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Disney World Rolls Out Its Sneakiest Price Increase Yet

By Rick Munarriz - Apr 25, 2016 at 8:06AM

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The leading theme-park operator tries to milk more money out of its Disney World guests' milk money.

Source: Disney.   

The past few months have served up some of Disney's (DIS -1.11%) most dramatic price increases in the history of its flagship resort in Florida. Things started late last year, when annual pass holders were hit with a roughly 15% increase for comparable passes. That was followed in February by an 18% spike in prices for single-day tickets.

Then came a string of costly upgrades to the theme park experience. Guests could pay 75% more for premium parking spaces. They could also spend $149 per person to enjoy the Magic Kingdom on select nights after it closes to the general public or $69 a head for an exclusive morning experience before the park opens. All of these new offerings are optional, of course, and intended to be purchased by a sliver of its guests. 

However, Disney quietly increased fountain and bottled beverage prices at its theme parks -- something that will nickel and dime the pocketbooks of many if not most of its park guests. Soft drinks went from $2.99 to $3.29, a 10% uptick. Bottled water went from $2.75 to $3.00, a 9% increase. In a move that will incense parents, Disney saved most of its larger increases for kid-friendly beverages, including juices and milk. Bottled apple juice prices rose 18%, with milk prices up a whopping 35%.

It's probably a good time to remind guests that water fountains are everywhere at Disney World, and restaurants do offer ice water at no cost. However, a visit just got a bit more expensive for folks counting on soda, milk, and juice to help fuel what can often be a long day at the park.

Coca-Cola (KO -1.96%) has had pouring rights at Disney World since the resort's inception, and this increase does make Coca-Cola's products more expensive inside the resort. Coca-Cola doesn't just handle the namesake carbonated beverages. Coca-Cola's brands include the Dasani bottled water and Minute Maid juices served throughout the property. However, it's highly unlikely Coca-Cola will be seeing any benefit from this increase.

Coca-Cola reported quarterly results last week, and North American pricing has been flat over the past year. It's Disney that will be squeezing more money out of every thirsty park guest. Patrons will pay, of course. They are captive guests. You don't see movie theaters or concert venues taking it any easier on quenching the thirsts of their customers. However, with Disney already recently raising prices to get into its parks -- and with a couple of notable regional amusement park operators, including Holiday World in Indiana and Lake Compounce in Connecticut, offering free fountain beverages -- it seems like one price increase too many at Disney World. Shareholders may benefit from the move in the near term, but there are long-term ramifications for trying to milk too much money out of its guests.

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