LAKE BUENA VISTA — In an attempt to keep the hotels and the theme parks filled, Walt Disney World has decided to slash some prices for Florida residents as a way of saying thank you to in-state residents for their patronage and support over the years.
At the same time, Central Florida’s three theme park giants — Disney, Universal Studios and SeaWorld — have hiked admission prices to just short of $60 per person.
Reaction to the new price tag of $59.75 was mixed, based on a recent sampling of residents. While Disney employs nearly 54,000 workers and hosts millions of visitors each year, for some the theme park is getting too pricey.
Harry Bellini, 48, has spent a good portion of his life in the region of theme parks, living in Deltona, St. Cloud and now Kissimmee for most of those decades. Bellini thinks Disney is “missing the entire point. Disney sold its soul years ago, and all you really need to do is pay attention to the decline in likability when you hear the name Disney these days.”
Bellini said he thinks the theme park giant has been on a decline for more than a decade.
“It all starts with the movies over the last 15 years, and (Former Disney President Michael) Eisner selling the place out for whatever buck he could get his hands on. It is just too expensive for what they offer. I still see things from the 1970s that they have the gaul to include in their ticket prices.”
Even the new discounts for Florida residents didn’t convince Bellini.
“Florida residents should get a mandatory 30 percent discount no matter the time, day or month of the year,” he said. “If Disney World knew what they were doing, they would realize that a 10 percent discount is a joke, and they could keep the parks filled with more locals if they just made it worth the price.”
Dina Lorenzo, 24, of Celebration loves Disney World and the area but also thinks, “It is time for Disney to cough up more deals and breaks for the local citizens.
“As a local resident who has to deal with the traffic and the influx daily of new people, there should be an automatic 20 percent discount for Osceola and Orange County residents,” Lorenzo said. “Places like EPCOT and Magic Kingdom are not worth what they currently charge per park. I am sorry to say that because I loved Disney World and all it has to offer for years. But trying to raise a family and work constantly all week, I should not have to save for months to be able to take my kids to a theme park that is five minutes down the road from me.”
Last month, Disney officially kicked off its “Make Your Way” ticket plan, allowing guests to create their own tickets for a customized vacation. The program, which started on Jan. 2, allows guests to buy tickets at the resort’s four theme parks tailored to the length of their vacation and the interests of their particular group. It allows them to save money per day based on the length of their stay.
The new program also allows Florida residents who sometimes make shorter but more frequent trips to the Lake Buena Vista resort to choose from three savings options, including getting a third day free with the purchase of a two-day ticket, a 10 percent savings on a one-day base ticket, or a free Park Hopper option added to a full-price one-day ticket.
But that 10 percent savings didn’t impress Lorenzo, either.
“Who are they kidding with 10 percent?” she said. “They need to be more realistic in these days of $2 a gallon for gas and then insurance for yourself, and kids and taxes. Disney needs to step out of the fantasy land they work in and into fiscal reality and responsibility.”
Joe Anne Nettles, 48, of Kissimmee has found the discount to be a nice gesture and likes what Disney puts out for the entertainment dollar.
“I don’t mind paying the fees, to be honest,” he said. “Look, it costs money to have fun and Disney World is fun, and it is half of the reason why I am still as close to my family as I am. It gives them a reason to come across country and spend a week with me throughout the year.”
Others say Disney’s problem is not the price of admission.
Michael Crawford, 33, of St. Cloud thinks Disney’s recent movies and the annual Gay Day’s event that goes on at the theme parks in June are the reason Disney is cutting down its costs for state residents.
“I seriously believe when you used to think of the name Disney, you would think of families and wholesome cartoons,” he said. “That doesn’t exist anymore. Sure, there is a misconception that Disney actually sponsors the Gay Days because they don’t. They go on at all of the parks. What is wrong is to not let the general public know across the media what days these will be during the year. They want to have their cake and eat it too. How fair is that? It’s not fair at all and Disney is losing that battle and they know it. I have had family and friends come down in the past and not know it was Gay Days at Disney. Have you seen what goes on inside the park and all around town during then? I can assure you it is not the wholesome image Disney promises, far from it.”
Diego Miello, 20, of Orlando agreed that Disney’s wholesome image has been tarnished and is no longer worth the cost.
“Have you seen their movies lately?” Miello said. “Have you seen their ticket prices and the cost for a bottle of water inside of the parks? Have you been in town during Gay Days?
“Disney?” Miello added. “No, thank you!”