I came across my ticket book the first time we took our oldest daughter to The Magic Kingdom in Orlando in 1976. The cost for a one day adult entry with 10 attractions was $7.00. For a 12 attraction entry the cost was $8.25. This was up from $4.40 for a seven attraction price when the park opened in 1971.
Well, things have definitely changed at Mickey’s place. Disney has raised the gate price to the Magic Kingdom 41 times since the park opened, including nearly doubling it in the past decade. This year the price for a one day adult admission to the “happiest place on earth,” will set you back 105.00 plus tax. That’s the first time a one day admission to the park has exceeded $100.00.
But Disney has no plans to stop there. They are considering a three-tiered park admission plan. Their highest plan would allow you entry into the park at any time, while the other two price points would place restrictions on those days and times. This is just another way for Disney to increase their price to the $125.00 range and make you feel good about the flexibility you currently have without having to pay for it.
Like most big theme parks, Disney is slowly forcing out a large segment of the population and catering more to those who can afford the ticket prices. While they still have “value” properties, they are beginning to move toward a different demographic. They recently opened bungalows at Seven Seas Lagoon with a rate of $2,100 per night. The Polynesian Village just reopened this year with stilted Bora Bora type bungalows that can cost up to $3,400.00 per night. How do you think Walt would feel about those prices?
Memory Books for $200.00, Steak dinners for $115.00, $53.00 per plate dessert parties, and $195.00 makeovers for little girls are among other high-priced add-ons which are all part of the new Disney.
Disney has exploded into a $184 billion dollar monster with theme park and resort profits doubling over the last five years to $2.6 billion dollars. Their Disney park admissions revenue alone has grown about ten percent each year for the past decade to more than $5 billions dollars in 2014. Disney’s main theme park hosted a record 19 million visitors last year. Investors have smiles that you can see even when the sun goes down at night.
What does all this mean for you? Well, according to data from the Visit Orlando tourism center, Orlando tourists average household income peaked at about $93, 000 last year which is $20,000 higher than the average U.S. household wage. So it appears that whatever middle class still exists may eventually have to get their Disney fix somewhere else.
It’s not hard to see what’s happening here. From a business perspective Disney is doing what every good business does; take advantage of demand. Since part of that demand comes from a higher end visitor, Disney is only too happy to accommodate. Since they view themselves as a premium brand, why not begin to charge premium prices? The facade of value pricing and accommodations will always be there but as long as people continue to pay the price of admission, Disney will do what any smart business model does.
Will all this stop people from coming? Probably not. While it might eventually price out a segment of the population, the ripple down effect won’t hurt the bottom line and might help thin the crowds a bit which would alleviate the long lines that currently exist.
In 1976, an individual could spend a day at Magic Kingdom for less than it would cost to fill up their car with gas. We’re not even in that ballpark today.
While I still enjoy going to Magic Kingdom and will continue to visit, the amount of commercialism and desire to get deeper into your pockets at every turn makes the magic a little less bright for me. But that’s just the way it is today.
Things have definitely changed along Main Street.