$100 a Head?

by David Koenig, contributing writer
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Emboldened by record crowds at Disney California Adventure despite a record admission price hike, Team Disney Anaheim (TDA) executives reportedly are hard at work on trying to decide how quickly they can raise prices again—possibly as soon as the start of this Christmas season.

A single-day, single-park pass, warned one cast member, “could push past the $90 mark. And guests can look forward to another price hike next summer. It looks like they will be paying $100 a head before Christmas 2013.”

The trick for TDA is figuring out some excuse—any excuse—to justify another gargantuan increase, now that Cars Land and all other high-profile construction projects have been completed. Anything currently in the hopper for Disneyland—new character shows, a relocated Princess Fantasy Faire by February, replacement of the OSHA-fied exterior of the Alice in Wonderland dark ride hopefully to start in January—likely won’t register any bump in attendance.

Unfortunately, as long as the crowds remain strong, TDA has all the rationale it needs to keep raising prices without adding significant attractions.

Parking Woes

Continuing strong attendance also worries cast members that their future will be filled with more off-site parking days—and worse.

“TDA has been very quiet on when we’ll be parking at Honda Center and Angel Stadium again,” says one employee. “Which means we will be doing this again in the near future. It would be a loss of face if they don’t. Especially after all the fuss they made.”

He says cast members are even more fearful that allowing guests to park in the Katella Cast Member Lot (KCML) will spark other bright ideas inside TDA. “Because KCML does not make money when we use it, when will TDA start charging us to park there?” he wonders. “It is no secret that GardenWalk employees have to pay to use their parking structure. We can imagine TDA making us pay, because card scanners have been installed at the entrance. If you have not paid the fee, the gate arm will not go up and you can’t go in. Remember that statement that was issued when we had to park outside KCML: ‘As a reminder, driving to work and parking in a Cast lot is not expected or required and is just one commuting option. Other commute alternatives available to Cast Members include carpooling, riding the bus or train, vanpooling, bicycling or walking.’”

In the meantime, the resort has drawn up tentative plans for a second massive parking structure, this one slated for the Pumbaa Lot across from GardenWalk. But approvals and construction would put any mega-structure at least two years away.

Princess Shows Get End Date

August 12 is expected to be the last day for performances at the Princess Fantasy Faire. About a week later, the princess meet-and-greets will relocate from the facility to the old Light Magic viewing area along Small World Mall, a temporary way station as the maidens await the opening of the new and improved Princess Fantasy Faire at the former Carnation Plaza Gardens.

The Spirit of Luana

I’ll be the first to admit that after a few years of dealing with crabby crowds, discouraged cast members, questionable entertainment offerings, and runaway prices, my cynicism starts to peak. Fortunately, about every five years or so, I’ll luck into a visit in which so much is done so well, so uniquely, so old school, that my love is rekindled and my faith that Disney can do things right, even today, is restored.

In the late 1980s, it was my first trip backstage at Disneyland. Then came my first, wide-eyed visit to Walt Disney World, then the first time seeing Disneyland through the eyes of my own child, and finally witnessing the miraculous restoration of the park for its Golden Anniversary.

And it just happened again. I just returned from a week at Disney’s Aulani Resort in Hawaii. An entirely new resort in an entirely new market, Aulani reminded me of that mythical ideal that Disneyland has always aspired to, but rarely is due to guest congestion, corporate greed, and other inconveniences of real life.

The level of detail at Aulani was all encompassing. From the impressive yet welcoming lobby to the powder-soft beach, from the restaurants to the restrooms, every square inch of the place looked perfect. No filler. No short cuts. No obnoxious design elements. And no sign of Pixar anything.

Every cast member was constantly smiling, friendly, helpful—as if they’d just been purchased out of the Disney Catalog. Best of all, every one seemed contented and sincere; there were no signs of that weariness I often sense among even the heartiest of theme park cast members.

The guests appeared happy, calm, relaxed. They were enjoying something new, without having to squeeze through a crowd of elbows and strollers, or wait in a two-hour line for a show they’ve already seen dozens of times before.

Even the Disneyfication was subtle. Characters were restricted to a handful of appearances each day. There were no giant sorcerer’s hats or “Best Kept Secret” billboards.

