Setting prices based on supply and demand makes sense for many products. It makes sense to pay more, because of demand, for airplane tickets in the holidays, hotel rooms at a prime location versus several miles off, an Uber ride during rush hour or tickets for Hamilton. But, demand-based pricing is encroaching on a new market that will shock a lot of people this summer – amusement parks – with Disneyland and the firm’s other theme parks as well as Universal Studios revamping their ticket pricing to escalate during the peak weeks.
The theme park giants are putting a steep price on vacation time visits to their parks with their new variable pricing that ensures that families who visit during school holidays (peak periods) will pay considerably more for admission. A two-day trip to the Magic Kingdom for a family of four can already top $2,000 with park passes, hotel and food without souvenirs or transportation. That will now be the off-season bargain rate!
Both Disney and Universal believe the demand will ensure the parks are full with the debut of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood this April and a Disney parks stage show based on Frozen later in 2016 and, eventually, the Star Wars land. Universal has seen attendance increases the past few years who new attractions and knows that attendance jumped in their Florida park by approximately 30 percent when their Harry Potter world there opened.
They are hoping that introducing higher, peak-period pricing will actually keep crowd levels contained to avoid the need to close the gates, which has happened in the past when maximum capacity was reached. Experts anticipate variable pricing will help spread out the spikes in attendance and ease visitor frustration caused by long lines and crowds.
“The demand for our theme parks continues to grow, particularly during peak periods,” a Disney spokesperson noted in a press statement. “In addition to expanding our parks, we are adopting seasonal pricing on our one-day ticket to help better spread visitation throughout the year. Multi-day tickets, annual passes and visiting during non-peak periods also provide our guests with options and savings.”
For Disney properties, value days — the least popular ones — will remain the same price the company has charged for the past year, but those prices will only be in effect for the next few days, then late August through most of September. In other words, the cheapest price will only be available one-fifth of the year. Their mid-tier pricing will be in effect for the second week of March, later this Spring and in the fall (about half of the year). The priciest periods will be Spring break weeks (the last half of March), most of the summer, and the winter holiday period. This type of pricing strategy was already introduced at Disneyland Paris.
Universal’s demand-based pricing will reportedly work differently. Their pricing model will offer discounts for those who purchase online as well as for low-demand days. The online discounts will be steeper for slower times too so people can really see the difference from day to day, much like airline pricing. Last minute pricing, even online, will be subject to the highest pricing, based on demand.
The larger crowds show that the current prices at the top tier theme parks are not scaring away the growing crowds. But, the escalating school break pricing for Disneyland, Universal Studios and other theme parks could lead to backlash from local families or it could lead to crowds all year long for the former “E-ticket” rides.
Written and Edited by Dyanne Weiss
New York Times: Disney Introduces Demand-Based Pricing at Theme Parks
Los Angeles Times: Disney adopts demand pricing; ticket prices will rise most days
Los Angeles Times: Universal Studios adopts ‘demand pricing’ before its Harry Potter world opens
Orlando Sentinel: Disney seasonal ticket pricing starts next month
Kellogg Insight: Rational Retail Pricing
Photo by Tuxyso, used under Creative Commons license