Disney is testing the opportunities for dynamic pricing with a $299 entrance fee for a Pixar Pier preview.

The pricing, for a special Pixar Pier preview, begs the question: will Disney, which has raised ticket prices by over 20 percent in the last five years, raise its general prices even higher, or is this an experiment in dynamic pricing?

Fans will be offered the chance to preview the new Disneyland attraction over six hours – for the ground-breaking high price of $299.

The Pixar Pier preview will set them back $50 an hour for the privilege of seeing the attraction a day before it officially opens.

Pixar Pier is based on iconic Pixar movies such as The Incredibles and Finding Nemo. Tickets include access to the California Adventure area which features a Cars-themed racing ride and a live Frozen show.

Visitors will also be given food vouchers. However many fans have expressed their outrage at the price on online forums.

Dynamic pricing in theme parks

This is clearly a special preview but it begs the question – is Disney planning to hike general prices?

It certainly could. Public demand at its theme parks is so high that Disneyland in California and Walt Disney World in Florida both fill to capacity at certain peak times of the year. As a result, the company has been considering new approaching to pricing as upgrades in Orlando are likely to pull in even more guests.

At present the average ticket price is $100 per person, rising to over $120 during peak holiday times. Prices have risen at roughly double the rate of inflation over the past five years.

However projections indicate that Disney could still charge much more without driving away too many customers. Executives are looking at a dynamic pricing structure along the lines of those operated by airlines, in which prices are dependent on when the ticket is purchased. Encouraging visitors to buy tickets further in advance, even if it’s only one day ahead of their visit, will allow parks to plan more easily.

Personalised or dynamic pricing has been tested recently by Merlin Entertainments at SEA LIFE Scheveningen, where the Convious AI software doubled online revenue.

Disney has already introduced dynamic pricing in a limited way, charging a sliding scale of prices based on ‘value’, ‘regular’ and ‘peak’ dates. Tickets range from $97 to $135 at Disneyland and between $102 and $122 at Walt Disney World.

However such a move is not without its risks. The company doesn’t want to be seen to exploit its loyal fan-base and higher prices would be seen as going against the original vision of affordable entertainment for families.

Beyond the one-size-fits-all experience

One-off events like the Pixar Pier preview shows Disney thinking outside the one-size-fits-all experience.

As guests increasingly look for that instagrammable memory, there are opportunities for theme parks to create personalised, exclusive experiences that will attract premium pricing.  Disney already offers a range of highly priced VIP options for guests who can afford to splash out.  A recent Disney competition offers an exclusive glamping experience in Pandora.

“We’re pursuing a number of strategies, including pricing and increased capacity, to better spread demand throughout the year so that we can fulfil our mission of exceeding guest expectations every day,” says Catherine Powell, president of Disney Parks Western Region.

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