Sure, everything about the resort is pricey (after all, you are on Disney property, in the state of Hawaii), but—to its credit—Disney doesn’t try to sell you something at every turn. There are no ODV carts or pin-trading stations clogging the pathways.

Maybe it’s the newness of the place, the freshness of the concept, or simply the smaller size and recalibrated expectations of the audience. My guess? Luana, that intoxicating Aloha spirit that compels everyone to slow down a little bit and better appreciate their surroundings. I can’t wait to return.

Meet Me at Disneyana

I’ll be signing copies of Mouse Tales, Realityland, etc., and hopefully have on hand a preview copy of my next book at this weekend’s All Disneyana Show & Sale on Sunday, July 22, 2012, at the Crowne Plaza Resort, a mile south of Disneyland on Harbor Boulevard in Garden Grove. Conventioneers can enter at 9:00 a.m., Disneyana Fan Club members at 10:00 a.m., and the general public at 11:00 a.m.

Hope to see you there!

Comments

  1. By carolinakid

    $100 for a one day ticket to Disneyland? I see it coming too and at WDW also.

  2. By olegc

    I think TDA is making a short term decision without considering long term implications. Yes crowds are heavy right now in DCA - and Disneyland has actually seen a very slight reduction. However, does this mean that the overall attendance has increased overall or just shifted. One other thing they need to consider is this: if they indeed are shooting for longer term stays instead of the local market to increase the per-day-visit spend, then don't they need to consider taking in longer time frames to see what happens with crowd levels? I mean, it's not like a new local restaurant that has giant buzz and can react quickly to raise (and lower) prices or operational processes because they can gauge the flow accordingly. Seeing the crowds today - one month after opening, should not necessarily equate that next summer you will have MORE people than you do today. Especially if you raise prices. People may push out their planned vacations even longer.

    Disneyland seems to be betting on the fact that the pressure (or desire some may say) on families to go and experience the park will be greater than their true ability to afford the vacation - and they will come. Some may do that but I don't think they are thinking this fully through. As I have said in other posts - my family only goes now if we can win tickets in contests. We can't afford to go and pay for the day - even pay for two meals in a day. I can only imagine that others are in the same boat - and what will happen when prices move even higher. Would it ever come to "would you like champagne with your bison tartar?" in a quick serve line. I wonder...

  3. By spectromen

    I don't know - after the last huge increase I think they're walking a very dangerous line. Just in my small circle of friends, anyone who is not a passholder pretty much bad mouths the place to no end for one reason: prices. My entire family is shut out or, if they CAN afford it, refuse to pay it anymore. Another increase any time less than a year from the last one, to me, is digging a grave that may take many years from which to recover (like, say, around the 60th anniversary?)

  4. By Jimbo996

    "corporate greed" You're kidding, right? Aulani is $400 a night. That's a lot of money for a hotel stay. The food is pricey too. Just because the offerings are not at your face doesn't mean they don't try to charge you a ton at any opportunity.

    I'm sure Disney will try to charge $100. They already do with the $125 1 day park hopper pass. They charge more than $100 for a 2 day pass, which is most economical and best for seeing both parks. My feeling is $100 will become the norm, but they are likely to throw in the 2nd day for free during the off season (or slow season) as enticement. Other theme parks do this on occasion, but it usually isn't offered at the box office. You might need a coupon.

    Disney is better off holding their powder dry. They should not do it so soon without an adjustment by offering other incentives so customers don't feel ripped off. Unless they want a park full of Annual Passholders, they will miss out of regular park goers that want their Disney fix, but are prevented due to sticker shock. Best to get some money than nothing at all from this group of people.

  5. By ScottC4746

    I just read at http://www.mouseplanet.com/10053/100_a_Head

    Emboldened by record crowds at Disney California Adventure despite a record admission price hike, Team Disney Anaheim (TDA) executives reportedly are hard at work on trying to decide how quickly they can raise prices again—possibly as soon as the start of this Christmas season.

    A single-day, single-park pass, warned one cast member, “could push past the $90 mark. And guests can look forward to another price hike next summer. It looks like they will be paying $100 a head before Christmas 2013.”

