new variable-pricing system for its multi-day theme park tickets. Disney for several years had been pricing its one-day tickets into one of three tiers, based upon expected attendance in the parks on those days. But the 2018 switch applied that model to all theme park tickets. Since then, there's been no easy answer to the question, "how much does it cost to buy a Walt Disney World ticket?"One year ago this month, the Walt Disney World Resort introduced a
Under this ticketing system, multi-day admissions are priced based upon the first day of your visit, and there are more than three pricing tiers. Ticket prices ranged from $44 a day on a 10-day, one-park-per-day ticket bought for the slowest times of the year up to $184 for a one-day Park Hopper ticket bought for the busy Christmas season.
Has this worked out for the resort? In Disney's most recent quarterly report, the company reported lower attendance at its US theme parks, including those at Walt Disney World. Still, Disney reported increased average per capita guest spending at its US parks during the period.
With so many factors affecting Disney attendance and revenue, it's hard to assign credit, or blame, to any single factor, including the resort's new pricing structure. But Disney implemented variable pricing on its theme park tickets because it wanted to "manage" attendance by encouraging visitors to move from traditionally crowded days to traditionally less-crowded ones. In Disney's ideal world, attendance would become constant 365 days of the year — balancing at a point each day where the parks are full but do not feel crowded, allowing all attractions to operate at capacity but without having to turn anyone away at the gate or pushing anyone to leave in frustration.
Disney changed its pricing system in part because it anticipated hordes of fans cramming the resort when Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge opened, and the resort needed new tools to manage that demand. But Galaxy's Edge did not open until the end of the summer, and even then did not open its biggest attraction. Many fans postponed their visits as a result, while others stayed away due to what some analysts suspect is a weakening economy, keeping fans from being able to afford what can be an expensive vacation.
And Disney's competition is selling against the complexity of Walt Disney World's pricing system, too. Universal Parks and Resorts chairman Tom Williams has cited the relative simplicity of Universal Orlando's ticket pricing as a selling point for Universal Orlando's theme parks. Even Disney CEO Bob Iger acknowledged that Universal Orlando's discounting cut into Walt Disney World's attendance this summer.
If Disney wanted its new pricing system to take some of the pressure off its busy summer operations, the combination of factors at play this summer meant that the new system worked too well in doing that. With attendance slipping, Walt Disney World introduced several limited-time discounts over the summer, hoping to boost attendance that it had previously tried to "manage."
So let's get back to the original question. Did Walt Disney World's variable pricing strategy for multi-day tickets work out for the resort? The discounting that the resort introduced this summer suggests that this system has not yet reached its final form. Disney still needs to tweak this complex system to produce the attendance patterns that it wants.
But does tweaking the system mean introducing more price points... or fewer? Which days need to go up in price and which ones need to come down? One year on, will we see price changes this month or will Disney make changes in February, which had become the traditional month for WDW ticket price increases?
So what do you think? Is there a problem with Disney World's ticket structure? And if there is, what is the problem? Is it complexity or just the overall price? Have Disney's pricing changes prompted you to make any changes in how, when, and where you book your theme park visits?Tweet
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