Ho-ho-ho, the holidays are coming and Disney World is jacking up its ticket prices for the first time since the pandemic began.
Walt Disney World announced Tuesday that it is raising single-day ticket prices and, for the first time, making them park-specific. Since 2019, admission has run from $109 to $159 for adults, regardless of the park visited.
Beginning December 8, a ticket to the uber-popular Magic Kingdom park, the so-called “Happiest Place on Earth,” will start at $124 a day during off-peak times and soar to $189 a day during the holiday period around Christmas and New Year’s.
A day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios park, home to the Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge land, will now cost between $124 and $179. Epcot tickets will run $114 to $179. The only park where the $109-$159 price range will not rise is Animal Kingdom.
Depending on their travel dates, a family of four — let’s say two parents and 10-year-old twins — could now pay as much as $756 per day for a Disney World vacation, even before hotel, meals, transportation or souvenirs.
Since introducing dynamic pricing in 2018, Disney has charged less during off-peak days and times and more on weekends, school breaks and holidays. To snag the least-expensive tickets, a family needs to visit on weekdays during the school year.
But until now, it never mattered which park was visited on any given day. That is changing. To save a few bucks, savvy families will learn to work the calendar by saving the Magic Kingdom for weekdays and hitting Animal Kingdom on weekends. To shave off more, pull the kids out of school.
Raising prices is a sign of Disney’s bullish outlook on the back of an outstanding recovery. Consider that in the summer of 2021, most of Disney’s theme parks were running at reduced capacity due to the pandemic.
This year’s third-quarter revenue for Disney’s parks, experiences and products division rose by more than $3 billion and operating income increased by $1.8 billion compared to the same period in 2021. The increase was driven by jumps in theme park attendance, occupied room nights at Disney’s on-site hotels and cruise bookings.
Strong demand and premium pricing have continued to fuel Disney’s significant year-over-year revenue and operating income growth, the company’s CFO Christine McCarthy said on the company’s fourth-quarter earnings call last week. “Per-capita spending remained strong, increasing 6% versus Q4 of fiscal 2021 and nearly 40% versus fiscal 2019, reflecting the continued popularity of premium offerings, including Genie+ and Lightning Lane,” she said.
Looking ahead to fiscal 2023, “we are still seeing robust demand at our domestic parks and are anticipating a strong holiday season in Q1,” McCarthy said on the earnings call.
Experts often view Disney’s theme parks as bellwether economic indicators, as the Financial Times explained several years ago. The theory goes that when budgets tighten, families cancel trips to Disney theme parks. That does not appear to be happening right now.
But, should the country sink into a recession, Disney has a plan. “What is different is, compared to the last time we had a slowdown in the economy for managing our parks business, we have more commercial tools and levers available to us. One of the ones that’s quite obvious is discounting,” said McCarthy. “That’s something that we have used in the past, and we will continue to use it because it is an effective lever for managing your yield.”
In other words, if times get tougher, Disney fans should keep their eyes peeled for a good, old-fashioned sale.