USA TODAY US Edition

Disney parks hike admission prices on busier days

Popularity in California and Florida give company ability to charge more without hurting demand.

- Matt Krantz

Walt Disney’s theme parks in California and Florida are so popular, prepare to pay more if you go when everyone else wants to.

Disney is the latest company to adopt pricing that rises during the most popular times, a trend likely to continue.

The giant entertainm­ent company Sunday launched “demand pricing,” where one-day ticket prices rise if you visit during seasons the park is most crowded. The surging popularity of Disney parks on both coasts is giving the company the pricing power to raise prices without hurting demand — a classic example of what economists call “inelastic demand.” Attendance has soared 10% at the company’s U.S. parks last quarter, highlighti­ng the unpreceden­ted demand that only intensifie­s as the company adds new attraction­s.

The stakes are big. The price hikes could allow Disney’s parks business to eclipse its ESPN sports network in terms of profit in just two years.

The stakes are big. Adopting price hikes — in addition to opening a new park in China — could allow Disney’s parks business to eclipse its ESPN sports network in terms of profit in just two years, according to data from market research firm Trefis.

Shares of Disney rose 21 cents to $95.52 Monday, the first day of trading after the changes were instituted.

Analysts think the move is bullish for the profitabil­ity of the parks. “Given a high fixed cost base, I think it’s obviously something that should foster continued margin expansion for the domestic parks — which also depends on the how long those price increases might be sustainabl­e,” says Tuna Amobi, analyst at S&P Global Market Intelligen­ce.

Depending on when they go, customers will either pay the “value,” “regular” or “peak” day prices. Peak days include those times when the parks are the most popular, including most of December, spring break and weekends during most of the summer. Value days are mainly Monday through Thursday during months the park is less busy.

Prices can swing faster than the Mad Tea cups based on when you go. On peak days, one-day admission for both parks in Anaheim, Disneyland and Disney California Adventure will rise 20% to $119 for adults.

One-day tickets had been $99 before the change. Going during “value” days cuts the price 4% to $95, and regular days go for $105.

The ticket price hikes are similar in Orlando. If you visit Florida parks during the peak times, the one-day price jumps to 18% to $124. Regular days cost $110 and value days go for $105 — the previous price of tickets.

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