Would You Pay $125 for a Day at Disney World?

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Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World Orlando Florida FL
The country's priciest theme park may be about to get even more expensive. Disney (DIS) sent out a survey to recent resort guests late last month, asking them how they would feel about a tiered pricing strategy.

Guests presently pay $105 for a one-day ticket to visit its most popular park, Magic Kingdom. The survey tried to gauge guests' reaction to Disney charging $115 on some of the seasonally busier days and as much as $125 during the peak tourist periods in July and the winter holiday.

To be fair, the survey also posed lowering prices for some of the family entertainment giant's less popular parks during the off-season. However, once you introduce the potential of $125 for a day at the park, you know you're going to hear it.

There's Nothing Goofy About It

Disney's Magic Kingdom became the first theme park to bump its single-day admissions into the triple digits earlier this year, boosting its rate to $105 in late February from $99. That turned heads, but it also still turned turnstiles.

Disney reported record results at its Florida theme parks in its latest quarter, and it also came through with strong growth last year despite another big ticket increase. Disney itself doesn't publish individual attendance metrics, but industry watcher Themed Entertainment Association just put out its tallies for the leading amusement and theme park operators in 2014, and it was another big year for Mickey Mouse.

Themed Entertainment Association pegs the Magic Kingdom's attendance at a record 19.3 million, 4 percent ahead of the prior year. Disney World's three other Florida parks drew smaller audiences, and only climbed at a mere 2-percent clip.

The attendance gap between the Magic Kingdom and the rest of its sister parks continues to widen, and that's despite Disney moving to park-specific pricing in 2013. Each of Florida's four Disney parks used to charge the same one-day ticket prices until then, and making the Magic Kingdom more expensive than its other parks hasn't stopped guests from choosing it on arrival.

Let's Go Fly a Hike

Surveying resort guests about tiered pricing on single-day admissions may not be the ideal sample of respondents. Most of them either have annual passes or are buying Magic Your Way passes that cover all of the parks for a set number of days. In short, these aren't the people buying one-day tickets.

However, it's clear that there's pricing flexibility at the Magic Kingdom. It's also clear that the world's largest theme park operator is falling behind in updating its lesser parks to keep pace. Instead of charging even more for the Magic Kingdom, the real push at Disney should be sprucing up its other parks to make them as valuable in the eyes of savvy travelers.

Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz owns shares of Walt Disney. He's also spending the summer in Celebration, Florida, covering the industry at mouse level. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Walt Disney. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. Looking for a winner for your portfolio? Check out The Motley Fool's one great stock to buy for 2015 and beyond.
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