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Universal matches Disney's price hike

Orlando Sentinel

Original Article »

August 11, 2007

The same day it reported a rise in corporate profits and a continued slide in theme-park attendance, Universal Orlando raised many of its ticket prices Friday, matching Walt Disney World's $71 for a one-day adult admission.

The new prices took effect immediately, days after Disney instituted similar increases. Both resorts raised their basic one-day, one-park ticket by $4.

And similar to Disney, Universal also hiked the cost of many multiday packages, its Florida discount admissions and children's tickets. But the package prices rose less than the basic one-day, one-park tickets purchased at the resort, further enticing people to buy packages or get their tickets via the Internet.

Universal left unchanged the price of its popular "EarlyBird Exclusive" Internet packages, which start at $85.95 and allow unlimited visits to both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure during a seven-day period.

"We've worked very hard to preserve value for Floridians, people who want multiple-day experiences, and for those who buy online," spokesman Tom Schroder said.

The price hikes were announced shortly before the resort's parent company, Universal City Development Partners, filed its second-quarter financial statement, which reflected a 2.5 percent drop in attendance but a 32.2 percent rise in operating profit for the three-month period that ended July 1. The increase in operating profit was partly the result of the average visitor spending more on tickets, food, drink and merchandise than the average visitor during the second quarter of 2006.

The financial report, filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, shows the company earned a $36 million profit on $260 million in revenue during the quarter.

Paid attendance totaled 3.05 million in the two Orlando parks, down from 3.13 million in the same period last year.

The latest attendance report compares poorly with the second quarter of 2006, the report said, partly because this year's lucrative Easter-vacation period was split between the first and second financial quarters, while last year the entire season fell within the second quarter. But the parks' attendance also was down during the first quarter this year compared with a year earlier.

Still, Universal officials noted in a news release that attendance has trended ahead of last year's pace in recent weeks.

"We had an excellent quarter, and our strong financial results show continued success in how we manage our business," Bill Davis, president of Universal Orlando, stated in the release. "We look forward to a strong summer filled with great experiences for our guests."

Schroder said ticket prices were increased to keep them in line with "market rates." He said there was no connection in timing or cause between the price increases and release of the second-quarter financial report.

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