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Is Disney World Too Expensive Now?

By Rick Munarriz - Updated Apr 12, 2019 at 6:45PM

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The world's leading theme park operator boosts some of its ticket prices as much as 23%.

It was really just a matter of time before Walt Disney (DIS 2.90%) boosted ticket prices in Florida, and that hike kicked in on Tuesday morning. Several popular blogs are reporting that Disney World tweaked its prices across a few categories, primarily for peak-season pricing. 

A one-day ticket now costs as much as $159 during the holiday week starting on Christmas Day, a 23% increase. However, more affordable one-day tickets -- including the cheapest $109 option during the resort's off-season -- remain for now. Multiday tickets are also inching higher during heavy travel periods, up $9 a day during select summer stretches.

Once again, it's going to cost more to take the family to Disney World. And despite social media erupting with displeasure, it's not going to stop the roughly 58 million guests who will visit the four Florida theme parks in 2019. 

Check out the latest earnings call transcript for Disney.

Mickey Mouse in front of the Magic Kingdom Cinderella Castle.

Image source: Disney.

Using the Force, Luke 

Disney World is going to be a very busy place once Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge opens in late August at Disney's Hollywood Studios, the resort's least-visited theme park. The 14-acre Star Wars-themed expansion is the resort's biggest update since the 1998 opening of Disney's Animal Kingdom. If there was ever a year that warranted a price increase as high as 23%, it would be this one.

Admission prices that are inching higher aren't much of a surprise. Rates have gone up for what is now 31 years in a row, surging as much as 468% over that time. The increases have outpaced inflation, but Disney World is still scoring record attendance with every passing year. 

Tuesday morning's hike didn't hit admissions during off-peak periods. Disney's also holding the line on its annual passes since it boosted those rates 3% to 9% higher in October. It won't be a surprise to see all of those cover charges move higher at some point this year, likely well before Galaxy's Edge opens on Aug. 29.

Disneyland in California raised most of its admission fees 7% to 10% earlier this year. It also saved its largest 23% hike for its priciest admission plan: the Premier Passport that covers all the Florida and California parks. 

Disney fans won't be happy, largely because the Florida parks will still be crowded come the holidays despite the 23% pop in single-day tickets. Shareholders will naturally be elated, as increased per-capita spending has made Disney's theme parks division its best performer even during periods of flat attendance growth.

The next few weeks will belong to the boobirds, badmouthing Disney for making it harder for a working-class family to visit the iconic theme parks. They'll be back, donning their mouse ears once the outrage subsides. Until a Disney price increase results in a material shortfall in turnstile clicks, you can't blame the world's largest theme park operator for keeping its annual hike streak alive.

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