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Disney World: Ticket-Price Rises, New Fees, Pricier Food (but Also New Attractions)

People buying Walt Disney World tickets may pay more, but they'll also get more.

Walt Disney (DIS) - Get Walt Disney Company Report regularly raises prices because higher prices never seem to damp demand for tickets to its theme parks. 

At Walt Disney World, the Burbank, Calif., company has found ways to bring ticket prices higher while cutting back on services like its Magical Express, which once provided free transportation from the airport to the company's on-property hotels.

The theme-park company has also cut back on live entertainment at Disney World during the pandemic (ostensibly for social distancing reasons) and certain live shows have been slow to return. In addition, night-time fireworks came back only recently -- a move that both kept people from congregating and saved Disney money.

None of those cutbacks have kept Disney from raising prices at its Florida parks. The company revamped its annual-pass prices, which made most of them more expensive. Disney also replaced its FastPass+ system with the paid Genie program, and raised prices on its separate ticket after-hour events. In addition. 

Disney has used a combination of smaller portions and higher prices to make its food more expensive.

It does this largely because it can. Visitors seem to shrug off price increases and seeing once-free perks become extra expenses. 

But while the Mouse House has raised prices, it has also invested heavily in its parks, and a number of new attractions and restaurants are on the way.

Disney World Keeps Adding Rides and Attractions

Everything changed for Walt Disney when Comcast's (CMCSA) - Get Comcast Corporation Class A Report Universal Studios opened "The Wizarding World of Harry Potter" in 2010 at its Florida theme park. That new themed land raised the standard for theme parks, and it was a wakeup call for Disney.

Harry Potter's launch set off an arms race between the two companies that continues to this date. Universal added a second Harry Potter land, opened roughly one new major ride each year, and opened the Volcano Bay water park. 

The Disney rival has also begun work on a fourth gate, "Epic Universe," which will likely contain an area themed to Nintendo's NTDOY popular characters and, perhaps, a third Harry Potter land.

To counter, Disney built land based on the "Avatar" movies at its Animal Kingdom Park while it raised the standards for theme parks globally with "Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge" at Disney's Hollywood Studios. 

The company also furthered its mission to make Hollywood Studios park customers spend a full day by adding a land themed to the "Toy Story" movies.

That move happened before "Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge" opened and Toy Story Land never quite felt complete. Now, as part of its next phase of expansion, Disney plans to add a new restaurant and store to the theme park land.

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What's Coming to Walt Disney World

Disney has been adding attractions at a furious pace to keep up with what Universal Studios has done. The company opened a new attraction based on "Ratatouille" in Epcot's France pavilion, which also added a casual crepe restaurant. Epcot also added a new eatery in Japan and a highly-theme Space: 220 restaurant.

In addition to those additions, Epcot plans to overhaul Spaceship: Earth (the park's signature giant golf ball) and has a massive new roller-coaster themed to Marvel's "Guardian's of the Galaxy," Cosmic Rewind, set to open in 2022. 

Epcot also has plans for an interactive Play Pavilion and a water-themed walk-through attraction, Moana: Journey of Water.

While Epcot gets the biggest overhaul, Magic Kingdom won't be left out. The company's signature Florida theme park has a new roller-coaster, Tron Lightcycle Run, which is expected sometime in 2022. Magic Kingdom also has a revamp of its castle as well as the Jungle Cruise and Splash Mountain rides.

Animal Kingdom has nothing major on the immediate horizon, but Disney has not stopped its efforts to grow the audience at Hollywood Studios. With "Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge" igniting interest in that park, the company has chosen to finally round out the offerings at Toy Story Land by adding a new store as well as a restaurant, Roundup Rodeo BBQ.

"In this unique, fun, family-friendly dining experience, guests will enjoy delicious barbecue fare while surrounded by a kaleidoscope of toys, games, and playsets that Andy has brought together to create his one-of-a-kind rodeo.," the company wrote on its theme park blog. 

"Stepping into the lobby and waiting area, guests experience first-hand what it feels like to be one of Andy’s honorary toys, before progressing into two larger dining room spaces where Andy’s rodeo takes place."

Basically, Disney has decided that its theme park customers will essentially pay any price as long as the company keeps giving them new reasons to visit. That has been true in the past, but the pandemic has muddied the waters a bit because potential visitors have delayed or canceled Disney World trips because of the pandemic.

Walt Disney caters to an audience looking for experiences and family memories. That has allowed it to steadily raise prices and add fees. 

Over the next year, as the pandemic's impact on travel fades, the company will put that strategy to the test. But history suggests that consumers will continue to shrug off any price increases as long as Disney delivers the expected experiences.