Holiday World embraces variable ticket pricing

Edited: April 13, 2017, 11:36 AM

Holiday World, in Santa Claus, Ind., has become the latest theme park to embrace date-specific, variable admission pricing.

Holiday World's variable pricing is for online advance-purchase tickets for specific dates. The $49.99 ticket price at the gate won't vary by date. If you're not sure when you will visit, you can buy an "any day" ticket, but you will get only a $2 discount from the gate price for that, when you can get discounts up to $20 by committing to a date.

In a typically Holiday World customer-friendly move, Holiday World is offering people who bought online ticket vouchers before the introduction of the Pick Your Price discount the difference between what they paid and what the "Pick Your Price" charge would have been for the date of their visit in HoliCash to use in the park on the date of their visit. If you bought an online ticket before March 20, 2017 show your voucher at the park to get your discount.

Holiday World opens for the 2017 season on April 29.

Replies (3)

April 13, 2017, 12:27 PM

I'm sorry, but these variable/demand pricing schemes really annoy me. They're infiltrating two of the things I dearly love, sports and theme parks. I completely understand why they exist, but I don't have to like them. Having some level of price stability is something consumers should be given, and admission prices that can vary as much as 100-200% (sporting events tend to skew to the extreme end) from the "base" price can be downright unnerving to someone that may simply not have the flexibility to visit on certain days.

Demand pricing is a result of more advanced computer systems and tracking software that predict consumer behavior. I'm growing weary of systems predicting what people will do so companies can extract maximum profit and manage crowds. If companies really wanted to manage crowds, they would set a "base" price and limit the number of advanced tickets sold each day (holding back a certain percentage of park capacity for day-of purchases). If advanced tickets go unsold on certain dates, the park can then discount them as the dates approach to fill the park, never offering those discounts to procrastinators showing up at the gate to purchase tickets. The fact that attraction availability and weather can greatly affect a guest's decision (especially at a park like Holiday World), it's upsetting that guests are being asked to lock in specific days before they know what's operating or what the weather might be like, which in turn could affect what attractions are operating.

April 13, 2017, 5:00 PM

So the next stage in customer service would be to put an inclement weather guarantee on date-specific discounted tickets - if you choose not to use the ticket because it is raining that day, then you can use the ticket on any other day of the season.

That still leaves people who don't go based on a rain forecast that doesn't come through with an unused ticket, but I would hope parks would allow people to apply that cost to the purchase of another ticket.

Or parks could just give any who comes on a day with enough rain that rides are closed more than a certain amount of time a free return ticket for another day.

Edited: April 14, 2017, 6:37 AM

I still wonder why parks can't simply sell date-specific tickets at the gate price, and then discount based on true demand as the date approaches. If pre-sales do not fill the park up 2 weeks in advance, a discount is applied, and then another discount kicks in a week in advance if there are still tickets available for certain days. There's going to be price envy, but I think most people are accepting that these days because even for a meal at McDonald's, 2 customers with identical orders could pay vastly different prices (if you have a smart phone with the MCD app and are paying full price, you're doing something wrong).

The concept runs counter to a long-held concept within the theme park community (early bird gets the worm), but that's the only way I would accept a demand-based scheme.

Date-specific tickets also push into a realm of the economy that really disturbs me, which is the lost purchase. Airlines are the biggest culprit here, who regularly count on paying customers simply not showing up for something they've paid for, but this philosophy is infiltrating every corner of our lives. Companies form entire business plans around customers that pay for things they never use, and instead of working to make sure customers are happy with their purchase, they gladly debit funds from people's credit cards knowing that the customers either have no idea they're still paying for something or simply don't care because it's built into their monthly budget.

This tactic has developed a lassez faire attitude from consumers, which has caused more and more companies to adjust their sales to take advantage of people that are happy to pay for something the first time, but forget they're still paying for it months or years later. Gyms, various subscription delivery services, and even theme parks now (with SF's "membership" which is actually more expensive than a regular season pass with no extra benefits for the extra cost) have transitioned to the monthly bill model. Date specific tickets are similar to these monthly bill models with parks counting on a certain percentage of pre-sold tickets to never be redeemed. The idea that you can actually sell 1.2 or 1.5 tickets for every person that physically walks into a theme park (just like airlines over-booking flight) is tantalizing to park operators. The millennial attitude of "oh well" when something that is paid for but not actually used is one I don't share, and wish could be purged from our society. However, the more consumers continue to share this attitude, the more companies will take advantage of it, rendering the savvy, smart consumer impotent since virtually everything will move to a pre-order or subscription model. We need to teach people to be smart consumers, or those of us that actually value our money won't be able to spend smartly anymore.

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