October 11, 2023, 6:50 PM ·
What have we learned from the news that Disneyland and Walt Disney World dropped this morning?
First, in case you missed it, here is that news: Disneyland raises ticket prices and All-day Park Hopping returning at Walt Disney World.The Walt Disney Company’s fiscal year starts October 1, which is why we see price changes happening in its U.S. theme parks around this time. Heck, in background information provide to Theme Park Insider, Disneyland even labeled its old and new prices as “FY 23” and “FY 24.” So these are the prices that Disney believes that it needs to charge in order to keep operating income for its theme park segment growing in the year ahead.Now operating income does not necessarily require more guests visiting the parks. One of the big developments in the theme park industry since parks reopened after the pandemic lockdowns has been the growth in per capita spending among theme park visitors. Through higher admission and parking costs and higher spending for food and merchandise inside the parks, theme parks have been able to make more money on the same, or even fewer, numbers of visitors.That’s something to remember when looking at the Disneyland situation. Disney got aggressive with its price increases on the west coast this year. Disneyland raises daily ticket prices up to 15.% and its Magic Key annual passes up to 21.5%. Parking went up 17% and upcharge add-ons for Park Hopping and Disney Genie+ jumped by up to 25%.
Meanwhile, at Walt Disney World, Disney left daily ticket prices alone. Annual price passes went up, but by 3.1% to 10% – much less than the increases in California. Like on the west coast, theme park parking fees in Florida also went up by $5 a day.Walt Disney World also did away with its restrictions on Park Hopping, effective January 9. That month, WDW also will introduce “good to go” dates when annual passholders no longer need to make advance reservations to visit the four Disney World theme parks. In California, Park Hopping and reservation requirements remain in place. So why the differences on the two coasts? Orlando and Anaheim always have behaved as the different economic markets they are. But Disney’s choice to get aggressive on pricing in California while holding the line on prices (for the most part) and loosening restrictions in Florida suggests that Disney is seeing much stronger demand for its theme parks in California than in Florida at the moment.Price increases like Disneyland announced will cut the number of people who will consider visiting the park. But at this point, that probably will result in easier advance reservation availability than an actual reduction in the number of people visiting the park each day. In Florida, Disney is looking to boost its attendance numbers and drive more spending, in part by encouraging more people to buy Park Hopper upcharges. Disney’s pricing strategy on each coast is designed to meet each market’s unique needs at the moment.Florida is having a tough year for tourism, while California seems to be doing better, at least after the historic rains at the beginning of the year eventually stopped. Obviously, Disney would benefit if factors outside its control in Florida changed, including easier international tourism, less humid and oppressively hot weather, and a re-emphasis by Florida’s private and public sector leaders on promoting a image of welcoming hospitality throughout the state. But since Disney can’t wave its wand to make all that happen, Disney adjusts its pricing and operations, instead.While Disney timed this week’s changes to its fiscal year, the company retains a great deal of flexibility to react to market changes over the next 12 months. If Disney overshot the market in California, expect to see more aggressive locals-focused ticket discounts in the spring and summer, which are slower months for the parks here than the busy Halloween and holiday seasons. In Florida, is Disney needs to push attendance even more, the return of the Disney Dining plan gives it a tool that it has used often in the past as a throw-in to boost vacation sales. So, as always, stay tuned for more news in ever-changing world of Disney.To keep up to date with more theme park news, please sign up for Theme Park Insider’s weekly newsletter. And to help support Theme Park Insider while saving money on discounted theme park tickets – including Disneyland tickets at the old, lower prices – please follow the ticket icon links our Theme Park visitors guides.