Disney is getting more expensive by the year … a lot more
Disney’s ticket price increases have nearly always outpaced inflation, but in recent years, they’ve grown at an ever faster rate. A one-day ticket to the Magic Kingdom currently costs $105. In the year 2000, it cost $46 – which, if you adjust for inflation, would be only $63.40 in 2015 money. That means that, in real dollars, it costs about $40 more to visit the Magic Kingdom today than it did 15 years ago.
If you go even farther back, that increase is even more striking. In 1985 one-day ticket cost $23. In 2000 dollars, that equals $36.81 – which means the cost of a Disney ticket only increased about $10 in real money between 1985 and 2000.
So, why have ticket prices increased by roughly $40 in the last 15 years when they only increased by $10 in the 15 years before that? Not only is it getting more expensive to go to Walt Disney World, it’s getting expensive more quickly than it ever has before.
And this holds true not just for tickets, but also for hotels. Kevin Yee at MiceChat put together a similar comparison of hotel rates from 2003-2013 and noticed the same thing – Disney doesn’t just increase its rates, it increases them at a greater rate over time.
This all came to a head with this year’s announced Annual Pace price increases, which seemed to be a tipping point for many. And, interestingly, Disney defended its decision by pointing to increased attendance and capacity issues throughout its parks – a more expensive ticket price means a more manageable crowd. Supply and demand, it says, dictates that when demand gets this high, the price must follow too.
And so, now, Disney has ticket prices that vastly outstrip those of their competitors. Yet, not only to people still go, but they go in record numbers. Why? Because Disney has successfully positioned itself as an item of luxury – you aren’t just paying for the rides and shows, you’re paying for the specific Disney experience.
Ultimately, if Disney loses a few guests in the process, it doesn’t actually care – the company makes enough money off the increased prices that it is still a net gain in the long run. Thus, it can make more money off fewer sales – the very business Apple perfected.
What are “event packages” and why are they taking over?
But the base ticket price and rack room rates aren’t the only ways Disney has been increasing the overall cost of its vacations. The company has become an expert in the art of the “event package,” which truly came to take over Walt Disney World in 2015.
Take, for example, the Fantasmic Dining Package – one of the classic examples of Disney’s event packages. That package includes dinner at one of the Disney’s Hollywood Studio’s signature dining restaurants, as well as a guaranteed seating area for a showing of Fantasmic. That package is $63 per adult dining at the Brown Derby, or $45 per adult dining at Mama Melrose’s. That is a lot of money for what amounts to a dinner and a Fastpass.
Nevertheless, that package has always been immensely popular, ever since the show debuted in 1998. And, it has since inspired similar packages all throughout Walt Disney World. Some aren’t even tied into special events – some are just special events. During Illuminations at Epcot, guests have the opportunity to join a special dessert party that includes preferred viewing of the nighttime spectacular. Its cost? $49 per adult.
And then, of course, there’s the biggie: the New Year’s Eve Dinner party at the California Grill, which costs a whopping $625 per person. That’s not a typo.
All of that isn’t counting the various holiday parties and Villians Unleashed-style events that occur throughout the year – all of which require their own special ticket, separate from theme park admission.
Why are these events taking over? Well, they’re a way for Disney to bring in more money while offering up a luxury experience. Sipping champagne, eating a cannoli, and watching Illuminations is as luxurious as it gets – and Disney knows, correctly, that a great many people will pay for that privilege.
The problem isn’t that these events exist, of course. They’re actually pretty cool, albeit quite expensive. The problem is that Disney is choosing to spend its time and resources on these types of events, rather than things that everyone can enjoy. And that, ultimately, might be a miscalculation.