Disney raises prices on tickets, Genie Plus line-cutting service

When Disney launched its new tool that lets visitors avoid long lines for rides last year, fans griped that they were being forced to pay for a perk they once got free.

Now, most visitors will have to pay even more for the privilege. Cue a new round of complaints about “Money grubbing” and “Nickel and diming.”

“Every time this happens, fans go online to vow that they won’t return to Disney again,” Robert Niles, editor of Theme Park Insider, said in an email. “And maybe they don’t, but plenty of other visitors do keep coming to the parks, allowing Disney to keep bringing in more and more revenue. I expect this price increase to result in the same. “

Disney’s parks in Florida and California rolled out new prices on Tuesday for the Genie Plus service, which allows guests to avoid lengthy waits. How much will the cost go up? That depends where you’re going, which day you’re visiting and – in California – when you buy the add-on.

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At Walt Disney World in Florida, the world’s busiest theme park complex, the price used to be $ 15 regardless of the day. For October, the cost will vary between $ 15 and $ 22, depending on how busy the four parks are on a particular day. After this month? No one is saying.

Admission has been based on demand for several years, with the slowest days priced at $ 109 for a one-day, one-park ticket and busier dates climbing to $ 159; those prices did not change in Florida. That means a family buying tickets for a visit in the slow season in late August can expect to pay far less than someone visiting during the popular winter holidays.

The company encourages guests to check the My Disney Experience app on the day of their visit, which is the only time Florida guests can purchase Genie Plus. That means park goers there won’t know how much they’ll need to spend until they ‘ re on vacation – though steeper admission on busy days could be a hint that the service will also be on the pricier end.

Disney charges for faster access to a handful of its most popular rides separately from Genie Plus; those “individual Lightning Lanes” were already priced variably. Deadline reported that the price range to skip the lines of some of those attractions would expand to include higher fees on busier days.

The change is meant to “continue managing strong demand,” Walt Disney World said.

At Disneyland Resort in California, the cost of Genie Plus now starts at $ 25, according to its website. That’s up from $ 20. The Los Angeles Times reported that the price will be $ 25 when purchased with a ticket or package in advance but variable when visitors buy it after entering the park.

Disneyland also increased the price of admission on its busiest days to $ 179. The LA Times said the highest-priced ticket was previously $ 164; the paper reported that a two-day ticket that used to cost $ 255 is now $ 285.

“I’m not surprised by these price increases,” Len Testa, president of the theme-park trip-planning site Touring Plans and co-author of the Unofficial Guides to Walt Disney World and Disneyland, said in an email. “Disney CEO Bob Chapek’s comments on the last earnings call and subsequent investor meetings were pretty clear: they’re going to increase prices until demand falls off.”

Disney parks, experiences and products reported $ 7.4 billion in revenue for the quarter that ended July 2, a 70 percent improvement from the previous year. It was $ 7.2 billion in the first fiscal quarter, when Chapek said the company’s domestic parks and resorts “achieved all-time revenue and operating income records despite the omicron surge.”

During an earnings call in August, Chapek said about half of the people who visit the parks “buy up” to the product. And last month, Josh D’Amaro, chairman of Disney parks, experiences and products, said at a conference that Genie Plus was “doing phenomenally well” and selling more than executives expected.

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He said that in surveys of guests who have bought the product, as well as those who have shelled out for a separate line-skipping option for the highest-demand rides, 70 percent say they will make the purchase again.

“So we know we’re on to something with this,” he said. “It was a change to the system. So there’s going to be some reaction to it, which we would expect. But we know when a guest does buy it, they’re getting what they paid for, and they’re feeling really good about it. “

But Leslie Harvey, founder of the site Trips With Tykes and co-founder of the Disneyland with Kids Facebook group, said some fans are frustrated because they are having to spend more for an experience that they feel is not worth the higher price. On a recent trip, she said she had “never seen so many animatronics broken on rides.”

“People are always upset any time there’s a Disneyland price increase,” she said.

She added: “Some people really do feel priced out.”

Testa said Disney observers noted years ago that the company “had essentially abandoned the middle class,” targeting instead the top-earning 1 percent to 20 percent of American households.

“I think the big concern Disney’s going to face next is that at those premium prices, consumers are going to expect a premium experience,” he said in his email. “And we’ve started to see families say things like, ‘For the kind of prices Disney’s charging to see their replica of St. Mark’s Square in EPCOT, I can bring my whole family to the real Italy for a week.’ So I think that’s the new big concern for them. “

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