7 ways Disneyland visitors are spending 40% more
Disneyland and Walt Disney World visitors are spending 40% more today than they did just before the COVID-19 pandemic thanks to a host of obvious and subtle cost increases that have significantly raised the price of fun at Disney theme parks.
Visitor spending at Disney’s domestic theme parks increased by more than 40% in the second quarter of 2022 versus 2019 and by 20% compared to the same period in 2021, according to the company’s latest earnings report.
“Our domestic parks were a standout,” Disney CEO Bob Chapek said during the earnings call last week. “They continue to fire on all cylinders powered by strong demand coupled with customized and personalized guest experience enhancements.”
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How is it possible spending is up 40% after pandemic closures at Disney theme parks on both coasts and the continuing economic headwinds brought on by the continuing international health crisis?
In short, Disney came up with more ways for visitors to spend money following the pandemic pause at both Disneyland and Disney World.
How are Disneyland and Disney California Adventure visitors spending 40% more now? Let’s count the ways.
Disneyland didn’t raise ticket prices when the Anaheim theme parks returned in April 2021 after a yearlong pandemic closure. But the price freeze was short-lived. Disneyland raised ticket prices an average of 6% in October 2021, about six months after the parks returned.
Disneyland replaced its four-decade-old annual pass program in August 2021 with the new Magic Key program. The $399 to $1,399 Magic Key price range remained in line with 2019 prices for Disneyland annual passes.
Price increases for daily tickets and annual passes have long been a yearly ritual at Disneyland. The one-year anniversary of the Magic Key program is fast approaching in August. Disneyland has yet to announce the renewal process for keyholders — or to say if annual pass prices will be increasing.
The cost of parking also rose across the Disneyland resort in October 2021.
The daily theme park parking rates rose from $25 to $30 — a 20% increase. Self parking at the Disneyland resort’s three hotels also climbed from $25 to $40 — a 60% increase. Hotel valet parking jumped from $35 to $50 — a more than 40% increase.
A $5 price increase might seem like small change compared to the total cost of a day at Disneyland — but those dollars add up when you consider the scale of Disneyland’s parking operation.
Disneyland has more than 24,000 spaces at its three main parking locations — the 10,000-space Mickey & Friends garage, 6,500-space Pixar Pals garage and 7,878-space Toy Story lot. That’s nearly 9 million spaces of parking capacity per year — and almost $45 million in potential additional annual revenue with the $5 increase.
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Disney executives have been singing the praises of the new advance reservation system — installed when Disneyland and Disney World returned after pandemic closures — as a key driver of revenue growth.
Daily visitors and annual passholders are required to make advance reservations to visit Disney parks on both coasts. The reservations system has allowed Disney to manage attendance — reducing crowds on typically busy days and pushing attendance to traditionally slower days.
For decades, Disneyland annual passholders flooded the parks whenever they wanted and crowded out higher-spending daily visitors. The new reservation system put limits on the number of passholders that can enter Disneyland and DCA on a daily basis.
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The new audience mix — with fewer annual passholders and more daily visitors in attendance — has created more room for higher-spending out-of-towners with looser purse strings. The formula pays dividends: Managed attendance results in lighter crowds, less people make for more cheerful visitors and happy guests spend more money.
Those out-of-town visitors tend to spend the night in Disneyland resort hotels — which have also seen bookings steadily rise since reopening following the pandemic closure.
The loss of the free FastPass program was more a shock to the Disney World audience than Disneylanders who had seen the demise of the complimentary program for several years.
Disneyland and Disney World replaced the easy and complimentary line-cutting perk with a complex paid service.
Disneyland’s free FastPass and paid MaxPass services were replaced by two options: The $20 Disney Genie+ line-cutting service and the individual Lightning Lane option that charges $7 to $15 to jump to the front of the line on the most popular rides.
Disney execs have been blown away by how much Genie+ and Lightning Lane have helped raise average theme park revenue on both coasts. More than one-third of Disneyland and Disney World visitors purchased either Genie+, Lightning Lane or both during the company’s first quarter with more than 50% paying for the services during the Christmas holiday season.
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Increased spending across the board on food and beverages at Disney’s U. S. theme parks have also helped boost the company’s quarterly earnings.
Mobile ordering at Disneyland and DCA eateries got a big push after the parks reopened — in part to promote pandemic-era social distancing mandates. The frictionless payment option makes it easier for Disneyland visitors to place orders and speeds pick-up times.
The digital food and beverage management tool also allows Disneyland to more effectively spread purchases to less busy eateries and helps maximize kitchen efficiencies.
The push to mobile ordering has also resulted in longer lines for walk-up customers at some Disneyland and DCA quick service restaurants that have reduced the number of cashier stands. Fewer cashier stands also means fewer cashiers — which allows Disneyland to save money and relocate employees to other positions.
Pandemic shortages and higher raw material costs have also forced Disney to shrink food portion sizes — which means customers are getting fewer bites with the savings going into Disney’s pockets.
For decades, Disneyland was famously alcohol-free — but that has changed since 2019. Oga’s Cantina started serving alcohol in May 2019 and the Blue Bayou added booze in summer 2021.
Those stiff drinks come with equally stiff prices. Oga’s has raised the price of collectible beer flights from $75 in 2019 to $86 today. A Cliff Dweller drink at the wretched hive of scum and villainy will set you back $36. Blue Bayou is a bit more affordable with $16 Hurricanes and wines ranging from $13 to $42 per glass.
Alcohol adds to the profit margin of any restaurant operation — particularly when you’re paying a Disneyland premium.
The boost in Disney’s quarterly revenue was also due in part to increased spending on theme park merchandise.
There’s never been a shortage of things to buy at Disneyland — but the prices have continued to climb since 2019.
The prime example has to be Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, where visitors can pick up a $100 hand-built droid and a $220 custom lightsaber (up $20 since 2019). Big spenders can drop $6,000 on stormtrooper armor and $25,000 on a remote-controlled astromech droid in Galaxy’s Edge.
Souvenir popcorn buckets and drink sippers have long been a big boon for Disneyland drawing long lines of faithful fans looking to add a new item to their collection — for a price. The return of the Main Street Electrical Parade was accompanied by $33 light-up Elliott the dragon popcorn buckets and $30 light-up turtle sippers. Big crowds of collectors caused Disneyland to run out of the popular collectibles several times during the opening weeks of the parade.
Closing Disneyland or DCA early for an after-hours party effectively allows Disney to charge twice for admission to the parks in a single day. The strategy has made October one of the most profitable times of the year for theme parks during the Halloween season.
Disneyland doesn’t lower ticket prices on the days with after-hours parties that close the parks early to daily visitors. Costs for after-hours parties like the most-recent Star Wars Nite start at $134.
The limited-time events are full of specialty foods, drinks, merchandise and collectibles that encourage visitors to open their wallets — and helped boost Disney theme park spending by more than 40% during the most recent financial quarter.