company recently told analysts that dynamic pricing — in which parks vary the price of admission depending on how busy they expect to be on any given date, rather than charging the same price every day of the year — is "a big opportunity" for the industry.

Read more from The Orlando Sentinel.

Thursday, July 11, 2013 8:49 PM

"We're all kind of fully moving to dynamic pricing. At some point, somebody's going to take the leap to go to fully dynamic pricing. We think there's a lot of upside," Heaney said.

SeaWorld CFO Jim Heaney must read CoasterBuzz.

Not to toot our horn, but the crowd around here generally gets it long before the industry acts on it. We've been discussing the idea of dynamic pricing for the amusement industry for at least 5 years now. (toot toot)

Last edited by Lord Gonchar, Thursday, July 11, 2013 8:51 PM
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Thursday, July 11, 2013 9:01 PM

I was reading this article, and I literally predicted (in my head) that Gonch would say something like that. I don't know why.

I do have a question, is dynamic pricing going to make it cheaper on slow days and more pricey on busy days or the other way around?

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Thursday, July 11, 2013 9:55 PM

Supply and demand.

Less demand, lower price. More demand, higher price.

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Thursday, July 11, 2013 10:05 PM

So the least busy days are cheapest? Cool. Pay less for less lines!

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Thursday, July 11, 2013 10:47 PM

Yeah, I've been talking about this as far back as I can remember. It's very logical, and I think dynamic pricing would solve many problems. Everyone seems to mob the parks at the same time, while they sit empty other days.

Way back (on Pointbuzz) I even joked about the future amusement park with digital signage everywhere with fluctuating food/beverage/upcharge pricing. Too many Fast Lane sales for the day? Up in price they go on their digital signage like the stock market.

I've noticed Cedar Fair and Six Flags are slowly incorporating more dynamic pricing into their model. It'll be interesting to see how the amusement industry evolves...

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Thursday, July 11, 2013 10:50 PM

Cedar Fair already has dynamic pricing in place for their already popular Halloween events. They're already phasing it in as far as I'm concerned. They're taking the slower path so people will be used to it when it comes around fully.

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Thursday, July 11, 2013 11:01 PM

I always found the Skycoaster pricing at Kings Island entertaining. Go there right in the morning, and it's $5 per flight. Once it's moderately busy, it's $10, and I imagine it's the full $20 on a busy Saturday.

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Thursday, July 11, 2013 11:05 PM

Tyler Boes said:
So the least busy days are cheapest? Cool. Pay less for less lines!

Except that the expectation is that the lower prices entice more people to come out.

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Thursday, July 11, 2013 11:15 PM

Jeph said:

Way back (on Pointbuzz) I even joked about the future amusement park with digital signage everywhere with fluctuating food/beverage/upcharge pricing. Too many Fast Lane sales for the day? Up in price they go on their digital signage like the stock market.

I know there's a discussion around here somewhere (probably '06 or '07-ish) about using a 'stock market' model on a pay-per-ride basis. As the various rides fluctuate in popularity during the day, so does the cost for a ticket to ride them. (exactly like your Kings Island example - except park-wide)

It's that idea about paying in time or money again. In addition to long lines encouraging people to spread throughout the park, you use a financial incentive.

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Friday, July 12, 2013 12:08 AM

I think it would get too confusing if a park took the approach to change the admission price throughout the day, depending on how busy the park is. It would make it more difficult to plan how much money a visit would cost. It's fun to think about though.

They explain in the article how to make it work without being confusing. It has to be based on how busy the park expects to be and it has to also be based on factors that visitors can control. They can control when they visit, and they can control when they purchase tickets.

I'm not against this with one exception. It would be a great reason for them to raise their prices, and people wouldn't even realize they the average price to visit has been raised.

It would be interesting to see which direction they go as far as ticket prices go. Will the slow days still be the same price as they are now, and the busy days more expensive? It all about the dollar, so I would expect that.

Last edited by LostKause, Friday, July 12, 2013 12:09 AM
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Friday, July 12, 2013 12:14 AM

Interesting thought, Gonch...

(Guests huddled around CP's ride price monitors):

...Millenium Force:$6...Maverick:$6...Magnum:$2...Mean Streak:$0.50...

(Begins raining and MF goes to 1-train operation)

Price monitor: ...Millenium Force: $18...

(Guests shouting and throwing tickets at ride price monitors)

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Friday, July 12, 2013 12:17 AM

Except visitors do not have total control over when they visit. If you live in Cleveland and work Mon-Fri you probably can't take advantage of a Wednesday discount without taking a vacation day--which adds a different type of cost.

