Disney World No Longer Affordable for Middle Class

In 1971, when Walt Disney World opened the arcade was a penny and marching-band parade down Main Street U.S.A. Admission for an adult was $3.50.

Since then, Disney has raised the gate price for the Magic Kingdom 41 times. Prices have nearly doubled in the past decade. This year, a ticket past $100, per person, for the first time.

Growing costs haven’t diminished Disney’s drawing power. They hosted a record 19 million visitors last year, a number nearly as large as the population of New York state.

American theme parks were built on deep roots in middle-class family entertainment.

Advertised for years as a once-in-a-lifetime experience, Disney’s parks have continually set new visitor records.

Disney park admissions revenue has grown about 10 percent every year for the past decade, to total more than $5 billion in 2014.

As long as the Magic Kingdom can pull in more than 80,000 visitors a day they seem happy with the higher profits. Today, Orlando tourists’ average household income peaked at about $93,000, more than $20,000 higher than the average U.S. household wage.

The price hikes won’t slow until the park sees a dip in demand. Disney seems to be experimenting with how to persuade parkgoers to pay even more. Disney surveys sent last month to guests suggested the giant was considering a tiered pricing structure that would clock peak-time “Gold” tickets, during summer and winter holidays, at $125. “Bronze”-level $105 tickets would allow entrance during less busy times.

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