Starting Sunday, the cost of a one-day ticket to any of Walt Disney World's four parks is going up to $67 — a 6.3 percent increase, the largest since 1991.
The hike is the second time in eight months the resort has bumped the cost of admission and represents an increase of almost 12 percent since December and 22 percent since early 2004.
Disney officials did not say what is prompting the $4 increase — which also affects the company's Magic Your Way flexible ticket plans — except to say the new price is in line with the needs of the travel industry.
The latest decision surprised a few industry observers and rattled some tourists Friday, but all said it would not deter people from visiting the parks.
Addison Williams, 68, of Atlanta said the prices were getting out of hand, especially for a family. The retiree, on vacation with nine family members and friends, said he was thankful he wasn't paying for everyone.
"I know it's a family theme park, but a family has to practically take out a loan to come here," Williams said as he paused during a shopping trip to International Drive.
Historically, Disney World and Orlando's two other theme-park resorts, Universal Orlando and SeaWorld Orlando, raised prices within weeks of one another and stayed relatively close. Universal went to $63 in January and SeaWorld to $61.95 in December.
There was no indication whether either expects to raise prices soon. SeaWorld spokeswoman Becca Bides said that park's prices are based on SeaWorld business, not on Disney's decision.
Disney last raised its basic ticket to $63 on Jan. 1, up from $59.75. The last time Disney increased prices by more than 6 percent was 1991, when basic admission went from $31 to $33.
"We believe we offer a great value and remain competitive in the market," Disney spokeswoman Jacquee Polak said.
Does price matter?
The new price shouldn't be much of a deterrent because Walt Disney World and Orlando, in general, are increasingly "must" vacations for many people at almost any price, said Ady Milman, a theme-park business professor at the Rosen College of Hospitality Management at the University of Central Florida.
Many tourists agreed.
"It's something you have to do," said Isabel Geurts, 46, of Glasgow, Scotland, who included Disney on her family's vacation to Orlando's attractions. "You want to go to Magic Kingdom just to say you've been."
But Disney's ticket prices are going up while gas prices are skyrocketing. That bothered retired sales manager Bob Standers, 68, of Lake Worth who visited Disney with his wife. "It's too expensive," he said.
Though some theme parks including Universal have struggled lately with attendance, Disney's crowd has been growing, up 5 percent last year and 3 percent in the first quarter of this year.
And the company will kick off a big, new promotional campaign called Year of a Million Dreams in October.
Last year, Disney joined other theme parks in moving away from selling most of its tickets one at a time. Under Magic Your Way, people can buy packages that discount the price of the tickets for multiple-day purchases.
The new increases cover most but not all of Disney's ticket prices. Magic Your Way tickets will see prices go up at all levels, about 3 percent to 6 percent. Disney's Park Hopper feature, which allows people to attend any of its parks, goes up $5 to $45. Yet water-park tickets remain the same, as do Florida resident three-day theme-park tickets.
In the next year or so, Disney is adding several smaller attractions, such as a new ride at Epcot called The Seas with Nemo & Friends and a new comedy show at Magic Kingdom called "The Laugh Floor Comedy Club," plus numerous events and shows tied to Year of a Million Dreams. But there are no announced plans for any major new attractions such as Expedition Everest, which opened in April.
"We would still come," said Melanie Hughes, 45, a teaching assistant from Coventry, England, in town with her family of four. "It doesn't make any difference, not when you're coming from England."
Safety becomes theme
What tourists want today is a safe, reliable vacation, and so more are turning to Disney regardless of the price, Milman said.
His research finds a trend showing travelers opting for places where they can be assured a consistent, quality experience, such as theme parks, over more authentic but less predictable experiences, such as vacations to European cities.
Milman also said the law of supply and demand applies.
"I think Disney is going to increase the price until people stop coming," he said.
Jerry Aldrich, president of Amusement Industry Consulting in Orlando, said Disney does careful analysis and knows what its customers are willing to pay.
"They really look at their surveys. Most places want to make sure they're in the ballpark for the value received versus the cost," Aldrich said. "There's a lot of planning and research before it's done."
He also said all of Orlando's theme parks are among the best anywhere, and none wants to be perceived as a lower-price, "discount" theme park, noting, "It'll be interesting to see what the other two do."