How Might Price Increases Affect The Crowd Calendar In 2016?

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[This is a post discussing the impact of pricing increases on crowds at Disney parks. For a post discussing the impact of tiered pricing 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 the price increase 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 the price increases will not affect crowds.MYW_Ticket_Logo

History Repeats Itself

This is the largest single jump in prices in the last 20 years (8.6%) but it is not the first. Prices increase an average of 3.5% annually over the past 10 years. Ever-increasing prices are frustrating but the fact remains that Disney parks are busier than ever. People are still going, lots of people. In 2012, prices jumped 5.7% and crowds were unaffected.

Times Are Good

Employment is up slightly, the housing market has stabilized, disposable income and consumer spending are up in recent months. The cost of gas is half of what it was in 2014 which means the 70% of guests that drive to Disney World are doing so for a lot less. A family driving from Raleigh, NC to Disney World getting 25 miles per gallon will pay about $80 for the 1190-mile round trip, assuming $1.70 per gallon. At $3.50 per gallon in 2014 the same trip would have cost $164.50.

Time Lag

A trip to Disney World is a big purchase item, one that is usually planned well in advance. Even if we are wrong about the impact of these price increases we may not see any impact for many months until future trip planners make decisions about their trip in late 2016 or 2017.

Stein’s Law

If something can’t go on forever, it won’t.

Normally a dictum reserved for financial analysis, Stein’s Law might be a good reminder here. The trends for attendance and ticket prices we have seen in the past year are not sustainable long term. Something always comes along to bring balance. The Disney World Crowd Calendar gives the best estimate of what crowds will be like during your visit, relative to what we have seen in the past. Until we see evidence that this price increase is affecting attendance we see no reason to adjust the crowd numbers.

To see the cost of all Disney ticket options use our Ticket Calculator.

[For a post discussing the impact of tiered pricing 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.

9 thoughts on “How Might Price Increases Affect The Crowd Calendar In 2016?

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  • March 1, 2016 at 5:37 pm
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    Interesting tidbit you threw out there, without explaining: “The trends for attendance and ticket prices we have seen in the past year are not sustainable long term.” Can you expound on that point? Why is it not sustainable? I don’t think you have explained Stein’s law here to my satisfaction either. Are you trying to say that basically, Disney can keep increasing prices as much as it wants because there will always be enough people willing to pay their exorbitant ticket price? Until it gets to a certain point where only elite 1%-ers can visit? Or are you trying to say something else?

    Also, what responsibility does Disney have to Walt Disney’s original intent of creating a destination that all families should be able to afford? Where is the company headed in terms of service to its fanbase/customers rather than its shareholders? Do corporations that cater to families have a responsibility to them? Or only to shareholders?

    I’m very interested in touringplans.com’s opinion on this. I Love your site and your data-driven content.

    Reply
    • March 1, 2016 at 5:52 pm
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      Thanks Valerie. Let me start by saying that these opinions are mine and not neccessarily those of touringplans.com as a whole (although I’d say there is a general consensus for the most part).

      I intended to imply the opposite, that we should not expect prices and attendance to rise at the current rate long term because the math makes it absurd to do so. If you extrapolate the gap between average income and ticket price it will get the point where only the 1%-ers can visit and that isn’t practical. Disney can increase prices without an impact now because of the current state of affairs but that will change eventually, we just don’t know when.

      Reply
    • March 1, 2016 at 6:12 pm
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      To your second point, and this really is just my opinion, Walt Disney had a vision of affordable entertainment for families but he was also a savvy businessman who understood the importance of making money. I have no objection to corporate Disney servicing its shareholders but where it has completely lost touch with Walt’s vision is in its lack of imagination and risk-taking. Epcot in particular, envisioned to be a community of tomorrow does little to spark imagination or hope that the current generation can solve the world’s issues. I think a fully realized Walt’s Epcot that leads by example, with sustainable food and clean energy would not only be interesting and inspiring but also very popular with guests.

      Reply
      • March 2, 2016 at 11:03 am
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        Fred,
        I agree with you about Epcot – Slogging through Epcot is my least-favorite day of a Disney Vacation. To be sure, it is a beautiful park, but the world showcase needs a jolt of energy (please give us the Ratatouille ride, Disney!!! Or, just something MORE) and a lot of the attractions in future world are just….meh?

        I could understand Disney raising their prices this much if they had actually made a marked improvement in their offerings to coincide, but they have not, in my book.

        Reply
  • March 1, 2016 at 9:31 pm
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    Beyond spreading crowds, WDW is trying to spread pricing

    The RFID system gives a vivid snapshot. I suspect different visiting styles are scrutinized on how much they spend vs how much it costs to accommodate them. They try squeezing every penny out of all guests, but it’s now easier to ensure every visitor is paying what WDW feels is their fair share. With ever increasing crowds, they’re probably also concerned peak season big spenders aren’t getting crowded out of the parks.

    All this is purely speculation. I don’t mind spending (even it takes longer to save) as long as they continue to bring the goods. A lot is riding on these new lands; guests will balk paying so much if they aren’t impressed. And they can never let Universal win the game they invented, lol.

    And yes, EPCOT! The wasted potential. Hope that is next 😀

    Reply
  • March 2, 2016 at 7:54 am
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    I believe Disney World, more so than Disneyland, is the world’s most perfect (almost) inelastic good. I don’t think the price increase will impact crowds at all. It will increase revenue in a more “friendly / we have a good story this time” way. That’s fine. I just hope Disney takes care of it’s employees vs. only focused on the stock price.

    Reply
  • March 2, 2016 at 9:56 am
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    This announcement didn’t surprise me greatly–especially after Universal Studios Hollywood announced their implementation plan for demand pricing. It makes economic sense for the companies involved, and we’ll see how well it thins out the crowds on peak days.

    I understand the “social mission” of Walt Disney in terms of having a WDW that’s affordable to all–but imagine the crowds that would exist if single day tickets were even $50/head. Disney’s better off, from a profits standpoint, of focusing on the multi-day customer with reasonable levels of disposable income they can spend on mouse ears and dining experiences than trying to be all things to all people.

    I agree with Heather (above). Disney needs to keep on bringing the high quality product, and really smash it out of the park with the new lands in order to compete with higher prices.

    Does anyone remember if demand pricing is just Universal Hollywood, or if Universal Orlando has tried it yet? If it’s just Hollywood, it’s interesting that Disney’s trying the Florida market first–although I’m betting the elasticity is radically different for DL vs WDW based on single day vs. multi day pricing for visits.

    Reply
  • March 4, 2016 at 9:25 am
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    Let me be the counterpoint to the Epcot haters: it’s by far my favorite park in all WDW. I love the slower pace of World Showcase, meandering through the shops and snacking along the way. And Soarin’ and Sum of All Thrills are two of my favorite attractions in any park. My wife and I are taking a trip down to FL in March, and with only one day for parks, Epcot was an easy choice (excited for our first Flower & Garden!). It may not be what it could be, but I love it for what it is.

    Reply

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