Within days of Disney jacking up admissions prices to its theme parks, Universal Studios has done the same.
Disney and Universal Studios, the fiercest of competitors in the theme park space, are engaged in a price war. But unlike the usual price war — when prices get lower and lower in order to win customers away from the competition — this long-lived battle only sees prices go up and up.
The price of single-day passes at Walt Disney World in Orlando was bumped up by $4 earlier this week, bringing the base adult ticket to $95 at EPCOT, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom, and admission to the Magic Kingdom up to $99 ($105 and change after taxes). The move comes after Disney raised prices early last summer, as has become the usual tradition, meaning that the theme park giant increased single-day prices by $10 in less than a year. As recently as June 2011, the one-day adult pass to any Walt Disney World park was “just” $82. Multi-day pass prices have risen proportionally over the years as well, of course.
Now, after Disney tacked on another $4 to single-day prices, Universal Studios has followed suit. It will be piling on another $4 and raising its one-day, one-park pass price from $92 to $96 for adults, and $86 to $90 for kids (ages 3 to 9), not including taxes. The Orlando Sentinel reported that passes with multiple-day admissions that allow for visiting more than one park per day are also getting pricier: A two-day adult “park-to-park” pass, for instance, that used to cost $167 will now run $196.
While the neverending increases may seem offputting to some, theme parks have a long history of going to the well of admission price hikes with little to no true downside coming as a result. Demand has remained strong, and if prices were lower, the parks would be even more crowded than they are now. The theme park operators would have taken in a lot less money over the years as well.
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The fact that admissions hikes came early this year may be an indication that the parks are growing more confident that there will be little to no backlash; it could also signify that price increases may come faster and more furiously down the road. Or perhaps there’s another explanation for why the increases took place in late winter rather than the usual price hike season, just before the kids get out of school.
This year, greater Orlando is especially confident that visitors will flock to its theme parks because of the much-hyped expansion of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, with Diagon Alley and new attractions like The Leaky Cauldron and Gringotts Bank opening at Universal Studios this summer. Both Disney and Universal probably looked ahead and decided it was a good idea to inch up admissions costs in advance of this major addition.
“It could be, ‘Let’s get this done before Gringotts opens so we’re primed and ready,’” Duncan Dickson, a professor at the University of Central Florida‘s Rosen College of Hospitality Management, explained to the Orlando Sentinel.
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Others are speculating that the park companies are getting a price hike out of the way in early 2014 just so that they can add on another price hike before the year is over, without getting as much grief for jacking up prices by, say, $10 or $12 all at once.