Wednesday, January 13, 2010

U Select Magic Your Way

I promised myself I wouldn't write another article about Universal next. I lied.

To be fair - how couldn't I? They have the biggest story this week: A new pricing structure called Magic Your Way U Select.

Click here to see the new price structure.

Magic Your Way was seen as a revolution in pricing. People wanted a 1 day park hopper, which didn't exist. Someone can correct me, but I believe park hopping wasn't an option until a 3 or 4 day ticket.

Anyone who's worked a Disney main gate can tell you the amount of trouble the park hopping option causes. Most people understand it, but the ones who don't get very upset. For example - If I buy Three 1 Day tickets to Disney, I could use them all in one day at Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Studios. Oh look - they have a 3 day ticket - great, I'll just hop over to a park and use another one of my days. Sorry - that's considered park hopping, not using another day on your ticket. That'll cost you an upcharge.

What I do like about Universal's option is that the park-to-park feature costs as little as $10 more - and at most $30 more. What's unfortunate is that the 7 Day 2 park ticket that cost you $99 a week ago now costs you $170 - a 72% increase (Orlando Sentinel - 1/11/10). That's a pretty steep price.

Disney base tickets have 3 options to add - Fun (WaterParks/DisneyQuest/Oak Trail/Sports Complex), Park Hopping, and No Expiration. The tickets expire 14 days after the first use if you don't add No Expiration - but it's not immediately clear whether these tickets expire or not (they do, and not surprisingly, 14 days after the first use.)

A lot of people view this as Comcast (the new owner of NBC Universal) is instituting these changes - however, they don't actually own them yet. What does surprise me is that Blackstone - owning both Universal and Sea World didn't take the opportunity to add an option to park hop between Sea World, Busch Gardens and the Universal Parks. Of course, from an outsider's perspective that's an obvious choice, but not necessarily an easy one to determine internally - who gets revenue from the ticket? Ticket sellers? First use in a day? Someone is going to get hosed in that scenario.

So why couldn't Universal come up with their own ticket structure? Is this a clever way to hide a price hike (and a substantial one at that) ahead of Harry Potter (those theme park attractions don't pay for themselves)? Or is this truly giving the consumers the options they want to choose to have a customizable ticket? One thing is for sure - it will be easier for people who are using both Disney and Universal tickets, they'll get a heck of a lot of consistency... you can't park hop at either without paying, and the tickets expire in 14 days. Not a lot of confusion to be had....

... Nah, they'll still get confused. Who am I kidding?

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