Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Did Disneyland Go Too Far This Time?

By Rick Munarriz – Updated Oct 28, 2021 at 4:26PM

Key Points

  • Disneyland's one-day ticket prices are going up for most admissions in March.
  • Parking rates moved higher this week, just as the one annual pass that includes parking has sold out.
  • Stretching its pricing power is a dangerous game, but it's part of the strategy to make more money with a slightly lower attendance level.

You’re reading a free article with opinions that may differ from The Motley Fool’s Premium Investing Services. Become a Motley Fool member today to get instant access to our top analyst recommendations, in-depth research, investing resources, and more. Learn More

The world's leading theme-park operator raises prices at its California resort.

Prices are going up at Disneyland. Walt Disney's (DIS 2.72%) original theme park resort announced earlier this week that one-day admission prices would be rising between $5 and $10 apiece in March. Only the cheapest tier -- a $104 ticket available only during the slowest days -- is sticking to its current pricing. The resort also introduced a new higher-priced tier for peak travel periods, setting visitors back $164 for a one-day visit or $224 if they wish to hit Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure on the same day. Multi-day tickets are also naturally getting more expensive.

It's not just more pain at the turnstile. Parking at Disneyland to treat your car to a day at the theme park resort just increased from $25 to $30. 

Ticket price increases are nothing new at Disneyland and its larger sister resort Disney World in Florida. It's rare to see a year in which ticket prices don't go up. Disneyland's last pricing uptick took place in February of last year, a couple of weeks before the parks would go on to close for the pandemic. Since the increase doesn't kick in until early next year there won't be an increase for one-day visitors outside of parking in 2021. Then again, Disneyland theme parks were shuttered for more than a year. 

Donald Duck sweeping Main Street at Disneyland.

Image source: Walt Disney.

Mouse trap 

Disneyland fans are understandably unhappy about the new prices, but most of them will be back. Even with price increases that have far exceeded the country's inflation rate over the years, Disney's theme parks generally continue to grow their annual guest counts.  

The media giant has emerged out of the pandemic with a tweaked mindset. The goal is no longer packing as many people as possible into its gated attractions. Increasing revenue per capita -- even if it means fewer daily guests -- appears to be the objective. Making annual passes more restrictive and introducing premium add-on experience enhancers like Genie+ and Lightning Lane+ will help Disney's theme park division achieve record profits without scoring record attendance levels. 

Playing the exclusivity card appears to be working for the House of Mouse. Disneyland reintroduced its annual pass program in August, and this week the top Magic Key tier -- with folks paying $1,399 plus tax for year-round access with no blockout dates -- sold out. It was the only annual pass that included parking, adding more pain to this week's increase.

Targeting smaller crowds willing to pay more is a gamble, but it's one that appears to be working. Disney's theme parks division returned to profitability earlier than analysts were expecting, and things are about to get even better now that international travel restrictions are starting to ease. 

There's a method to the mouse-ness. Theme park fans will argue that Disneyland is being greedy, and that it has gone too far. Some critics will knock the media stock for pricing out mainstream American families. In reality -- with the most expensive annual pass level just selling out -- the counterargument could be made that Disney was underpricing its experience before the pandemic. We may one day get to the point where Disney pushes its luck too far, and its pricing elasticity snaps. We may be close, but we're not there yet.

Rick Munarriz owns shares of Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Walt Disney. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Premium Investing Services

Invest better with The Motley Fool. Get stock recommendations, portfolio guidance, and more from The Motley Fool's premium services.