In the clearest sign yet that things are getting back to normal at California’s theme parks, Disneyland just raised its ticket prices.
The jump is not unusual by Disney standards, with multi-day ticket prices rising from around 6-8%. Disney’s lowest priced one-day ticket actually stayed the same, while its highest priced one-day Park Hopper jumped $15, to $224. Disneyland also added a sixth tier to its pricing structure for one-day tickets, bringing the resort another step closer to the dynamic pricing model that Disney uses in Florida at the Walt Disney World Resort.
Perhaps the biggest news, however, was Disneyland declaring that its top Magic Key annual pass is now sold out.
Disneyland had made often-aggressive price increases an annual tradition before COVID-19 closed the parks for much of 2020. Despite the inevitable complaints each time from some vocal fans and influencers, attendance never suffered, and people continued to fork over more and more money to spend their days at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure.
This latest price increase expresses Disney’s confidence that its California theme parks will continue to thrive despite all that has happened to the travel and entertainment business over the past two years. Disneyland believes that it remains an excellent entertainment value for its guests and that higher prices won’t change that, at least in the view of enough of its fans. With Halloween Time and soon the Holidays at Disneyland Resort bringing millions of fans to the parks, resort management is probably right about that.
But the truth is that most of those Disneyland fans never did pay for those ever-more-expensive daily tickets. Disneyland long has filled its parks with annual passholders, who ultimately paid just a small fraction of Disneyland’s regular ticket price each time they visited. That in turn left little room for tourists who might have been willing to pay the rack rate to visit.
Disneyland ended its old annual pass program before the parks reopened in part because company leaders did not want to keep giving away the house. The new Magic Key pass program limits the number of required advance reservations that passholders may use to visit the parks. That’s elicited complaints from many people would bought the top-priced, $1,399 Dream Key. That pass had no blockout dates, but many fans complained that limited reservation availability for Magic Key holders kept them from visiting as often as they wanted.
Which, of course, is the whole point of the advance reservation system. But Disneyland did not get where it is today by selling stuff that makes people want to complain. Ending new sales of the Dream Key should alleviate some of the growing demand for Disneyland reservations.
Will the price increases do the same? Predicting that Disneyland price increases will tank attendance is like predicting that a San Diego pro sports team will win a championship. You can do it if you want, but history shows that just never happens.