    If I read the above article correctly, there is going to be another price increase by Christmas and yet another gargatuan increase by next summer and push yet to over $100 pp for a one day one park. They just made my decision for me on my renewal...no thank you!

  6. By 3Princesses1Prince

    IF there is another price increase before Xmas, I will likely cancel my plans to go and start saving for our next WDW trip instead.

  7. By safmouse

    How much of the attendance boost is from locals just interested in checking out Cars Land? If so, the attendance increase might be temporary, especially if they increase prices. I'm guessing locals are more price sensitive than travelers planning their trip around DLR. 

    And yes, I see the same happening at WDW, since they have the excuses of the Fantasyland and Avatar expansions. 

  8. By davidgra

    I say kudos to Disney for having a product so valuable that people will pay $100 a day to go there. As for everyone who says they'll cancel their plans to visit -- PLEASE DO. We don't want you there with us. If higher ticket prices means more pleasant experiences for those who pay, then go for it.

    It's called supply and demand, folks. Disney is not treading into "dangerous" territory; there is ABSOLUTELY no threat that Disney will go bankrupt because of ticket prices. People can bad-mouth all they want. Like Liberace, Disney laughs all the way to the bank.

  9. By ScottC4746

    My issue too is now that they are "bringing in the big bucks" they need to pay their unionized labor some desent unioniozed wages, especially in So Cal. I applied in 2007 in attractions (rides) and learned they only paid back then $9. and some change, under $9.50 and hour and from that come the union dues that are paid monthly.

  10. By Jimbo996

    Quote Originally Posted by davidgra View Post
    I say kudos to Disney for having a product so valuable that people will pay $100 a day to go there. As for everyone who says they'll cancel their plans to visit -- PLEASE DO. We don't want you there with us. If higher ticket prices means more pleasant experiences for those who pay, then go for it.

    It's called supply and demand, folks. Disney is not treading into "dangerous" territory; there is ABSOLUTELY no threat that Disney will go bankrupt because of ticket prices. People can bad-mouth all they want. Like Liberace, Disney laughs all the way to the bank.

    Chasing a straw man? No one said Disney will go bankrupt. No one is paying $100 yet. I'm glad you posted. Disney needs people like you. You're willing to pay. Can't say the same for others. If you're willing, who am I to warn you not to? It is your money to use or lose.

  11. By newhdplayer

    Quote Originally Posted by ScottC4746 View Post
    My issue too is now that they are "bringing in the big bucks" they need to pay their unionized labor some desent unioniozed wages, especially in So Cal. I applied in 2007 in attractions (rides) and learned they only paid back then $9. and some change, under $9.50 and hour and from that come the union dues that are paid monthly.

    Unfortuneately, Disney does not need to pay anyone desent wages, because they don't have to. If you don't like how much they pay, don't work there.

  12. By zombie pirate

    Let them eat churros, I mean cake/

  13. By jpg391

    $100 dollars a head for 1 day! I can remember when it only cost $10 to get into Disneyland.Of course back then there was only 1 park and parking was a lot easier, right outside the main gate.

  14. By zombie pirate

    I remember when $100 bought 4 tickets to Disneyland, and that was only the mid 1990s. But I guess maximizing your profits is just another word for greed. What really gets me is how other posters are happy with the price increase as long as it means less people in your way at Disneyland.

  15. By newhdplayer

    Quote Originally Posted by zombie pirate View Post
    I remember when $100 bought 4 tickets to Disneyland, and that was only the mid 1990s. But I guess maximizing your profits is just another word for greed. What really gets me is how other posters are happy with the price increase as long as it means less people in your way at Disneyland.

    And what exactly is wrong with a less crowded Disneyland?

    I'll go out on a limb and say the AP's need to go up in price as well.

    I'd much rather have an enjoyable, minimally crowded experience, than our current state of affairs with everybody and their mother attending every day and clogging up the parks.

  16. By 3Princesses1Prince

    A less crowded Disneyland means less employees, less cars running per ride, just as long lines, and higher food prices (less people eating).

    As far as the comments about me canceling my plans. I have plans to go to WDW in october on my husbands business trip. Then to DL in December with the kids. IF they felt the need to raise prices again before Xmas, I'd rather use the money from the December trip to go to WDW for the holiday season next year instead. My DL trips will be shorter and fewer, but I'll still go.

