Price vs. Overcrowding vs. Capacity

Edited: January 11, 2018, 12:23 PM

This dovetails a bit with the article Robert wrote regarding Fastpasses and ticket books.

I found that reading the comments, just about everyone wanted their cake and the ability to eat it too. That is not quite how the world works.


There is a triple constraint in the amusement industry....there are more, but for the sake of this discussion, let's limit it down. The constraints are Price vs. Overcrowding vs Capacity. You can adjust one.

Raising the price reduces overcrowding and does nothing for capacity.

Raising capacity increases the price and doesn't typically do much about overcrowding, as the marketing department uses the new rides to increase ticket sales. Increasing capacity also takes long periods of time.

Flatly decreasing overcrowding can only be done by limiting the amount of patrons through the front gate, freezing out people, making tickets more scarce and thus more expensive for specific dates, and does nothing for capacity.

So where do you fall in the age old argument? Please give supporting details behind why you are behind your chosen viewpoint.

Replies (10)

Edited: January 11, 2018, 12:40 PM

I vote for reducing overcrowding. In my view, this is "betting on myself". As an experienced theme park visitor with a pretty decent ability to research and plan in advance of a trip, I will be controlling my own fate in this scenario. In that vein, I can use my knowledge and experience to outwit and outplan a majority of the rest of the guests in the park, while those too ignorant to plan are standing outside the gates without a ticket - so long as the park is not so crowded that you can't move. Therefore, by limiting the number of guests allowed in the park each day, I'm confident that through planning, research, and shear will, I would be able to ensure that I could get into the park on even the highest demand days, and would have enough knowledge to navigate the park to make the most of the day and see the most attractions.

January 11, 2018, 3:37 PM

I don't think much is going to change in the trajectory regarding prices and crowds. Both go up over time and both will continue to go up over time.

January 11, 2018, 3:59 PM

Raising capacity. Not only increase park capacity with new lands and attractions, the attractions should be doubled up like what they did with Soarin' and Toy Story Mania. Add additional tracks, theater, and vehicle capacity especially with some dedicated Fastpass lines that will get their own capacity. The minor parks should also increase capacity to take the load off the main Disneyland/MK parks.

Raising Prices and Restricting Crowds is a short-term solution and dangerous in the long run since people will still show up and it will be hard to keep them out. Disney will still allow enough people to enter into an overcrowded park. Ultimately, they are leaving money on the table if they are unwilling to increase capacity.

January 11, 2018, 5:12 PM

/\ True but you also have to take diminishing returns into account. I am sure theme parks (like any other business) do tons of studies on this. Its possible that Disney will make more money by raising prices + getting people to buy upsells and not doing as much expansion, than they would by doing lots of expansions to have more people. I'm sure this is a big reason why Toy Story Land and Star Wars Land are built on existing areas of the park instead of being straight up expansions.
Remember new rides mean operations people, more maintenance people, more wardrobe people, more space that needs to be dedicated somewhere for storing parts, more warehouse people, more project people for rehabs and stuff, etc etc. Of course the cost of this is offset by the attendance gains/hotel bookings/merchandise sales, but it's possible that instead of many people extending their stays they just go to that park instead of another one (hence why you have Avatar, Star Wars, Tron, and Guardians all going to different parks).

January 11, 2018, 8:36 PM

What diminishing returns? This is imagining a nightmare. Wishing a disaster so they should do nothing.

Disney is already getting people to spend more. They anticipated less attendance due to park construction. Milking more revenue from existing customers can only go so far without more attractions to drive more spending. Toy Story Land and Star Wars Land are real expansions. They add park capacity to the former studios tour. The result is people will spend more time in each park instead of lots of park hopping so they might want to extend their trip for extra days.

