As expected, Universal Orlando raised ticket prices just a few days after Walt Disney World. If you walk up to a ticket window at Universal Studios or Islands of Adventure, it will set you back $96. That’s now 2 bucks more expensive than Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom. Sure, there are ways to get cheaper tickets online or if you take a tour of a timeshare on Highway 192, but that’s beside the point.
Recently I wrote an article about how theme parks in Orlando justify their ticket price increases. Most of the feedback I got was positive peppered with “However, you forgot to mention……”. Yes it’s true, I didn’t mention all the factors that go into a price hike. There are a ton of factors that go into the decision including operating costs, capital investments, and the market climate. If I included every factor, the article would never end. I had to stop somewhere and you all brought up some great points.
What I don’t quite understand is, when Universal raises their ticket prices, theme parks fans barely bat an eyelash. I have read a fair amount of articles recently about Disney being greedy or out of touch. However, when Universal now becomes more expensive, why don’t they receive the same treatment?
For example, a columnist at the Orlando Sentinel recently published an article accusing Disney of slowly pushing away Florida residents who just want to visit Disney for a day. She goes on to say that if you just decide to go to Disney tomorrow, that not only do you have to pay higher prices, but all the good restaurant reservations and FastPass selections have been taken by planning tourists who have already gobbled them up.
As stated in a previous article, the reality is, FastPass+ is designed so a certain amount of FastPass tickets are available the day of for every attraction. If you didn’t wake up early enough to snag a FastPass for Soarin with the old system, you wouldn’t get one, now you won’t either.
As for advanced dining reservations? It’s a shift in society. Thanks to the internet and having tons of information at your finger tips, people now can book a reservation online in advance as opposed to waiting in line at the park or a resort, or even calling on the phone. There is a definite convenience factor in knowing your kids can meet characters at Chef Mickeys weeks in advance, not have to wait in line, and factor that into your budget. Also, from Disney’s perspective, if they have X amount of seats in a restaurant they want to fill in a night, wouldn’t it be smarter for people to book those seats in advance to make sure those seats get filled? Let’s say they held 20% of their seats at all restaurants for same day/walk up guests. What if those seats don’t get filled? What if 5% remain open? What if those 5% have already booked a reservation somewhere else off of Disney property that they could make a reservation at? Where the family knows they don’t have to wait 2 hours for a table and they are going to a restaurant they know they want to dine at. What restaurant owner anywhere in the world wouldn’t want all of their reservations booked in advance?
Yet, for some reason, Disney continues to get blasted for the same practices that other companies also take. Why? For better or for worse, Walt created a company that continually tugs at your heart strings. If you buy a Cinderella DVD that your daughter falls in love with, that she watches over and over. She then wants to dress like Cinderella and the next thing you know, she’s wearing kiddie glass slippers for Halloween.
Months later, you’re gathered around the television on Christmas morning where your little girl watches the Disney Parks Christmas Day Parade and she not only sees that Cinderella has a real castle and you can meet her there! Before you can blink, you’re headed to Orlando. After booking plane tickets, a hotel, and buying park passes, you plunk down the extra dough for breakfast at Cinderella’s Royal Table. When you see your daughter hug Cinderella, the same character she’s emulated for months now, for the first time? You shed a tear. That joy, that pride, those tears? Are all the real thing.
However, the truth to the matter is. The Cinderella DVD, those glass slippers, the dress all were paid for by your hard earned money. That embrace your daughter just shared with Cindy that meant so much to you that it made your eyes well up? You bought it. The question is: what’s it worth to you?
Shouldn’t every little girl’s parents be able to afford a trip to Disney World to hug her favorite princess? It’s the American dream, right? Disney stands for certain values that we learn in all their movies, right? Maybe I missed it, but I have never seen a movie with the message of: everyone should be able to have access to affordable family entertainment.
Disney may sell you movies and t-shirts with messages like “When you wish upon a star, dreams come true.” However, those messages are for children, not the adults who spend their time on Disney/theme park fan sites (even mine!) and complain about how their wish of cheaper prices didn’t come true.
If you think Walt Disney World has continued to out price themselves where no one is coming to the parks anymore, you are sorely mistaken. According to any attendance report you can find, attendance at all Orlando theme parks have seen steady increases over the past few years. My guess is this will continue throughout 2014 as well. Clearly Universal Orlando ad Walt Disney World see it the same way, otherwise, why take such a huge risk with a price hike? Just maybe, it’s not that big of a risk at all.
This is where you come in. Help me understand why Disney gets held to a different standard than other theme parks or any other business for that matter. Why do people get so upset when Walt Disney World becomes more expensive. I know the answer is complicated and I also expect to get some passionate responses. Don’t worry, I can handle it.