Higher Prices, Lower Crowds at Disney World

Things are going up and down at Disney World these days. The first thing that’s up is the general ticket costs.

That shouldn’t be news to anyone who’s considered a Disney vacation in the past few years. Every year Disney keeps raising their prices; since the last time we covered this topic, a one-day one-park adult admission price has gone up again.

Now it costs adults $79 to visit a single park for one day, and child tickets have climbed to $68. And that’s not the only price hike that happened in ’09.

Many of the prices for the park’s other features have snuck higher, but one of the more significant is the Disney Dining Plan. The plan is only offered to those who already pay for Disney World annual passes or to members of the Disney Vacation Club.

At the current cost of $41/night, the basic dining plan offers one full table meal, one quick meal, and one snack. The details do not specify whether the full or quick meals are enough to cover a whole family, or just one person.

Since just one meal at a Disney restaurant can easily exceed $41, the plan is a money saver, at least for those who want to spend most of their vacation eating at Disney restaurants. The price is only going up to $47, but what irks me about the price hike is that the plan is only available to those who already pay Disney a lot of money for special services, and now the House of Mouse is trying to squeeze further cash out of them.

While all of these prices are going up at Disney World, one very important thing is going down: attendance. A Wall Street investment firm predicts that the combined attendance at Disney World and Disneyland will drop 3% in 2010.

That might not seem like a big number, but considering the billions of guests to each park every year, that means a lot of people are choosing to stay home. Disney World is likely to be more affected, as its attendance rate was flat in 2009 and Disneyland’s went up 7%.

UBS Investment Research made its estimation two days after Disney’s CEO Bob Iger announced he expected Disney parks to scale back on many promotions in the second half of 2010.

Those discounts are what kept attendance rates to the park healthy despite the recession. But Disney’s lost money on them; per capita guest spending went down 6% in 2009.

It’s a sticky scenario; less people are going to Disney World because the prices are going up, but the prices are going up because Disney isn’t making enough. Though I do have to wonder how much the Walt Disney Corporation needs that extra 6% in revenue from a couple of its parks.

There have always been two main deterrents standing between me and a Disney World vacation: cost and crowds. For those for whom the latter is more repellent, now is the time to take that trip down to Florida.

As for me, I’ll just keep saving up and maybe make my trip in a few years, after the new Fantasyland expansion opens.

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