  17. By jedited

    I think what Disney is trying to do is to maximize profits (of course), but also to drive up non SoCal visitors and drive out SoCal visitors thus making a more pleasant experience for the non-SoCal visitor. Non-SoCal visitors will typically spend more money (they won't stop at McDonalds on the way in), will probably stay in a hotel (preferrably a Disney one) and buy more souviners. And since they are buying multiple day passes, their per day cost is MUCH lower than $100.
    Plus, if your "rack rate" is REALLY high, you can always discount it with coupons, special discounts, etc, BUT if your "rack rate" is lower, you can't "maximize your profits".
    And for those that are saying, "Disneyland is too expensive, my friends, family, etc won't go there anymore", people have been saying that since AT LEAST the 1990s and Disneyland has hit bigger numbers every year.
    I think Disney's BIGGER problem is Annual Passes. At a MINIMUM APs make around $250 MILLION for Disney EACH and EVERY year ($269 for the cheapest pass times one million APs), BUT they cause Disneyland ALOT of headaches. How do they keep the money and get rid of the headaches???? That is the multi-million dollar question.

  18. By olegc

    Quote Originally Posted by jedited View Post
    I think what Disney is trying to do is to maximize profits (of course), but also to drive up non SoCal visitors and drive out SoCal visitors thus making a more pleasant experience for the non-SoCal visitor. Non-SoCal visitors will typically spend more money (they won't stop at McDonald's on the way in), will probably stay in a hotel (preferably a Disney one) and buy more souvenirs. And since they are buying multiple day passes, their per day cost is MUCH lower than $100.
    Plus, if your "rack rate" is REALLY high, you can always discount it with coupons, special discounts, etc, BUT if your "rack rate" is lower, you can't "maximize your profits".
    And for those that are saying, "Disneyland is too expensive, my friends, family, etc won't go there anymore", people have been saying that since AT LEAST the 1990s and Disneyland has hit bigger numbers every year.
    I think Disney's BIGGER problem is Annual Passes. At a MINIMUM APs make around $250 MILLION for Disney EACH and EVERY year ($269 for the cheapest pass times one million APs), BUT they cause Disneyland A LOT of headaches. How do they keep the money and get rid of the headaches???? That is the multi-million dollar question.

    2 things. All of the guests who don't stay at a Disney property are probably eating off property for one of their meals per day. Can't tell you how long the lines are at McDonald's int he morning with all those folks leaving the Fairmont Inn and others up the street. And I have seen many more families bringing their own snacks in the door - which also eats into the overall spend.

    There will be this overlay time, I believe, when those who do have more to spend will decide to come when the crowds go down a bit (sometimes if its more expensive those with more all of a sudden consider it a value) but over time the novelty/newness will wear off. These folks, I believe, are not like Passholders. they can pay for a one or multi day visit but may not come often enough to balance it. Who knows - since the actuals are not released.

    As to Passholders - Disney has done this to themselves. They raised prices several times but offer monthly payment plans. So they expect people to keep paying. And that means when there are new things to see and do - the crowds will come. And - all that new revenue will supposedly pay for upkeep and new designs that those folks who want less people will benefit from.

    Bottom line I guess is they have not found the point yet where there is a measurable decline - and they'll keep raising prices until they do. As David I think hinted in this story (and others) that can be a dangerous gamble with long-term consumer good will.

  19. By zombie pirate

    In 5 years we might be complaining about the price of admission being $150.

  20. By olegc

    Quote Originally Posted by zombie pirate View Post
    In 5 years we might be complaining about the price of admission being $150.

    5 years? I say maybe 3.

  21. By Jimbo996

    Quote Originally Posted by jedited View Post
    I think what Disney is trying to do is to maximize profits (of course), but also to drive up non SoCal visitors and drive out SoCal visitors thus making a more pleasant experience for the non-SoCal visitor. Non-SoCal visitors will typically spend more money (they won't stop at McDonalds on the way in), will probably stay in a hotel (preferrably a Disney one) and buy more souviners. And since they are buying multiple day passes, their per day cost is MUCH lower than $100.

