It’s as inevitable as death and taxes. Walt Disney World has raised the prices of their tickets…again. It’s not a shocking thing, since the mouse has been steadily going up on their price for everything, at least twice a year, for the past few years. Now, however it seems like a bit much. You can get mad at it, stop going, or accept it. The real question, however, is when will the rest of Central Florida catch up?
Disney has raised not only the price of their annual passes to start at $389 dollars a year, but they have also raised the price of their daily parking rate. Parking has gone from $17 dollars per vehicle, per day, to a whopping $20 dollars. That still isn’t as much as parking at say, Six Flags parks which goes for around $25 dollars a vehicle, but it’s still pretty high. Disney is now the most expensive theme park in Orlando to park, at $20 dollars. Universal, SeaWorld and Busch Gardens still remain at $17 dollars.
Then there’s the annual pass situation. Earlier this year (around April), Universal quietly raised the prices on their annual passes. The cost went up about $50 dollars for their annual passes, with some going up less.
SeaWorld and Busch Gardens (both SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment) also quietly went up, with smaller increases on their passes, but nothing significant.
Walt Disney World has not only gone up on their prices, dramatically, but they have added blackout dates to most of their Florida Resident Passes. Granted, the only blackout dates currently listed are during the busy Christmas holidays, and Spring Break (times when most Florida Residents don’t go to parks), but blackout dates are easily and quietly expanded, so that becomes a slippery slope.
Universal, and the SeaWorld parks are known to follow Disney’s lead when increases happen. It’s a direct reflection on what the local theme park markets will allow. People will still flock to the parks, and will still pay the prices for theme park fun, as long as they feel it’s a good value, which is probably why you see all the parks increase at once.
So, if the other parks increase, when can we expect to see it happen? Usually it happens within a week or two of the first increase, so there’s a good chance you’ll see Universal and SeaWorld quietly make increases on parking and annual passes before the end of the month. Universal seems the most likely, with the company conducting surveys about annual passes. Universal’s surveys have been talking about restructuring not only the price point of the new annual passes, but also about blocking out things like concerts and special events (perhaps Mardi Gras?) from their annual passholders. Universal could very well go this route, with Disney leading the way with their massive new pass restructure. Universal is kind of at a pivotal point, with construction going on at a breakneck pace on several new projects, including the return of King Kong to Islands of Adventure, and Fast & Furious coming to Universal Studios Florida. Still, for the annual passholders, events like Mardi Gras and the other free concerts are part of the appeal of having a Universal pass. If you take that away, you may deplete your annual passholder memberships almost in half, which could be the goal. With all the new attractions, Universal could be becoming less reliant on annual passholder business than they have in the past, much like Walt Disney World. We’ll have to wait and see.