Money can't buy happiness, but you will need a lot of it to visit "The Happiest Place on Earth."
"Uhh, Mom, who is this?"(via Getty)
Do you have fond memories of visiting Disney World as a kid? Are you finding it harder to afford to go now that you're a repressed 30-something with a little bit of expendable income? Would you believe that when Disney World first opened in 1971, the price of admission was $3.50, roughly the cost of 3 gallons of milk at the time? Every year since, the cost of admission has gone uppity-up-up.
The Washington Post reporter Drew Harwell outlined how Disney went from a middle-class household name to a behemoth luxury brand. To better illustrate how expensive Disney World tickets have become, the graph below plots the actual rising cost of admission since opening day against what that ticket would cost in last-year-dollars.
(via The Washington Post)
Around 1980, the price spiked due to the recession and runaway inflation. Within the last decade, the barrier of monetary entry has risen steadily and handsomely. Every year for the past ten years, Disney admission revenue has increased by 10 percent. In 2014, ticket sales raked in $5 billion, not including food and merchandise, which is another $5 billion. Not bad for a cartoon mouse who isn't in cartoons anymore. It is bad for a regular family who just wants to have fun and maybe see Elsa or Mufasa or Harry Potter or Iron Man or Fred MacMurray or whoever else Disney owns by the time I publish this thing.
Attendance has always been high at Disney World and its subsidiary parks in the Orlando, Florida area. With higher demand, Disney's business strategy has been to target the richest of the rich, the one-percenters on vacation. Not only is the cost of admission pricing out the shrinking middle class, but Disney parks offer stratified park experiences catering to customers who don't care about cost. There are $115 steak meals, $200 princess makeovers, passes to skip to the front of the waiting line at rides, $3400-a-night tiki bungalow suites, and a world of other luxuries for the luxuriant (and—let's face it—tacky) holiday maker.
So, you might be asking "What's the big deal, crybaby? Are you poor or something?" Walt Disney opened Disney World as a place for "all families to be able to spend time together in a fun atmosphere and be able to afford it," according to Scott Smith, assistant professor of hospitality at the University of South Carolina and former Disney park employee. “But as a kid who started there with his first job at 16, steeped in the tradition? It does make me sad that something that was set up by Walt, who wanted all families to be able to spend time together in a fun atmosphere and be able to afford it, is going by the wayside."