Edited: January 12, 2018, 11:48 AM

Anton hit the nail on the head.
Capacity. Money=More capacity. A big example: I wish they would just add more at WDW's Magic Kingdom to ease those crowds. I absolutely hate the inconvenience of having to wait for a separate line and monorail to get there from the parking lot. I wish they had a paid lot closer to the park. Crowd control at its worst. I find myself making dining reservations and eating at the resorts just to have the convenience. (Spending more money). Even though its just as crowded as Disneyland it does not seem to have more in terms at The Magic Kingdom park (Florida). (I live in Celebration and Often fly to L.A. to feel like I get more for my money.) Capacity doesn't seem as bad when there is more to do. It doesn't feel you have as few options for the price, even park hopping. Even if you do have to make it cost more at WDW, people will always pay to go to Disney. I'd pay to have less people and more to do. Universal has a great idea with its Virtual Que. Interested to see how that rolls out in the future. I think parks just need more to spread out crowds. Even if its, flat rides, shows, and exhibits. If Epcot had a few more E attractions, and some flat rides I don't think lines would be as long. Again I'd pay more for less crowds and shorter lines. 3 more fast passes for 50 bucks seems a bit much, but when you can not get the normal three because premium payers get the first choice 90 days in advance, it starts to make sense. I always pay for the front of the line passes at all other parks I hardly visit.I especially pay at Cedar Fair, Six Flags parks. The con is it makes lines longer for other guest with families whom can't afford it.

January 12, 2018, 1:48 PM

Better demand management is where I stand. I really like visiting Blackpool with the Q-Bot system because I can do two things at once, be in a virtual queue and stuffing my face, sitting resting, or even in another (standby) queue.

I think Universal are on the right track with Virtual-queue-by-default, but it does take a little "retraining" of guests perhaps, but I think you can do a lot more with it. You can add in a Fastpass+ like system where you can "guarantee" a certain number of rides on landmarks for all guests, and better guide them to lesser crowded areas of the park.

That said, I think there are a lot of rides being released that simply don't have enough capacity at the point of design. I know there's a equation that needs to be played (spending more vs the risk of the ride being a dud) but seriously guys, we're trapped in your little overpriced shopping mall, we're going on the ride.

January 12, 2018, 7:50 PM

This is basically the triangle problem that can model a lot of things in life. There are basically three options:

1. If you lower the price and increase the attraction count, the park is going to be packed to the gills in order to remain profitable.

2. If you lower the price and reduce the visitor count, new attractions will be relatively rare as the park won't be making enough of a profit to afford them.

3. If you want new attractions and less crowds, the park must jack up the admission cost in order to cover construction.

Ideally, my solution would be choice one (essentially the capacity choice)...add more rides without significantly increasing the visitation costs, even though it will make the park busier. Why? If the cost of admission is lower, there is less stress about ensuring that the experience justifies the cost, and more of a chance that I'll make a return visit in the future. Especially for a park I don't get to visit frequently, I'm less concerned about how busy the park is and more interested in what they offer that I can't get at a local park. Also, I'm much more likely to make a return trip to a park that has added major new attractions than I am to one that hasn't done much since my last visit. This is one of the reasons I suspect it will be at least five years before I go back to Florida, while I'm planning another Ohio/Pennsylvania trip for this summer despite the fact that I did most of those parks just a few years ago.

January 13, 2018, 9:03 AM

AJ: Those are not real world options.

1. Increase attractions, increase the prices. They go hand in hand.

2. Lower price, increase attendance. Everyone wants a bargain.

3. New attractions will increase attendance usually for the first year. Crowds will drop off the second year, but relative to the higher park capacity.

What you’re describing is SeaWorld, which is in desperation mode. Any new additions haven’t been met with increased attendance and significant price increases. Knott’s and Universal prices are relatively unchanged at the LA market.

