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I’m a born and bred South Floridian. I’ve lived within a two-hour drive of Orlando all my life (save for my college years in Boston). I have 9- and 12-year-old daughters, a 15-year-old stepson, and a wife who spent most of her life living in the frozen confines of Chicago before joining me here in the Sunshine State.
So trust me when I tell you that I know a few things about the Walt Disney Co. (DIS, Weiss Ratings: A)! I’ve been to the Magic Kingdom, Epcot and Hollywood Studios more times than I can count. I’ve stayed at several on-park and off-park hotels around central Florida. And I’ve bought enough grilled turkey legs, frozen lemonades, stuffed toys, and collectible pins and lanyards to keep Disney’s shareholders fat and happy for years!
All of that is why I couldn’t help but comment on the Mouse House’s big news — that a standard, one-day ticket to the Magic Kingdom just breached the triple-digit barrier! Specifically, you’ll now have to pay $105 to visit the main park in Orlando — up 6 percent from a year ago.
Prices are also going up for its other Orlando-area parks, and Disney’s southern California attractions — putting them within a whisker of triple-digit territory! And if you’re a Florida resident (you get discounts not available to out-of-staters!), it’ll now set you back $529 for an annual pass. That’s up from $485. No wonder the U.K.’s Daily Mail newspaper tweaked Disney with the headline “It’s an EXPENSIVE world after all.”
But you know what I think? People will suck it up and pay it! Nothing in Disney’s recent corporate results suggests the company is having trouble attracting hordes of visitors or filling its thousands upon thousands of hotel rooms.
If anything, Disney continues to reinvent itself to keep the parks fresh. It recently rolled out a Snow White-themed roller coaster at the Magic Kingdom, and is in the process of re-constructing and re-branding its Norway pavilion ride at Epcot as a “Frozen” attraction.
Its FastPass and MagicBand wristband technology programs are also incredibly popular, helping to make visiting the parks (and spending gobs of dough while you’re there!) easier. Plus, the decent labor market, low gas prices, and lousy weather in pretty much the entire country EXCEPT for Southern California and Florida all make a Disney vacation much more attainable and attractive.
|“If anything, Disney continues to reinvent itself to keep the parks fresh.”|
Of course, Orlando is about much more than Disney. The price hikes there should lead to similar increases soon at SeaWorld, Universal Orlando Resort, and other nearby attractions.
But again, with new rides and attractions like the expanded Harry Potter-themed area at Universal, I’m expecting Americans to keep showing up. As a matter of fact, I’ll be there with my girls to drink the nonalcoholic “Butterbeer” and tackle the Gringotts bank ride myself in a couple weeks.
No wonder shares of Disney and Universal’s parent Comcast (CMCSA, Weiss Ratings: A-) keep hitting new all-time highs!
So what do you think? Is Disney getting too greedy? Will it kill the golden mouse by breaking the triple-digit ticket barrier? Or is this just the latest in a long line of increases that won’t hurt attendance? Do you think Disney shares are still a buy here? Or would you stay away?
And how about Disney’s competitors? Will they follow suit, and if so, what does that mean for American and foreign vacationers? Here’s the link to the Money and Markets website again. Let your voice be heard — before you lose it from screaming too loud on a theme park thrill ride!
|Our Readers Speak|
The squabbling continues in Europe, and so does the debate at the website over what should happen with Greece, Germany, and other troubled EU members.
Reader Robert C. tried to put some historical perspective on the latest drama, noting that Greece doesn’t exactly have a solid credit history! His comments:
“I just finished reading a great book titled ‘This Time is Different, Eight Centuries of Financial Folly’ by Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff. The authors studied 200 years of sovereign default and banking crisis from 1800 to 2008. In this period of time, Greece wins the prize of being in default for 50.6 years and in a banking crisis for 4.4 years.
“The point of the book is that nothing ever changes. Greece and other countries follow the same pattern of excessive spending, borrowing and taxation. When these crises happen, we delude ourselves in to thinking that this time is different, when in reality, the normalcy bias takes over and instead of implementing pro growth policies, we do the same irresponsible things over and over again. Too many generations of people all over the world have suffered.”
