You read that headline right. Disney is trying to fight lower park attendance by both raising prices and offering a discount at the same time. Mickey has lost his mind.
Disney Park Attendance Suffering
Throughout the year, various social media reports have suggested that Disneyland (California) and Disney World Resort (Florida) are “empty.” Pent-up demand for travel filled the most magical place(s) on earth over the last year, but reports (verified through the app and, now, statements from Disney) suggested shorter wait times for key attractions. Even the 4th of July crowds this summer, typically a very busy period for the Florida theme park, were lower than pre-pandemic levels – a far cry from recent months.
Ride times are an excellent metric to determine if Walt Disney World is empty in real-time, but are anecdotal and only provide a minimal window for comparison.
One cited reason for lower attendance was trouble with the weather, however, the weather was fine on the Fourth of July Independence Day weekend and wouldn’t have affected both parks. The Walt Disney Company had a very public tussle with Governor Ron DeSantis as well, resulting in the cancellation of the company’s new office building in the Orlando area with a stated $1 billion economic impact. However, Florida’s politics are nearly opposite to California’s so if politics was the reason, the opposite should be true on the West Coast. However, both are being reported as empty this summer (and now, fall.)
Both parks have added new attractions recently, with the Magic Kingdom opening TRON which was under construction for more than five years, Mickey’s Runaway Rail at Hollywood Studios, and both a Guardian of The Galaxy attraction as well as one from Ratatouille at Epcot in Florida.
Pressure may be coming from Universal Studios too. Universal Orlando Resort is building its new third gate, Epic, which is slated to be approximately the size of both its Orlando parks, City Walk, and all its resort properties. That’s not due to open until 2025, however.
The company has kept some COVID-era restrictions in place, limited annual passholder sign-ups and renewals, raised prices, and removed benefits now charging as much as $60/per person/day for what was formerly included. Candidly, this is why this writer moved his business to Universal.
Disney Is Raising Prices
What’s the perfect solution to fighting low attendance numbers? Raising prices, of course.
“The top tier pass, called the Incredi Pass (which has no blockout dates) now costs $1,499 for one year’s access, a $100 increase from Monday and $200 more than it cost in September 2021. The Sorcerer Pass, favored by Florida residents and Disney Vacation Club members, is now $999, up from $969.” – Fortune (paywall)
Daily tickets are going up too:
“While a basic one-day ticket for the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California, will remain $104, starting Oct. 11, guests will have to pay more for the other daily passes. The most expensive tier now costs $194, up from $179.”
“Disneyland Resort parking is also up $5, from $30 to $35.” Disney World moves from $25 to $30/day. – Today
Park Hopper, the ability to move between parks at will was restricted to a reservation system and limited to 2 pm switches since the pandemic. This policy reverts back to normal freedom to move throughout the parks without a reservation starting January 9th, 2024.
Disney Is Also Offering 50% Off Children’s Tickets, Kind Of
Taking a play out of airline loyalty program playbooks, CEO Bob Iger and co. have added some good news to go along with the bad. But not really.
“Disney said it would knock 50% off theme park tickets and dining plans for 3- to 9-year-old children in a Disney World deal for families getting a “non-discounted 4-night, 4-day Walt Disney Travel Co. package for you and your children that includes a room at a select Disney Resort hotel, theme park tickets and a dining plan.” There will only be a limited number of packages available for the deal, according to the company.
Let’s break that apart to show how that’s probably not a savings at all:
- Kids are in school during this period
- Non-discounted packages are far more expensive than the savings
- Doesn’t include all children’s tickets
Iger stated that the changes are neither inflationary nor are park troubles a matter of price and the Parks division showed an increase in revenue of 13% in the last quarter. Of course, an increase in revenue does not necessarily mean an increase of visitors by the same percentage, nor does it reflect solely US concerns. The company is also raising prices on streaming services Hulu, and Disney+ and cracking down on password sharing. This is the strangest strategy I think I have ever seen. If the parks are suffering from lower attendance, the solution to discount tickets for a specific period might be the answer, but raising them at the same time is counterproductive. Additionally, Disney might find a return to the parks if it restored its pre-pandemic benefits, one of which it plans to do, the rest it does not. The house of mouse is in trouble, it appears, and the savior, Bob Iger, seems confused at best.
What do you think? Does Disney have the right strategy? Did I miss something?