Most theme park fans have realized that the days of rolling up to a ticket booth and buying the one ticket available for sale are long over. Theme parks offer a dizzying array of admission options these days, ranging from variable prices on one-day tickets to a variety of multi-day and multi-park admissions.
Theme parks' attempts to maximize the revenue by creating all these new price points for their tickets are becoming a national business story. The Wall Street Journal today published, Disney Tests Pricing Power at Theme Parks, pegged to the $300 Pixar Pier preview party that the Disneyland Resort is offering this Friday night at Disney California Adventure.
The long-term goal for parks is to find a system where prices can float with demand to maximizes income. Parks want people to commit in advance to filling the parks to near capacity every day of the year... but they also need a pricing system that won't frustrate potential visitors to the point where they throw up their hands and choose to spend their money elsewhere.
Good luck with that.
Disney has used seasonal pricing on one-day tickets and a complicated annual pass blockout calendar to shift attendance from peak days to ones that were traditionally less busy. That's all but eliminated the off season at the Disneyland Resort, where parking garages now close due to capacity on many Friday nights during the school year. But the debut of the Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge land at Disneyland and Disney's Hollywood Studios in Florida next year brings new pricing and crowd-management challenges to the company.
If Disney thinks it can get $300 a person to preview Pixar Pier, how much do you think it will get for a preview of Star Wars land? Disney has moved to park-specific blockout dates for Disneyland in California. Will it do the same for Walt Disney World? What about eliminating one-day ticket sales for Disneyland and Disney's Hollywood Studios? Or applying the variable pricing tiers to multi-day tickets as well as single day? Or adding to the three pricing tiers the company now offers on both coasts?
Disney has pretty much unlimited options here. No matter how complicated it makes its pricing structure, someone, somewhere will figure it out. (We are here for you, theme park fans!) And enough people will be able to afford it that Disney will be able to make more money than it does now.
But as Disney prices people out of its theme parks — whether through expense or confusion — that creates opportunities for its competitors, including Universal and even the often-now-forgotten SeaWorld. What will they do to take advantage?
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