Disney World And Disneyland Are Trying To Price People Out. Will It Work?

Sleeping Beauty Castle and Matterhorn at sundown
(Image credit: Disneyland Resort)

At this point, it’s become standard practice to see regular price increases at Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World. Once a year, ticket prices will go up, and at other points in the year, we’ll see increases in the cost of food, hotel rooms or whatever ancillary services the parks offer. But even by that standard, the price increase that happened for Disney Parks earlier this week was incredible, as the prices of nearly everything on both coasts went up.

Ticket prices at Disneyland, as well as the price of food and beverage, Genie+ and even the lightsaber-building experience at Galaxy’s Edge, on both coasts, all increased on Tuesday, making the price of a trip to Disneyland or Disney World significantly more expensive this week than it was last week. Many people were already feeling like Disney simply didn’t want them to go to the parks, and the fact is there's some truth to that.

Spaceship Earth lit up at night behind momorail

(Image credit: Walt Disney World)

Make No Mistake, Disney Parks Are Getting ”Too Expensive” On Purpose

The first and most obvious reason to raise prices is to make more money. Some of this may be to offset additional costs you’re dealing with elsewhere, and some may just be an attempt to get more profit out of something you think you can sell for more than you have been. Both of these are reasons why prices regularly go up at the domestic Disney parks.

But there’s another reason that we have seen such aggressive and sustained price increases, especially as it pertains to tickets: Disney would like some people to stop going. The price increase is specifically meant to deter some from showing up, or at least get them to delay a trip. They want the parks to be less crowded.

While filling the parks with people certainly means a lot of tickets sold, Disney really wants you to spend a lot of money while you’re in the parks, and if the park is too crowded, that can actually be hard to do.  If the line to get a Mickey ice cream bar is too long, a lot of people will just skip it. If the gift shop is too crowded, you just don’t go in.

When you listen to a Walt Disney Company Earnings Call, you will hear them talk a lot about “per capita spending.” It’s a major metric that Disney uses to gauge its success in the parks, and when it goes up, it can help make up for, or exceed, any lost revenue from fewer people going to the parks.

If you have the money to afford a Walt Disney World vacation right now, you probably have enough to enjoy yourself, (read: spend lots of money) while you are there, and the more Disney can attract these people, the more successful the park can become. When you’re making the same money with fewer guests in the park, your associated costs go down, and that means profits go up. 

A lot of changes in the parks, especially post-pandemic and especially at Disneyland, have seemed to be geared toward favoring the family going on a big vacation over the annual pass holder that visits the parks frequently. There’s a belief, and there’s at least some evidence to back this up, that frequent guests spend less in the parks than those vacationers, leading to what was termed in one Disney Earnings Statement, as an “unfavorable attendance mix.”  

But there’s one problem with this strategy that seems to causing some issues. Thus far, it hasn’t really worked.

Mickey Mouse in Fantasmic show at Disneyland

(Image credit: Disney )

Price Increases Haven’t Had A Major Impact So Far 

It’s difficult to know with complete certainty how many people are in the Disney Parks on a daily basis. Disney doesn't release that sort of information, but there has been no clear and obvious drop in park attendance. People certainly don’t like the price increases, but it hasn’t stopped them from spending the money to go, whether we’re talking about vacationing families going once a year or Annual Pass holders.

The fact is that right now, you can’t buy an Annual Pass at Walt Disney World or Disneyland Resort. While those that bought them previously can renew them, no new sales have been available for months. And if more were put on sale, it seems all but certain they would sell, so Disney is keeping the number artificially low. 

While reservations to the parks at Disneyland or Disney World aren’t selling out every single day of the year, they are still regularly filling up the parks to whatever numbers they are allowing. That’s likely to make for a pretty crowded park unless Disney is really limiting attendance, but that seems unlikely.

The demand for Disneyland and Disney World are just so high, and the supply so ultimately low, that people are willing to pay a lot of money to go. For every person who might decide to not go to Disneyland because of the cost, there is one person who was just waiting for that reservation space or hotel room to be available and will happily pay the asking price.

At the end of the day, it still works for Disney. If the park doesn’t see increased per capita spending through food, merchandise and additional activities, they’ll get it through the ticket price. And then we’ll go through it all again next year. 

Will This Price Hike Change Things At Disney World Or Disneyland? 

But this price hike might be different. While I’m not yet convinced that things will change significantly, it certainly feels like this was a case of Disney “taking the gloves off” as it pertains to price increases. Previously it could be argued that price increases were handled in as quiet and unassuming a way as possible. You can’t really say that here.

The fact that prices on nearly anything that costs money went up on the same day was something that was clearly designed to be noticed. This was a statement to make it clear to anybody who might care that the price of your next Disney trip, or your first Disney trip, is going to be higher than you thought. For the average vacationing family, that might mean saving longer to make the trip, but it will still happen. But for that frequent visitor, it might mean making fewer visits.

Of course, that expense is also an issue. Even if you’re willing to save that money for the 'once in a lifetime' family vacation, if you come back with no money left, that could be what you remember, making a future trip less likely. It also might be what you tell your friends, meaning others who might have been willing to spend the money when they thought the trip was more affordable might decide that a trip to Disney just isn’t for them .

It will take some time for anybody, including Disney, to really see what impact these price increases have. Many people's trips for the next several months, and even years, have already been planned. Perhaps nothing will really change, or perhaps what Disney Parks are will fundamentally change. That does seem to be the goal. 

Dirk Libbey
Content Producer/Theme Park Beat

CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian. Armchair Imagineer. Epcot Stan. Future Club 33 Member.