How Might Disney Tier Pricing Affect The Crowd Calendar In 2016?

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[This is a post discussing the impact of tiered pricing on crowds at Disney parks. For a post discussing the impact of price increases on crowds click here]

On Sunday Disney announced price increases to theme park admission and introduced a tiered pricing system for single day tickets. It is unlikely that tiered pricing for single day tickets will have any impact on crowds throughout the rest of 2016, so we currently have no plans to make adjustments to the Disney World Crowd Calendar. Of course we will continue to track daily crowds at Disney parks to see if trends change but here’s why we think tiered pricing for single-day tickets will not affect crowds.

The first question we need to ask is “Who buys a single day ticket?”. Most guests on a given day are visiting the resort for more than one day but there may be certain guests who are not (we hear that single-day tickets make up around 8% of guests). Who are these guests?

Peak pricing in Spring Break, Summer, Thanksgiving and Christmas Value Pricing in Late August and September
Peak pricing during Spring Break, Summer, Thanksgiving & Christmas
Value pricing in late August & September

The Tag-Along

These are friends or family of a visitor to the Disney Parks who roll into town and wish to tag-along to see what all the fuss is about. Maybe you and your family are doing Disney for a week when great uncle Ed wants to drive up from Sarasota to see the gang and join in the fun. It doesn’t make sense for Ed to buy a multi-day pass, he is only in town for the day.

The Toe-Dippers

Toe-dippers visit Florida for all the right reasons. They are there for all the culture and outdoor fun they can manage but they realize that a trip to Central Florida is not complete without dipping their toes into the Disney entertainment pool. Spending more than one day at Disney park would eat up too much time from their Florida experience so they buy the one-day ticket, probably at Animal Kingdom because they heard something about a safari.

Muggles

Harry Potter lovers have been flocking to Universal Orlando Resort in great numbers since the parks added Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley. It may be hard for a Disneyphile to believe but for some the question is not how many days to visit Disney but whether to visit at all. These guests are more likely to buy a one-day ticket to supplement their Harry Potter trip.

The Frugal Traveller

All the math in world is not enough to convince these guests that a 5-day ticket offers a lot more value than a one-day. Show them the prices of Disney tickets and their eye fixates on the lowest number. A one-day ticket is less money than a multi-day, that is certain.

I don’t think guests who purchase one-day tickets would choose a particular day to visit based on the tiered pricing calendar. These seem to be the fly-by-night types who although may find the costs of a single day ticket expensive, are unlikely to be swayed by an upsell to multi-day tickets and are equally as unlikely to balk because of the price.

Even if every single one of these guests is affected by the tiered pricing AND all these guests are affected in the same way (that is, they ALL choose to add days or they ALL choose not to purchase any ticket) the net effect is pretty small. We would be talking a few thousand guests out of 40,000 on an average day – less than a minute of extra waiting in line.

When Tiered Pricing Might Affect Crowds

Tiered pricing for single day tickets may affect crowds near dates when the tiers switch categories. Suppose you are visiting Central Florida between December 18 and December 24, 2016 and wish to visit a Disney park. You have two choices. You can visit on December 18, 19, 20 or 21 and pay the Regular Season price or visit on December 22, 23 or 24 and pay the Peak Season price. It may be the case that days adjacent to a more expensive tier are busier than they otherwise would be because day guests with some reasonable flexibility are motivated to save a little money.

Less expensive dates adjacent to more expensive dates mare experience larger crowds than normal.
Less expensive dates adjacent to more expensive dates may experience larger crowds than normal.

An Important Caveat

We expect that tiered pricing on all tickets is inevitable and when multi-day tickets make the switch that may have a greater effect on crowds throughout the year.

[For a post discussing the impact of price increases on crowds click here]

Fred Hazelton

Fred Hazelton maintains the crowd calendar, theme park wait time models and does hotel rate analysis for the Unofficial Guides. He's also done the models for the new mobile wait times product Lines. Fred Hazelton is a professional statistician living in Ontario, Canada. His email address is fred@touringplans.com. You can also follow him on Twitter: @DisneyStatsWhiz.

10 thoughts on “How Might Disney Tier Pricing Affect The Crowd Calendar In 2016?

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  • March 1, 2016 at 1:58 pm
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    Other buyers of single-day tickets are convention-goers or in Orlando for business types. I’ve definitely done this in LA with Disneyland, so I imagine there are plenty of folks who love Disney and can’t pass up the opportunity to go while they’re in town for business, even though they can’t take off more than an additional day or two.

    Run Disney participants: Run Disney folks might hop into town for a short weekend trip, buy a 1-day pass for Saturday, and head home Sunday post-race.

    Reply
    • March 2, 2016 at 6:18 am
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      Often convention goers get a discount anyway. We were at the WDW Hilton for a conference and they had a ticket at around $50-60 for entry after 2pm. I don’t think the tiered pricing will affect conventioners much as they will still be offered other discounts.

      Reply
  • March 1, 2016 at 2:15 pm
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    While I expected the Food and Wine Festival to have an effect on prices, I’m surprised the Flower and Garden Festival has made the non-spring break spring more expensive than the last two weeks before Labor Day.

    To everyone about to remind me that some schools are in session before Labor Day, I would point out that those schools are usually out before Memorial Day. There isn’t a value season day in April or May at all!

    I guess I’m saying that I would look at historical attendance over the second half of August, and watch future attendance at that same period. (I’ll bet this shows up in 2017 data.)

    Reply
  • March 1, 2016 at 2:27 pm
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    Trade Show / Convention Attendees

    I was in town for a convention a few years ago and had one free day – so I spent that day with a co-worker at Epcot. We both purchased a one day ticket. I just mapped it – 11 miles from the convention center to Epcot.

    Reply
  • March 1, 2016 at 3:49 pm
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    I’m not thrilled. We have APs, but often buy a couple of 1 day tickets for “drop in” guests. Between FP+ and this, it will be really hard to take folks to Disney for a day. Guess we will have to simply use our other AP and take them to Universal. Yet another dumb idea from the Disney suits.

    Reply
  • March 1, 2016 at 10:48 pm
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    Fred, obviously it’s early and there’s nothing but speculation, but how do you see tiered pricing for multi-day tickets being implemented? There are many more permutations for multi-day trips than for a single day.
    Keeping in mind that the system needs to not add any more complexity than necessary, I’m picturing something that doesn’t work well at all for anyone straddling a season boundary.

    Reply
  • March 2, 2016 at 8:08 am
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    We live in TN. The only time in 20 trips to WDW that I have bought a one-day ticket was last year when it was just me and my wife. We stayed all day to get the most out of that $200. Will we buy one-day tickets again? Probably not, but we may have to have an emergency Disney fund just in case.

    Reply
  • March 2, 2016 at 1:53 pm
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    Even when they switch the multiday tickets to the tier system I doubt it will have any effect on the crowd calendar…because…the tier system is already in play with hotels. Rates are higher during peak seasons both on and off property. Only the most frugal of people will change their vacation dates to save money on tickets…and those types of people are already doing that because of the seasonal differences in hotel rates…hence crowds will be virtually unaffected by going to a tier system for tickets.

    Reply
  • March 2, 2016 at 1:59 pm
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    Your thought on the “Regular” days immediately before and after extended “Peak” periods is similar to Anaheim Annual Passholder behavior with blockout days. You can always count on a surge right before and right after the extended blockouts (spring break, mid-summer, Christmas) kick in.

    Reply

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