After five years of boosting its Disney World ticket prices in February, Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS) took the month off in 2019. That doesn't make an increase any less inevitable, though. Disney has jacked up admissions to its most popular resort for 30 consecutive years, so it's just a matter of time before it costs a little more, if not a lot more, to take your family to the self-billed happiest place on Earth.
There are some logical explanations for taking a breather last month. One factor could have been that it did raise some of its prices higher in October, making 2018 one of the rare years with two increases. Another could be that its flagship addition for 2019 won't open until the fall. Unlike Toy Story Land, which opened at Disney's Hollywood Studios in June of last year, or Pandora -- The World of Avatar, which made its debut at Disney's Animal Kingdom in May of 2017, Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge won't take guests to a galaxy "far far away" until late September, if not later in the year.
Check out the latest earnings call transcript for Disney.
Raise prices, you will
There's an art to raising prices, and the fact that Disney World is drawing record crowds despite three decades of annual increases is proof that it's working. There's social-media outrage whenever Disney raises its entry rates, but at the end of the day, folks keep coming back for more.
Shareholders can appreciate the increases. Revenue per capita -- basically how much the average visitor spends on admissions and in-park expenditures -- rose 7% despite flattish attendance for Disney's domestic theme parks in its latest quarter. Visitors will see things differently, but it's hard to argue with Disney's recent moves to shift to tiered pricing, wherein folks have to pay more for one-day tickets during busier times of the year.
Disney World prices will move higher this year, and probably sooner rather than later. Out in California, Disneyland pushed most of its admissions 7% to 10% higher in January. Disney's original theme park is introducing Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge roughly three months earlier than Florida, making a springtime increase highly likely. Disney could ruffle some feathers if it attempts an increase during the peak summer travel season, so April or May makes sense for the next increase.
Park visitors aren't going to like the increase when it happens, of course. However, with Disney making bar-raising investments as Disney World gets ready to turn 50 in the fall of 2021, the new experiences will probably be worth it. Just as it has every year since 1988, Disney is going to lift its prices higher because it can.