One man's surge pricing (or demand pricing) may be another's price gouging. Uber, the ride sharing platform, has brought the idea of surge pricing to the forefront--when the cars are in high demand, the platform company raises its fares. Uber justifies the surge as a means to ensure reliability and availability for those who agree to pay a bit more.
Uber is not alone in adopting the demand pricing model. At the end of February 2016, Disney announced it would be adopting demand pricing for its amusement parks in California and Florida. This move has resulted in some backlash: The Economist, for example, wrote that "what Disney World is doing is old-fashioned price discrimination."
Disney's new pricing model is more nuanced than just raising prices when its parks are in high demand. In fact, the demand pricing only affects single-day tickets to the company’s parks. As The New York Times explained, "At Disneyland, located in Anaheim, Calif., which attracts roughly 17 million visitors annually, single-day tickets now cost $99...'value' tickets, for Mondays through Thursdays during weeks when most schools are in session, will drop to $95." There will be separate prices for "regular" tickets and "peak" tickets. However, the new pricing has no impact on multi-day park passes. This is a key point, particularly for the Orlando-based parks, as most families vacationing at or near Disney World opt for multi-day park packages. It is worth noting that demand-based pricing, which is commonly used in the lodging and airline industries, has already been adopted by other themes park operators in the United States, including Universal Studios.
Along for the ride? The logic behind Disney’s surge pricing
While families spending their vacation at Disney will be mostly unaffected by the pricing strategy, day trippers will be more likely to feel the pinch. The new pricing model is designed to encourage day trippers to schedule their visits during non-peak days and seasons. Those day trippers are essentially provided an incentive to visit the park when there are fewer people. In theory, that could decrease the congestion at the parks during peak times and, accordingly, decrease the amount of time spent waiting in line for rides.