Most movie theaters offer a discount for before 5pm movies--yet the busiest times are still Friday and Saturday nights. The Gonch Paradigm may not apply to when people can visit parks.

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Friday, July 12, 2013 12:51 AM

LostKause said:

They explain in the article how to make it work without being confusing. It has to be based on how busy the park expects to be...

I think you'd be amazed at how well the parks know what its going to be like on any given day. It's not like it's a dumb guess.

I'm not against this with one exception. It would be a great reason for them to raise their prices, and people wouldn't even realize they the average price to visit has been raised.

I can't think of any other reason to do it.

In all seriousness, I think this is just the effect of good dynamic pricing. If you're doing it right, profits will go up. That doesn't necessarily mean per-caps will rise too...but, come on, if I'm betting on it - I'm betting they go up.

Will the slow days still be the same price as they are now, and the busy days more expensive? It all about the dollar, so I would expect that.

Interestingly, I wouldn't. At current prices, parks are dead at certain times. You have to create incentive.

Captain Hawkeye said:

The Gonch Paradigm may not apply to when people can visit parks.

The Gonch Paradigm in it's truest form is to serve the lowest number of people at the highest price possible to achieve maximum profit.

I suppose it depends on how high you're willing to push the weekend ticket price. :)

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Friday, July 12, 2013 3:54 AM

LostKause said:

It would make it more difficult to plan how much money a visit would cost.

This is what I keep going back to in my mind as well. Anyone who is saving for these trips well in advance will have a harder time knowing what their budget needs to be. Those same people are probably more likely to be the people that Hawkeye mentioned, who have few or no vacation days and can't simply decide to go mid-week, so they don't go at all. Rather than spreading around the attendance to the less busy days, I could see a lot of people just not going at all.

Around here, the movie theaters have been doing $5 Tuesdays (half price) for quite some time. A friend of mine working there said that while school was in session, there really wasn't any noticeable uptick in Tuesday attendance, and certainly no decline in Friday and Saturday night attendance. Now that school is out, Tuesday nights are slammed, but it's almost all high school kids. Not sure if that'll translate to the amusement park model, but I suspect for most people time availability will continue to be more of a factor than pricing.

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Friday, July 12, 2013 9:57 AM

The origin of dynamic pricing, IMO, is the Disney A-E ticket books of old...

Everything old is new again (for Birdman)...

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Friday, July 12, 2013 10:37 AM

^ Well, Expedition Everest does "go backwards when forward fails"...

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Friday, July 12, 2013 11:12 AM

CP Chris said:
Anyone who is saving for these trips well in advance will have a harder time knowing what their budget needs to be.

Why? Dynamic pricing doesn't have to literally be dynamic, in the sense that it is constantly changing. A park could map out the pricing schedule for the entire calendar for a given season. I would expect a color coded calendar just like what they use for their operating hours.

I agree that if the parks makes in-season changes then it would be hard to predict the future price on a given day, but that's not the feeling that I get from the article.

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Friday, July 12, 2013 11:39 AM

I'd be interested to see what the effects would be on season passes. You can only have so many tiers to the programs before things become hopelessly confusing. "Which pass allows me to visit the week of June 16th?"

I like the idea a lot, though, especially if it means lighter crowds on weekends. I'm curious as to what effect dynamic pricing would have on virtual queueing systems, though. One would think that if parks price themselves into lower crowd levels, the need for such systems would decrease.

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Friday, July 12, 2013 12:08 PM

LostKause said:

It would make it more difficult to plan how much money a visit would cost.

CP Chris said:

This is what I keep going back to in my mind as well. Anyone who is saving for these trips well in advance will have a harder time knowing what their budget needs to be.

I'm not sure what the mystery is here. How do those kinds of people deal with dynamic pricing currently? (airlines, hotels, MLB, etc)

I'm guessing people would handle this the same way.

sirloindude said:

I'm curious as to what effect dynamic pricing would have on virtual queueing systems, though. One would think that if parks price themselves into lower crowd levels, the need for such systems would decrease.

A reply in outline form:

1. Crowds aren't suddenly going to disappear. The plan is actually twofold. It has the potential to 'encourage' people to visit differently, but it also has the potential to maximize revenues. Either is a win, really.

2. Even if it does reduce congestion on crowded days, then:

  • Any lost revenue from VQ will potentially gained in higher gate pricing.
  • There will always be demand for VQ...unless we're suggesting peak weekend crowds suddenly get small enough that the lines are the equivalent of a rainy Wednesday in early June. And that ain't happening.

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