By now you have probably heard that Disneyland raised its ticket prices this past weekend. The price for a one-day ticket went up $4 to $96, park-hopper tickets increased $13 to $150, and a Premium Annual Passport went up $30 to $699. And perhaps more importantly to many, they are suspending the sale of new passes for Southern California residents. All of that has been covered quite a bit by scores of amateur blogs as well as by most of the news outlets. You can read about it all over, but if you haven’t already, here is one link from Fortune magazine that I chose more or less randomly, because they all say much of the same thing.
However, one part of all of those stories caught my eye, and that is the following official statement from Suzi Brown, the director of medial relations for Disneyland:
Like any business, we periodically evaluate our pricing and make adjustments based on a variety of factors. A ticket to our theme parks represents a great value, particularly when you look at the breadth and quality of attractions and entertainment we offer and the special moments guests experience with our cast.
We have a running joke in our house that if they have to tell you that something is a certain way, then it really isn’t. Or at best, there is some preconceived notion by some that the thing really isn’t that way. For example, once a year or so when Jaylin gets a cold, we give him some liquid children’s cold medicine, and it always says on the packaging, “Great-tasting grape flavor!” I have tasted it, and it really isn’t great-tasting at all. But that’s what they tell you.
Of course, it is the job of advertisers in whatever form they take to convince you that what they are selling is good, or good for you, or something you want, or even a good value. That’s the nature of the business. But I don’t always take things at face value, and I often wonder what is behind the claims that are being made about a product. So for the Disneyland media relations person to make sure that all the news outlets got her quote about a Disney theme park ticket being a good value, it made me wonder.
Actually, that goes right along with what we were discussing in Episode 36 of Beyond the Berm just a few days before the price hikes were announced. Matt and I were already saying that, for us at least, the Disney parks weren’t the good value that they once were. Of course, some of that is relative, as Matt mentioned when he compared you get at Universal Studios Hollywood to what you get at Disneyland for around the same price per day. Based on that, most would say that you are getting more for your money at Disneyland than at Universal.
But does getting more for your money mean that it is a great value? Not necessarily. I could pay $1000 for one bowling ball from Bowl U Over, or I could go to Big Ben’s Bowling Balls and get two bowling balls for $1000 (just an illustration – I have no idea what bowling balls cost). So obviously I’m getting more for my money from Big Ben, but does that mean I am getting a good value?
You might say that part of this goes back to the “grumpy old man” syndrome. “I remember back in the old days when a 3-day ticket to Walt Disney World was only $42!” And yes, I do remember that. True, there were only two parks then. But there wasn’t an add-on cost to go back and forth between those two parks. And it only cost a fraction of the current charge to park your car, too.
I have here on my desk a flyer of Walt Disney World ticket prices from the Magic Kingdom Club which says, “Revised April 1995.” On that flyer, the general public price for a one-day/one park ticket is $37 plus tax. So in 19 years, the price has almost tripled. Does that mean that in another 20 years, it will be $300 for one day in one park? Count me out if it does.
And even at the current price, what are you getting? The chance to wait in an hours-long line to ride the most popular rides or meet some princesses if you aren’t able to get one of the coveted FastPasses? That isn’t exactly my idea of a good value.
I know it must seem like a good value to some, because attendance levels are soaring, and I know of more and more people that are going to Walt Disney World on their vacations. So perhaps that “good value” portion of the statement was to satisfy the press and bloggers who were likely to jump all over any new price hike, no matter how much, or how little, it was. We do have to keep in mind that “value” is subjective, depending on the person. If you want proof of that, go over to eBay to see how much people are paying for some things that you would consider “junk.”
So to me, the Disney park tickets aren’t really the great value that they once were. And that will affect my decision to visit in the future, just as it has in the past few years. We haven’t stopped going entirely, and I don’t know that we would reach that point, but we have greatly cut back from what we used to do some years ago.
What do you think? Are the tickets a good value? Or is Disney about to price themselves out of a lot of people’s vacation plans?
(And yes, that is an old photo of Sleeping Beauty Castle if you are wondering. From October 1997.)