Reader Mark picked up on that train of thought as well, saying: “The people in Greece keep electing leaders who will give them the easy way out with no thought of sacrifice or facing any kind of reality. Germany relented to yet another delay.
“Even if they work things out somehow and find a lasting solution, Greece is but one leg of the EU foundation and the rest are still crumbling. This will continue to affect the Euro/Dollar question until something more encompassing is put in place. As they say, ‘You can put lipstick on a pig …'”
Finally, Reader F.D. noted the irony of everyone criticizing Germany for its approach toward Greece given what it endured in the not-too-distant past. The comments:
“Many people are unhappy with the Germans for their ‘lack of compassion’ for the Greeks. But do you remember anyone offering to help the Germans when they had to pay considerable funds to integrate the former East Germany with West Germany after the reunification in 1989? I don’t.
“So now the German taxpayers are saying they have had enough. Why should they have to pay the Greeks for their tax evasion? Would you be willing to bail everyone else out when they stood by hoping secretly that you would fail to properly reunite your country? This should be remembered by all when thinking about the situation in Europe.”
Meanwhile, you also continued to talk about the recent move by Wal-Mart Stores (WMT, Weiss Ratings: B+) to raise wages.
Reader C.C. pointed out that people seem awfully jaded about Wal-Mart’s move, and might want to cut the company some slack:
“Folks sure like to beat up on Wal-Mart. Nothing they do could please some people. But so many do shop there and they DO save money. They are a good and successful company, pay a lot of taxes and provide thousands of jobs. NO ONE is forced to work there. They do have to make a profit. Give them credit for doing a good job!”
Reader John took a similar tack, and said the Wal-Mart workers he talked to were definitely happy with what their employer had done. His observations:
“I’m trying to see these moderate raises of salaries as a positive thing. I went to Wal-Mart today and talked to a number of employees. All of them were very pleased, even though this won’t raise them out of the poverty level.
“They also said they consider it a good management decision and will remain that way unless something negative shows up. They were all faithful to Wal-Mart management so I hope the company continues in good faith. I think they will. I pray they will. Happy employees result in great, successful businesses.”
Thanks again for adding your thoughts to the mix, and please continue to do so at the Money and Markets website. I believe Greece will probably get its money and buy some breathing room with it. Not because it’s the “right” thing to do, mind you, but because European officials fear a breakup in the euro currency union more than just about anything.
And as for Wal-Mart, let’s hope more American companies follow suit! We need workers AND shareholders to benefit financially in order for the economic recovery to broaden out.
|Other Developments of the Day|
Union workers and management at West Coast ports reached a tentative deal that would settle their contract dispute. But it could take several weeks to clear the backlog of containers, ships, and cargo that built up during the labor crisis.
The acquisition-hungry drug company Valeant Pharmaceuticals (VRX, Weiss Ratings: C) is at it again. It announced plans to buy Salix Pharmaceuticals (SLXP, Weiss Ratings: C-) for $158 per share, or around $10 billion total. Salix is a somewhat-tarnished drug company that Valeant wants for products used to treat stomach ailments.
We’ll hear from Federal Reserve Chairman Janet Yellen this week, since she is scheduled to speak before a hostile Congress on the state of the economy. As this Bloomberg story notes, both Republicans and Democrats are taking aim at the Fed’s policies, it method of operating, and more.
I managed to stay awake for at least an hour-and-change of last night’s Oscar telecast. But I’m surprised I made it even that long. This year’s crop of nominated films was basically a bunch of no-name, overly artsy stuff without much mass appeal or viewership. Heck, I had to Google more than half the movies just to figure out what they were about!
The film “Birdman” was the big winner, while actors, actresses and assorted other professionals associated with the even more obscure “Whiplash” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel” took home their own crop of Oscars.
Want to … er … “squawk” about the latest crop of Oscar winners? Or let me know if a C-note sounds reasonable for a day at Disney? Then head on over to the website and have at it!
Until next time,