The incentive to plan ahead on your next theme-park outing just got a bit more lucrative. Universal Studios' parent Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) (NASDAQ: CMCSK) jacked up its one-day admission prices for Universal Orlando last weekend if you're a procrastinator. Folks who buy their tickets at the front gate will now be paying $119 for adults and $114 for young kids, $14 more than the Comcast-owned resort was charging before.
Tickets that include access to both Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure -- a necessity for anyone wanting to check out the Hogwarts Express train ride that connects both Harry Potter-themed areas -- also went up $14, to $169 for adults and $164 for children.
This is part of Universal's shift to demand-based pricing, something that larger-rival Disney (NYSE:DIS) did a few miles away at Disney World in late February, breaking up its operating calendar into different pricing tiers based on seasonality. The move was seen as a dramatic increase -- and it's for summer and holiday visitors who will be paying as much as 18% more now -- but it's ultimately about supply, demand, and ideally shifting cost-conscious tourists to visit on days when the parks aren't as crowded.
The park is worse than its bite
An important distinction here is that this particular increase at Universal Orlando is only going to hurt the pocketbooks of day guests who just show up at the park without pre-purchased tickets. The new pricing doesn't come into play for folks buying their tickets online, or multi-day tickets. That wasn't the case at Disney, where the prices went up to reflect the new tiers no matter how they were purchased.
This doesn't mean that Universal Orlando is being modest. In fact, it already pushed its admissions higher four months ago. This would be Comcast's second increase in 2016; though again, it doesn't apply to folks who will be buying their tickets ahead of time.
Comcast can afford to be cocky. Universal Orlando has been growing a lot faster than Disney World in recent years. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter -- introduced at Islands of Adventure in 2010, and expanded into Universal Studios Florida two years ago -- has been a game changer.
|Feature||2009 Attendance||2015 Attendance||Change|
|Universal Studios Florida||5,530,000||9,585,000||73.3%|
|Islands of Adventure||4,627,000||8,792,000||90%|
The bottom line is that, both Disney and Comcast stand to make a lot of money this summer by charging substantially more for day guests. Disney and Comcast have big problems to tackle with their larger subsidiaries. Disney investors are concerned about ESPN subscribers defecting, and Comcast is struggling to keep its cable-television subscribers satisfied.
However, both companies are going to have a strong season on the theme-park front. You can hear the registers ringing already.