Variable pricing comes to US theme park tickets
Written by Robert Niles
If you've visited Legoland Florida's website recently to buy a ticket for the Winter Haven, Fla. theme park, you might have noticed a new offer on the site: Discounts for tickets bought for use on certain days.
Yep, variable pricing has come to American theme parks.
I like the way Legoland's framing this: You get a discount for visiting the park on certain (presumably, less popular) days. That makes sense in a couple of ways.
If you look at theme parks' current daily ticket price as representing the fair-market value of visiting on an average day, it's reasonable to assume that less popular days should be priced less under a variable pricing scheme. Of course, that means more popular days should be more expensive, but by starting the with discounted days, Legoland can introduce variable pricing in a way that the public's more likely to accept.
Variable pricing gives theme parks another way to manage their crowds. Instead of closing the gates and turning people away on busy days (such as during Christmas week), variable pricing and advance-sale, date-specific tickets can allow parks to reduce the number of people showing up at the park on those days. In the same way, parks can use variable pricing to encourage more people to visit on slower days, better distributing visitors throughout the year.
Of course, there are limits, especially for a park targeted specifically at school-aged children, such as Legoland. Most families just aren't willing to pull their kids out of school to visit a theme park, so all the discounts Legoland can offer won't entice those families to visit on those days.
Date-specific tickets and variable pricing aren't new outside the United States. When I visited Tokyo Disneyland and Universal Studios Singapore, I bought tickets that were tied to the specific dates I visited, unlike U.S. theme park tickets, which typically can be used anytime after they're purchased.
And if you look at theme park tickets on a cost-per-hour basis, US theme parks long have had variable prices, except that parks charged less per hour on their busiest days. With variable pricing, perhaps the cost-per-hour price will even out, with parks charging less on days they're opened for fewer hours, and more for days when they open early and close late.
What do you think about variable pricing for theme park tickets? Please tell us, in the comments.
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