Why annual passes to California theme parks have turn out to be a nasty deal

Have theme parks turn out to be subscription services?

It's been years since everyone who visits Disneyland or other parks simply bought their tickets at the doorway after they arrived. The parks have pushed their fans to purchase annual passes, and just about all of them now offer monthly payment plans.

The shift from day passes to passes has profound financial and operational implications for the industry, which got me wondering if we’d all be higher off if the parks eliminated annual passes and easily went back to day passes.

Given today's every day admission prices within the parks, that is unimaginable for a lot of fans. Disneyland charges nearly $200 for a day pass on peak days. But I believe that the dramatic increase in day pass and admission ticket prices, in addition to the event of paid skip-the-line services like Six Flags' Flash Pass and Disney Genie+, are direct consequences of the parks' success in selling annual passes.

Annual passes were originally an try to increase revenue per visitor by selling dearer passes. However, the result has been a decrease in revenue per visit as passholders visit more and so often displace day passholders. This results in parks attempting to increase their per capita revenue through higher day pass prices and better in-park surcharges.

The irony? These higher prices encourage more loyal visitors to purchase annual passes, perpetuating the vicious cycle. At the identical time, casual fans simply stop visiting Disneyland and other theme parks because they will now not afford them, and the parks are forced to depend on a limited variety of increasingly restless and dissatisfied passholders.

Imagine a “Dry 2025” – the industry equivalent of a “Dry January” – where as an alternative of giving up alcohol, parks gave up annual or season passes for a 12 months to see how much demand there really is for his or her parks at regular admission prices. I believe that parks would should quickly lower their every day pass prices to maintain their parks full. But their average revenue per visit would increase if annual passholders were now not in the combo.

More reasonably priced parks that make more cash for his or her owners? I'm in.

Unfortunately, I fear many parks won’t survive this modification. Without a base of annual passholders to sustain their attendance, too many parks lack the fresh attractions, efficient operations and well-supported customer support that day pass buyers would demand. Disney and Universal would do exactly fantastic, with their hotels and unique mental property that enables them to appeal to a worldwide audience. But everyone else?

My best experiences at recent parks outside of Disney and Universal have been at Silver Dollar City and Holiday World – parks which can be removed from major cities and have plentiful annual passholder populations. They have needed to make a living by selling every day tickets, which has resulted in a greater park experience.

Just as low cost streaming services have contributed to the decline in demand for movies and linear television, annual passes have given theme parks and their customers what’s now a nasty business.

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