Has Disney and Universal Studios Priced Themselves Out of Business?


Not too many years ago, Orlando, Florida used to be the travel destination of the world, but recently it has been showing signs of just the opposite. Restaurants are empty, gift shops are closing down and the biggest sign of all is the lack of attendance at the theme parks. With international travel at an all time low, you would think that the parks would take aim at domestic travelers to fill that void in attendance. But quit the contrary, they seem to be building more attractions and raising prices at their gates. The logic has perplexed many in the tourism industry for the past few years.

As tickets sales to the park decrease, the prices for tickets have gone up for some odd reason. Take for instance Walt Disney World. Back in 2000 the price for a 1 day Disney ticket was $42.14. Fifteen years later that same ticket is $103.31 and a Magic Kingdom ticket now is $111.83. That is over a 50% increase in little over 15 years. Universal Studios Orlando was the same price as the Disney parks and now their gate price for a 1 day ticket is $108.63.

At the writing of this article gas is down to an all time low of $104 a barrel making an average gallon of gas around $1.89. You would think mom and dad would throw the kids in the back of the car and do a road trip like our parents used to do, but that is not the case for some reason. When I look at the trends of what has happened over the past 5 to 10 years, a pattern emerges that many have been complaining about for quite some time.

Is it possible that the Orlando theme parks are pricing themselves out of business? The average middle class American has found it unattainable to travel to Walt Disney World anymore and have started visiting local destinations instead of taking that yearly trip to Florida. It has gotten so bad that travel leaders have coined the phrase, “Staycation”. Sounds horrible if you ask me!

I truly think that when the theme parks crossed over that $100 1 day ticket line, they inflicted the damage to themselves. In business, we call that the “Psychological Price Tag” dilemma. The price of an item that makes us cringe when we see it. Think about planning your family vacation and then seeing the cost of a 1 day ticket to Walt Disney World, Universal Studios or SeaWorld. The cringe factor times 10 set in and now you are contemplating staying home, visiting family or going to a national park.

Has the bench mark been set so high that the parks cannot return from? I wonder what it will take before they realize that nobody can afford to travel to their playgrounds anymore. Can a once world renown destination become the tourism capital of the world again? Only time will tell. But I hope they smell the biscuits soon as there may be nothing left if they wait to long.

The one good thing to come from all of this is that there are still a few companies out there that offer discounts to the parks.