    The price increases will affect both visitors. There is no such thing as a "more please experience". The parks will still be packed. The definition of an uncrowded park has changed over the years. To be uncrowded these days means lines under 30 minutes, but streets, stores, and restaurants will still be crowded with people.

    As for staying in Disney hotels, there isn't enough capacity there fill up the park.

  22. By ESS Heckler

    Disneyland is not a National Park - there is no 'right' of US citizens, or anyone else, to be able to visit Disneyland. There are many many family vacation activities that cost $100/person/day (or event). Skiing at a premiere resort like Aspen or Vail, going to an NFL game for a 'good' team and getting decent seats, going on a cruise. All of these things are great fun. Many of them are outside the budget of a middle class family, but no one is screaming that all these fun, family activities cost too much.

    Keep in mind, for each of these activities, there is a less expensive, more affordable option. You can go skiing at a local ski area where the prices are much less expensive, you can go to see an NFL game for a team (or teams) that have a hard time drawing fans, you can have a "stay-cation". Similarly, a day at an amusement park can be had for far less than a day at Disneyland costs. YOu can go to Universal Studios, or Knott's Berry Farm. Now - there are those reading this that will argue that those parks are no where near the caliber of Disneyland. Of course they are not! But consumers have choices and have the ability to decide if they want to save for a trip to a premier park and go less often, or if they choose to attend a "lesser" park more often or for a longer period of time.

    I'll say it again - No where in our Bill of Rights does is declare that all people are entitle to life, liberty and a week at Disneyland.

  23. By Ohthatjeff

    Quote Originally Posted by zombie pirate View Post
    I remember when $100 bought 4 tickets to Disneyland, and that was only the mid 1990s. But I guess maximizing your profits is just another word for greed. What really gets me is how other posters are happy with the price increase as long as it means less people in your way at Disneyland.

    Maximizing profits is the goal of any business but if less people are going to the park, then they've actually passed the point of maximum profit. If you raise prices 10%, but only lose 5% of your customers, you've not yet reached that tipping point. Unfortunately, the only way to accurately find that point (which is very much a moving target), is to actually raise prices and watch what happens. I suspect that a 15-20% price increase won't result in a 20% drop in attendance.

    If you want to see a case where they may have passed the point of maximum profit:demand, look at the price of bottled water. When was the last time (on either coast) you were able to use a drinking fountain without having to wait behind a guest refilling his/her water bottle? The balance has tipped on the cost of bottled water to the point where guests would be willing to spend time hunched over refilling a bottle rather than the ease of purchasing a new one. The price of tickets will rise until a drop off in attendance occurs and then there will be a period where the price remains stable until attendance reaches the prior level.

  24. By jmorgan

    The sad fact is that Disney can triple the price of tickets and see no decrease in profits. Increasing ticket prices only affects people such as myself, middle class family of four. My family has taken a trip to Disneyland every year for the past eight years. However with such a large increase in prices, (25% for a three day park hopper: last year advanced purchase price was $199 and this year $250, there is no discount for advance purchase this year) we have taken Disney off of our vacation list for a few years. All of our friends have also took annual trips, but now are looking at every three or four years.

    Disney knows that they will lose some middle class families. However, middle class families are no longer the target clientele. When my family would visit, we stayed off site, ate breakfast at the hotel, and dinner at the pizza place across the street from the hotel. Disney only got us for lunch and tickets. I do not believe Disney lost money on us, but they sure did not profit from us at the level they would like. Disney target clientele are those that spend $600 a night at the Grand Cal, drop hundreds of dollars at the fancy restaurants and on Disney merchandise. Look at the expansion of Cal Adventure. The big story is the three new rides. But the real story is the very expensive new restaurant next to a member’s only restaurant for the super rich. Disney has learned it is much more profitable to cater to fewer very wealthy people.

  25. By olegc

    Quote Originally Posted by jmorgan View Post
    But the real story is the very expensive new restaurant next to a member’s only restaurant for the super rich. Disney has learned it is much more profitable to cater to fewer very wealthy people.

    yup. predicted about 5 years ago or so and now almost complete. I think 2 more price increases over the next three years ought to do it. unfortunate for the rest of us. Maybe we can rename Disneyland Resort the Capitol - or whatever other metaphor you want to use.

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