Disney announced Saturday that one-day ticket prices will rise to $105 plus tax at the Magic Kingdom. Prices at Disney World’s three other parks are increasing, too, but at $97 will stay under triple-digit territory.
“A day at a Disney park is unlike any other in the world, and there is strong demand for our attractions and entertainment,” spokesman Bryan Malenius said in a prepared statement. “We continually add new experiences, and many of our guests select multi-day tickets or annual passes which provide great value and additional savings.”
Because of those options, along with Floridian discounts, many if not most visitors will actually pay less than single-day prices. Industry consultants say the sticker shock of a one-day ticket could push even more consumers toward those choices.
Prices are rising on the multiple-day tickets and passes as well. Basic Florida resident annual and seasonal passes will cost $529 and $329 before tax, respectively, up from $485 and $319. Renewals are discounted about 15 percent.
The hike – 6 percent for the Magic Kingdom – also underscores how aggressively Disney has raised prices as experts say Orlando in general offers more to well-heeled tourists.
Disney has a range of price options for its hotels, and ones under construction at the resort’s western edge are budget-oriented. At the same time, Disney has been adding high-priced experiences such as dessert parties costing up to $100 and time-share bungalows on the Seven Seas Lagoon with nightly rental rates of more than $2,000.
“I do think that Disney’s perspective is they’re a premium-priced, premium product,” said Scott Sanders, a former vice president of pricing with the company. “They believe that … there are some people who can’t afford it, but there are a lot of people who are willing to pay for the experience.”
Florida in general has become a less price-sensitive destination, Visit Florida President and CEO Will Seccombe said in an interview about the state’s visitors last week. You’re “seeing a lot more higher end product” in restaurants and other attractions, he said.
Orlando’s only five-star hotel, Four Seasons, recently opened inside the gates of Disney’s Golden Oak development, where homes cost $1 million-plus.
According to Visit Orlando, the average household income of overnight leisure visitors here was $95,720 in 2013 compared with $88,349 in 2012.
“My sense of it is, yes, Orlando has become more of an upscale tourist market,” said John Gerner, founder of Leisure Business Advisors. “It is likely the average tourist, even after adjusting for inflation, is spending more for their visit to Orlando than decades ago.”
Disney “became out of reach for people at the lower end of the income scale a long time ago,” said Robert Niles, editor of ThemeParkInsider.com “That’s one thing that I think has been keeping a lot of regional parks around the country in business.”
Locals have cheaper Disney options, including a $139 deal for three days and annual passes, which can be purchased in monthly installments.
The latest increase could mean the Florida resident discounts gain greater importance.
The $100 mark has “a psychological impact,” said Joe Couceiro, a former SeaWorld chief marketing officer. “I’m not sure it’s going to keep people necessarily away, [but] I think your first impulse is to say, ‘let me see what kind of deal I can get.'”
Disney and the other major theme parks typically raise their prices every year.
In 2005, a one-day Disney ticket cost $59.75.
Last year, Disney raised base prices by 2 percent to 5 percent, depending on the type of ticket. Both Disney World and Disneyland set record attendance in the company’s last quarter.
Disney World has expanded Fantasyland, including opening the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train this year, and will open at Avatar land at the Animal Kingdom in 2017. Disney is also planning new Star Wars attractions for its parks.
With the investments Disney is making, industry experts say the experience is still considered worth the price. Some pointed out other events that last much less time than a full day at Disney also can cost more than $100. The average cost of Broadway show tickets, for example, went past the $100 mark last year, according to the Los Angeles Times.
“Value’s really the name of the game,” said Lee Cockerell, former executive vice president of Disney World operations. ” People have got to say it was worth it.”
Magic Kingdom – the world’s most visited theme park with an estimated 18.6 million annual visitors – began charging more than the other three Disney World parks in 2013.
“It makes sense they start with the Magic Kingdom” going over $100, Gerner said. “The Magic Kingdom park is the classic … park that Disney is world renowned for and in many people’s mind is simply priceless.”
Typically when one park raises prices, others follow suit. Universal Orlando has charged $96 and SeaWorld $95 for base tickets at the gate.
“The minute you stop keeping up with the Disney prices, you automatically tell the general public, `Hey, we’re not as good as Disney.'” said Scott Smith, an assistant professor of hospitality at the University of South Carolina.