January 16, 2018, 12:03 PM

This is a topic which has piqued my interest recently. Being as I work in the event entertainment industry it also has some professional interest as well. I mainly deal with hard-ticketed, limited capacity events (concerts, festivals, conventions, and sporting events), so some of the same "rules" regarding crowd capacity and throughput are a little different when it comes to theme parks. The way I look at the issue, and it may seem antagonistic, is a see-saw battle between theme park managers and bean-counters vs. guests. This, from the outset, seems like a contradiction, as the overall intention of a theme park is to entertain and provide guests with an experience they can't get anywhere else. While theme parks do go to great lengths to emphasize guest experience, the end result is to generate more revenue. Revenue is the first goal, while guest service and more entertainment options is secondary. Like any business model, you must generate revenue in order to continue to put out product. Generate enough revenue and you can offer more products to continue to see revenue growth. Where it gets dicey in the theme park industry is your product--your rides, shows, restaurants, etc.--are limited not only by operational, construction, and maintenance costs, but perhaps most importantly by geographic footprint. Some parks don't have such an issue with this, having plenty of room to "stretch their legs", so to speak and continue to expand outward. This is your Cedar Fair, WDW, some Six Flags parks, etc. Other parks don't have this luxury (I'm looking at you Disneyland), and are as such forced to either sacrifice current attractions and offerings to put in place another. Of course this doesn't really solve the capacity and crowding problems outright--your still left with generally the same geographic footprint you started with. I'm speaking mainly from my experience with Disneyland as that's my local park but the same issues can be applied to other geographically handicapped parks. Once Disneyland opens Galaxy's Edge they will have just about hit their geographic footprint limit and then they will be forced to cannibalize other attractions for future expansion at the park.

The absolute best way to solve overcrowding and capacity issues while also generating revenue? Build high-capacity attractions which eat crowds. The more attractions you have in a park, the more places people can disperse and be held at for a certain amount of time. This isn't always viable or popular, however, and so the theme park managers job is to ensure that whatever you put into your limited parcel of land will do two things--generate interest (and thus add additional revenue) and increase capacity.

Remember, when a new attraction is built it comes with built in costs. Construction, maintenance, staffing levels, promotion, etc. all will be factors which contribute to its risk-reward from a business standpoint. Ideally parks would want to aim for a long-term solution rather than a short-term fix (though these are important as well). Its EXTREMELY rare for most parks to have more than one long-standing, crowd-eating classics such as Pirates or The Haunted Mansion--especially if a park doesn't have a bunch of mouse-eared silhouettes stamped all over the place.

Theme parks also don't necessarily have the luxury of hitting 'park capacity' like a concert or other hard-ticketed event does. At a concert, if an event is 'sold-out' this information is disseminated typically prior to the event date. People know the 'rules' of hard ticketed events and generally won't make a fuss about missing something if they didn't get a ticket to their favorite festival--at least not to the event promoters. This is the opposite of theme parks, who's guests expect the gates to be open during all operating hours. Limiting park capacity could be suicide for some theme parks, as they will be essentially depriving and a large portion of their paying customers--some who traveled very far and paid a lot of money--of their expected experience. Limit capacity enough and people will stop bothering to come. Having an unlimited capacity park also sees it's own risks--unhappy customers, stressed and overworked staff, increased operating costs, etc. Not to mention possibly the most important issue which no one gives a thought to when at a theme park--guest safety. Not to get side tracked too much, but have you ever considered how bad a terrorist or serious earthquake situation could get at a place like Disneyland on a peak day? We're talking thousands of deaths/casualties and no immediate solution for getting tens of thousands of guests to safety quickly.

Back to the main point, parks CAN balance capacity and price and overcrowding, but the investment and planning to do so needs to be impeccable. I suspect that once Galaxy's Edge opens, Disneyland will see park capacity reached for a few months. After that, crowd levels will even out and I actually think a place like Disneyland will be more enjoyable for it. Remember, adding attractions and geographic footprint relieves stress in the long term. Galaxy's Edge will see the addition of not one, but two marquee attractions (though the jury is still out on guests per hour on these attractions). The relief this will provide the rest of the park over time will be noticeable and welcome.

As far as other parks are concerned, well that's an entirely different topic. Most other parks don't have the luxury the big dogs have in terms of raw financial capital, marketing, and political clout Disney/Universal has. But the model remains the same. To eliminate overcrowding while also maintaining safe capacity and having a healthy price parks need to invest heavily in geographically efficient, marquee attractions. It's easier said than done, but it has been proven to work.

This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.

Park tickets

Weekly newsletter

New attraction reviews

News archive