When will theme parks stop offering discounts on tickets and hotels?

May 11, 2010, 2:19 PM · Disney reported its latest quarterly earnings today, and while its movies are busting blocks, in the theme parks, the economy continues to clean Disney's clocks.

(Was that the worst line I've written in the history of Theme Park Insider? Possibly...)

Anyway, Disney CEO Bob Iger said in a conference call with Wall Street analysts that the company expects to stop offering theme park discounts by October of this year, and is willing to take an attendance hit in order to return to full pricing.

Disney's taking a bit of attendance hit as it is, with flat attendance in the first few months of 2010. And bookings for the third quarter (July-Sept.) are down 10 percent over the same period last year, Iger said.

Theme parks have been saying for two years that they expect to end their heavy discounting "soon." So far, Universal Orlando's been the only one to do it, and it needed the impending opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter to make it stick.

Will Disney stop offering deals after this summer? (Disney's currently offering its dining program free to people who book hotel stays at Walt Disney World for trips this fall.) And if it does, how long will attendance and revenue suffer before crowds come back at full price?

As with many things in the theme park business, we'll have to wait to see....

Replies (9)

May 11, 2010 at 2:50 PM · When should the parks look at $80-$100 to walk in just too much. You could get more people in the door with a lower fee to get in. That would let the people spend more money on the inside to make up for the loss at the gate. I know when i go to the park I spend little to no money because of how much i just spent to get in.
May 12, 2010 at 4:09 AM · Orlando Sentinel: "Disney’s announcement that companywide profit surged 55 percent during the its fiscal second quarter, as the Burbank, Calif.-based entertainment giant reaped a windfall from its hit 3-D movie Alice in Wonderland. Disney said it earned $953 million during the three months that ended April 3, up from $613 million a year ago. The gain was driven in large part by the company’s movie studio, which rebounded from a moribund performance a year ago thanks to the strength of Alice.

No doubt the company's individual units are managed and adjusted based upon their own individual performance. But if the success of 'Alice in Wonderland' has had such a powerful effect on the bottom line, the movie studio certainly makes the company's prospects in 2010 look pretty good. 'Toy Story 3' drops in a month (gonna be huge). And the 'Tron' sequel hits theaters in December.

Stay tuned!

May 12, 2010 at 6:20 AM · People are waiting for the Fantasyland expansion as it is. It will take exactly that long for people to get over the price bump.
May 12, 2010 at 6:42 AM · So what it means is layoffs ahead for the next 3 years. Alot of people beyond those whom study everything disney, know of the fantasyland expansion and will be holding out till everything is complete with the expansion. We always wait a year for the problems of new construction to be corrected and crowd flow hopefully more manageable. We cancelled our next 2 huge family visits to WDW orlando. $ for $ too expensive. Universal, Six Flags, Sea World all provide value. Disney doesn't. Our TX trip this summer will cost 300. per person. Orlando next summer 550. for Universal. Disney always 1k plus. And what provides the most fun? In our family polling it has been Disney coming in towards the bottom. May be the kids now want Spiderman, Transformers, Potter. And they love the animal aspect of SeaWorld.
May 12, 2010 at 6:44 AM · Also 2011 is the fortieth anniversary (new entertainment) and the opening of Star Tours II (HD and 3D). The parks should still do well enough the summer -- piggy-backing Potter. Universal is still a single day attraction (both parks) -- especially with the Potter attractions drawing people away from USF.
May 12, 2010 at 12:20 PM · Don't forget... the parks should have actually been doing fine against foreigners coming in. The Euro was pretty strong against the US dollar-- and theme parks (especially the ones in Florida) really ride on the European visitors coming in and buying every experience possible. Was it enough to make up for the parks doing poorly in the local market? I guess not.

The discounts from all the parks have been AWESOME so far. There's no way they'll stop-- theme parks are a business after all-- and very competitive. But i think theme parks will stop offering AWESOME discounts once the economy bounces up and then it's back to $5 off a ticket price again.

And they'll know the economy is back when I have to wait two hours to get into "It's a Small World"

May 14, 2010 at 11:04 AM · I am a life-long Disney fan and my husband and I have been to WDW five times in the past two years. WE either drive from Michigan or fly(especially since we discovered magical express). We also try to take at least two other people with us---kids, relatives, etc.
The reason we have been able to visit WDW so often has been solely because of the discounts Disney has offered. Either the 30-40% off on accomodations or, better yet, the free dining plan. In fact, we are in the process of rounding up people for another trip this fall in order to take advantage of the free dining. We think that is the best thing since sliced bread.
If Disney discontinues the discounts, we most certainly will not go there. The discounts make it only "reasonably" affordable. If the discounts go, then we cannot, and won't. simple as that.
May 14, 2010 at 11:55 AM · Iger is saber rattling. The reason they came though the "recession" period so well is that they had high utilization on their resorts because of discounts. If they go to a no discount attitide people will search out the best bargain and their attendance will suffer. Then you will see a whole new series of discounted offers.

I think it is pretty laughable.

May 14, 2010 at 4:44 PM · I'll believe it when I see it.

Lots of people report getting both steep discounts on rooms and offers of free dining well into December 2010. Lots of people... not ME, of course, I can't get one of those pin emails to save my life, especially since I'm actually PLANNING on going this fall, but that's beside the point.

I'm not bitter about it... not MUCH!!!

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