Vote of the week: Should theme parks change the way that they sell admission tickets?
Published: June 11, 2010 at 12:03 PM
This week, the Resorts World page reminded readers to book their Universal Studios tickets in advance, as the park was selling out and no walk-up sales would be permitted.
Plenty of theme parks sell out certain nights of "hard-ticket" events, such as Universal's Halloween Horror Nights and Disney's Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party. But I'm not aware of any major U.S. theme parks that have sold out in advance a "normal" day of operation. Visitors' habit of buying tickets at the gate is simply too strong. (Despite our best efforts to break people of that horribly inefficient habit.)
Parks would love for more visitors to buy their tickets online, in advance. That would give the park a much better sense of what attendance would be like on a given day, allowing them to more accurately budget labor hours. Advance sales are "money in the bank" for a theme park, too, and allow parks to cut (or redeploy) staff from the ticket booths.
Orlando and Southern California theme parks often close their parking lots and suspend ticket sales on busy days during the Christmas holidays. As a customer, frankly, I'd rather see those parks demand visitors buy their tickets in advance, so that no one has to show up at the park to be disappointed.
The flip side is that advance sales limit your flexibility. I've got a 10-day Walt Disney World park hopper, with no expiration, that I use when I visit Orlando. With that ticket, I can visit a Disney World park any day that I please, with no need for an advance reservation, and no danger of being shut out on busy days. (Unless the crowd's so large that a park actually close the turnstiles, which happens very rarely.)
I might not get to enjoy that flexibility if parks moves to a true advance sales system, with hard caps on the number of tickets sold for particular dates. Either I'd have to make a reservation to use one of my days, or parks would stop selling open-ended tickets altogether.
An advance sales system like Singapore's also wouldn't work at a park like Disneyland, where hundreds of thousands of locals hold annual passes, and come and go as they please (provided they're not blocked out on a given day). An AP system such as Disneyland's would need to be modified to support advance ticket sales and scheduling.
So here's our vote of the week. Should parks move to an advance sales system for tickets, like Universal Studios Singapore?
A yes vote means that parks should sell tickets for specific days in advance, with a hard cap on the number of tickets sold. The park would either set aside slots for a limited number of AP holders, or require AP holders to make a reservation on days when the park expects to hit the cap.
A no vote means to keep the system the way that it is now in the United States, with tickets available for advance purchase, but with no specific dates for use and no hard caps on attendance announced in advance.
I'd love to hear your thoughts, in the comments, on theme park ticket sales system. Thanks again for reading Theme Park Insider, and I'll be seeing you next week in Orlando for the Harry Potter grand opening!