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This Is Why Walt Disney World Tickets Are So Expensive

Reader's Digest logo Reader's Digest 2/14/2019 Jennifer McCaffery
a view of a city street: Theme Parks Tax Wars, Lake Buena Vista, USA - 31 Jan 2017 © Provided by Trusted Media Brands, Inc. Theme Parks Tax Wars, Lake Buena Vista, USA - 31 Jan 2017

Excited to see Disney’s new Star Wars-themed Galaxy’s Edge? The new attraction is scheduled to open this fall. But if you haven’t looked at ticket prices for a while, you might be in for a shock.

Disney raised ticket prices not once, but twice, in 2018, according to Business Insider. That’s for its annual Platinum Pass, which gives you access for a year to all four parks: the Magic Kingdom, Epcot Center, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom. In February, Disney raised prices for the passes from $779 to $849. Then in October, Disney increased them again, from $849 to $890. Over the past five years, Disney has hiked fees at roughly double the rate of inflation, according to the Wall Street Journal.

So why are the tickets getting so expensive? Disney isn’t hurting for money, with $4.5 billion in operating profit during fiscal year 2018, Business Insider reports. But here are some reasons why:

Desire to dominate the market

When Walt Disney World opened in Orlando in 1971, a daily pass cost $3.50, the Washington Post reports. But the theme park has come a long way since just having a marching band parade down Main Street USA.

Since then, Disney has expanded exponentially, with new parks and attractions, pulling ahead of the competition and attracting double the visitors of its closest competitor. But when Universal Studios opened its Harry Potter attraction in 2010, Disney ramped up its efforts even more. 'It was game-on in this business,' Robert Niles, the editor of Theme Park Insider, tells Business Insider. 'All of a sudden Disney had a competitor again, and Disney does not like to lose—not just lose, Disney doesn’t even like to compete. Disney wants to dominate its competition.'

Over the past five years, Disney has invested more than $15 billion in its parks around the world, the Wall Street Journal reports. The strategy worked: 55 percent of North American theme-park attendance in 2017 was at Disney Parks. Find out what’s coming to Disney in 2019.

A new pricing model

Not surprisingly, school vacations and summer are the busiest times at Disney. But Disney World and Disneyland are open all year. So in 2018, the company switched to dynamic pricing to better distribute the times when people visit. That means that tickets during the busiest weeks of the year are more expensive than the quieter months.

Tickets are broken out into three categories of dates: 'value,' 'regular,' and 'peak' times. The cost per ticket can range from $100 for an average day to more than $120 when the parks are really busy, the Wall Street Journal reports. The system encourages people to buy their tickets further in advance. Here are 23 secrets Disney employees won’t tell you.

To attract wealthier customers

Disney has also increasingly targeted people with more money to spend, with private tours, dinners with princesses, and the opening of a five-star Four Seasons resort. 'They know that the money is in the upper level, the top 10 percent, the top 1 percent,' Niles says. 'They’ve created a wide variety of new products to try and, frankly, extract more money out of the people who have money to spare.'

When Disney World opened, staying at the Bora Bora Bungalows cost $29 per night. Now it can cost as much as $3,400! Again, the strategy is paying off, though. In 2018, per capita spending in the parks increased by 5 percent and the revenue per hotel room went up by 8 percent.

But is that what the man who dreamed up Mickey Mouse would have wanted?

'If Walt [Disney] were alive today, he would probably be uncomfortable with the prices they’re charging right now,' Scott Smith, an assistant professor of hospitality at the University of South Carolina, who worked as a cast member in Disney’s Haunted Mansion, tells the Washington Post. 'They’ve priced middle-class families out.' Next, don’t miss these insider secrets from a Disney super fan.

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WATCH: Disney World Secrets You Should Know About (Provided by Thrillist)



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