Disney World prices rise as attendance increases

ORLANDO, Fla. — By the end of her family’s week-long trip to Walt Disney World, Danielle Perry and her husband will have spent $10,000.

That bill includes travel from Brighton, Michigan, for the family of five, a stay at Saratoga Springs Resort and skip-the-line access with Genie+ and Lightning Lane, Perry, 27, said.

The family planned the trip for two years and saw the prices go up. Yet they wanted to do everything possible for their children, aged 5, 3 and 1.

“If we come back, it probably won’t be for another three to five years, so we were like, ‘Go big or go home,'” she said.

Experts say inflation and rising operating costs are driving up prices for entertainment, and not just at theme parks.

But some Disney World fans question the value because some perks have disappeared during the pandemic. Disney has posted near-record revenue as spending at its parks increases and pre-COVID attendance rebounds.

John and Diane Sensenig, who are over 65 and have held an annual pass for more than 20 years, say their passes have lost value since it is “significantly” more expensive to visit them now. They said the company prioritizes occasional visitors, who tend to spend a lot on short trips, over pass holders, who pay a premium for regular access but still shell out.

“A friend of ours, who actually works for Disney, said it’s become ‘a park of haves and have-nots,'” said Diane Sensenig, of Reading, Pennsylvania. “If you want to profit from the park, you have to pay, pay and pay.”

Disney spokesman Avery Maehrer said the company is offering guests a range of price points while expanding its park offerings.

“We continue to invest in creating attractions and services that impress our customers and enhance the experience, with a wide range of options to match different budgets and interests – giving them more choice, more flexibility and convenience,” he said in a statement.

Guests line up for the daily opening of Disney's Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Florida on January 28, 2022.

More expensive tickets, passes

Disney isn’t the only one raising prices. Other entertainment, such as concert and theater tickets, is also increasing, experts said.

It’s also not the only theme park that’s getting more expensive, though it’s usually the most expensive in the industry, said Carissa Baker, assistant professor of theme park and attraction management at the University of Central Florida.

Universal Orlando has increased the cost of a one-day park ticket in recent years, including an $11 increase in 2019 and a $4 increase in early 2020. Many of its past price increases were apparently in response to Disney.

In 2022, day ticket prices for both resorts cost from $109 to $159 per day, depending on the date.

Disney tends to receive more criticism than its competitors because it has a history of standing out and has a fervent fan base, said Motley Fool entertainment analyst Rick Munarriz.

Jeannie Deal of Windermere, Florida celebrates scoring buckets of Figment popcorn with her family on the opening day of the 2022 Epcot International Festival of the Arts, at Walt Disney World on January 14, 2021.

For example, while Disney launched its paid skip-the-line program years after parks like Universal and SeaWorld had done so, fans were skeptical of the $15-a-day Genie+ and variable-price Lightning Lane.

“Disney kind of does what everybody else does,” he said. “…(Parks) say, ‘How can we maximize our money by not increasing our capacity?'”

But theme park planners like Disney Food Blog owner AJ Wolfe say Disney removing free access to some services means guests “get less and pay more.”

Over the past year, Disney has stopped its free Magical Express shuttle from Orlando International Airport and ended Magical Overtime, which gave hotel guests extra time at the parks. Early morning access to the parks has temporarily resumed for all hotel guests, but additional evening hours — typically two — are only available for those staying in certain locations like luxury hotels.

Guests arrive for check-in at Disney's Wilderness Lodge at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Floria on February 10, 2022.

Maehrer said the Magical Express did not meet customer needs and that early entry gives all hotel guests an extra 30 minutes in the parks per day.

Len Testa, a computer scientist and owner of theme park planning website Touring Plans, said Disney prices have generally risen faster than the average hourly wage in the United States, which rules out many.

“I don’t think the bottom 40% of Americans can afford even a two-day visit to Disney World. It’s just beyond the amount of money they could spend a year on vacation,” he said.

Disney’s base prices and top ticket prices haven’t changed since 2019, Testa said, but the company has raised ticket prices for dates outside of the slowest and busiest times in the station.

Data from Touring Plans shows that the price of a regular ticket has risen from $122 to $135 since 2019, at an average annual increase of 3.4%.

The annual inflation rate has averaged around 2.5% from 2019 to 2021, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Over the past year, it has jumped 7.5%.

When sales of new annual passes restarted in September after a pandemic-related hiatus, fans found prices had risen while perks like PhotoPass and water park access were cut from higher tiers. and reintroduced as $99 add-ons.

Maehrer said pass holders get perks like ride previews and discounts. Disney has determined that the typical pass holder visits as often now as in 2019, he said, and the company has seen pass renewal rates surpass pre-pandemic levels. Most new annual pass sales have again been suspended.

Munarriz, who owns Disney stock, predicted that Disney prices would continue to rise over the next year, but likely at a slower pace.

“Maybe in April next year there will be a ‘come to Mickey’ moment where they realize, ‘Hey, I think we need to hold back the raises and maybe return a feature or two. ‘”, did he declare.

Rise in restaurant and hotel prices

Disney Park’s recent near-record revenue has been driven by guests spending more on things like hotels and food and drink, Disney chief financial officer Christine McCarthy said on a call Wednesday. to the results.

Data from Touring Plans showed that the lowest price for a one-night stay at Pop Century, Disney’s most visited resort, rose from $131 in 2019 to $168 in 2022, an increase of 28%. The cheapest overnight stay at Port Orleans Riverside, the most popular moderate-value resort, is now $266, up from $232 in 2019.

Food and beverage prices have also generally increased throughout the resort, according to the Disney Food Blog. Things like a meal of Mickey waffles — which cost 50 cents to $2 more in January 2022, depending on the restaurant — and pricier $1 buckets of popcorn add up.

Maehrer said many Disney food prices are at or below industry standard cost.

Diane Sensenig said she and her husband were still staying at Port Orleans Riverside, but are now staying off the property after prices “skyrocketed”.

During a trip to the Magic Kingdom this month, the two said they spent nearly $40 at the Pecos Bill Cafe for a “quick lunch” that was “better than average” for a theme park but still pricey.

Parks still in demand

Despite the higher costs, people are still willing to pay, as the recent varying 90-minute wait times at the Magic Kingdom clearly showed.

The nostalgia surrounding theme parks often makes people forget that these businesses are profit-making ventures, Baker said.

“We tend to think of these businesses as somewhat different, as maybe part of our childhood, part of our family,” she said.

John Sensenig said he “used to feel special” but isn’t anymore.

“I understand their business model. They want to bring people from out of town, who don’t live here, to stay in hotels and get them to go to the park,” Sensenig said. “But don’t ignore that cash flow, that income that you get every year, as soon as we pay our pass holder fees.”

Comments are closed.