It's now more expensive to visit most of the leading theme parks. Disney (DIS 0.74%) raised its one-day Disney World and Disneyland ticket prices by as much as 18% on Sunday. The move follows Comcast's (NASDAQ: CMCSK) (CMCSA -0.98%) Universal Orlando rolling out a smaller yet still notable hike in early February.
Disney and Comcast have no reason to refrain from testing their pricing elasticity. Disney World has now come through with 28 consecutive years of hikes for its one-day admissions, and it continues to post record attendance levels. Universal Orlando has seen its turnstile clicks actually growing even faster than Disney World in recent years.
It now will set a visitor back $105 for a day at one of Comcast's two theme parks in Florida, and a one-day ticket at Disney World's iconic Magic Kingdom can cost as much as $124 during peak travel season. It's against this backdrop that SeaWorld Entertainment's (SEAS -0.35%) SeaWorld Orlando is holding firm on its pricing and even increasing its promotional efforts.
SeaWorld Orlando did bump its ticket prices higher in November, taking its one-day rates up $2 to $99. However, that also coincided with an aggressive stance to discounting its admissions online. Hit up the SeaWorld website and a single day can be had for just $79. A two-day ticket -- with that second day able to be used at SeaWorld Orlando, its adjacent Aquatica water park, or at its sister Busch Gardens theme park or Adventure Island water park in Tampa -- can be had for just $99. A three-day ticket is just $10 more. So, yes, it's cheaper to spend three days at SeaWorld's Central Florida parks than it is to spend a single day at any of Disney World's four theme parks during the summer or holiday periods. That's going to make SeaWorld a tempting value proposition for travelers facing Disney's 18% increase during this month's spring break holiday or the meatier summer season.
It's easy to see why SeaWorld isn't as stingy as Disney and Comcast when it comes to discounting admissions. Attendance rose a mere 0.3% across all of SeaWorld's parks in 2015, and that's coming off of back-to-back years of 4% declines. Revenue actually dipped slightly in 2015, the result of folks paying marginally less to visit as a result of the chain's heavy promotional activity.
However, with SeaWorld a year removed from the brand-tarnishing Blackfish documentary and a growing pricing disparity between SeaWorld and its rivals in Orlando and Southern California, this could be SeaWorld's best year of meaningful growth since 2012. The competition getting cocky at a time when low gas prices make it easier to justify road trips should deliver a healthy flow of park guests at SeaWorld. It will be hard to blow this, but SeaWorld has found ways to come up short before.