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Friday, March 15, 2019

Putting Disney Park Price Hikes in Perspective

by Ray Keating
March 15, 2019

So, Disney has decided to hike its theme park ticket prices once more. I’m not exactly going out on a limb in assuming that most people are less than pleased. My addition to the discussion will initially make these same folks a bit more annoyed, but then I offer some additional perspective that might at least somewhat soften the blow.

First, let’s take note of some key details of the Disney price increase. Tourplans.com summed things up is this way for visiting Walt Disney World: “The updated pricing for a one-day ticket still starts at $109 but now tops out at $159. (Yikes!) A 10-day ticket now ranges from $47 per day, all the way to $61 per day. To add on the Park Hopper option, it’s $60-80 more, depending on ticket length. To add the Park Hopper Plus option, it’s $20 more than the Park Hopper on its own. (Park Hopper Plus gets you access to the water parks, Wide World of Sports, Disney’s Oak Trail Golf Course, and the two mini golf courses.)”

MarketWatch also noted: “Historically, Walt Disney World has raised prices annually, typically around February or March. Ticket prices have increased every year since 2015. When the resort opened in 1971, a single-day ticket only cost $3.50.”

Yes, you read that right. When Walt Disney World first opened in October 1971, the price of admission was $3.50 for the day. Now, if we adjust that price for inflation, that equals $21 in today’s dollars.

That’s $21 versus anywhere from $47 to $159 dollars for a one-day admission depending on when one visits. That’s a real (i.e., inflation adjusted) increase of anywhere between 124 percent to 657 percent over the past 47-plus years. 

However, at the same time, real per capita personal disposable income (i.e., personal income minus current taxes adjusted for population and inflation) has grown by 141 percent since October 1971. So, real incomes have risen considerably as well.

And then, of course, it must be recognized that the value one gets today during a visit to Walt Disney World is far superior than it was in 1971, when it had one theme park – the Magic Kingdom – and three resorts. Take a look at a map of Disney World in 1971 versus Walt Disney World in 2014, courtesy of Time. Also, you can compare 1971 to the current list of park, resort and event maps. And here’s a listof what’s been added just to the Magic Kingdom since its opening day. 

Whether talking about rides, shows, food, technology and so on, the experience at Walt Disney World today is like being in another universe compared to what one paid for in 1971.

Obviously, Disney World guests get a much bigger bang for their buck today than in 1971. That’s great news for someone’s vacation – though it’s still a darn expensive vacation for the average family.

Ray Keating is the editor, publisher and economist for DisneyBizJournal.com, and author of the Pastor Stephen Grant novels, with three books - Reagan Country: A Pastor Stephen Grant NovelHeroes and Villains: A Pastor Stephen Grant Short Story and Shifting Sands: A Pastor Stephen Grant Short Story – published in 2018. In addition, the second edition of Warrior Monk: A Pastor Stephen Grant Novel was published in January 2019. He can be contacted at raykeating@keatingreports.com.

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