TAMPA — At a time when many people are cutting back on spending any way they can, Busch Gardens and SeaWorld have announced a ticket price increase.
Effective Jan. 5, prices will increase $2 for a one-day ticket to Busch Gardens in Tampa, bringing the cost to $69.95 for adults and $59.95 for children. At SeaWorld, prices will go up $5, for a one-day ticket price of $74.95 for adults and $64.95 for children.
The parks attract thousands of visitors to Florida, and "in order to do so, we need to continue to invest in these parks, because that is what is going to continue to drive tourists into Central Florida, into Tampa and St. Pete," said Joe Couceiro, executive vice president of sales and marketing for Busch Entertainment Corp.
Busch Gardens this year opened Jungala, a complex with family rides and wild animals. Next year, SeaWorld plans to open Manta, a roller coaster with four vertical loops that will send riders plunging face-down toward a lake at nearly 60 mph.
This marks the company's second hike this year; in July prices went up by $2 to $3.
Orlando resident Carolina Lopez, 30, was at Busch Gardens with her family Friday for an after-Christmas treat. While she isn't surprised by the increase, "in this economy, prices should be going down because people can't afford food," she said.
Bigger changes may be afoot for Busch Entertainment. Its parent, Anheuser-Busch, was purchased by Belgian beer company InBev SA, which has said it may sell the company's theme park division. Couceiro said that prospect played no role in the ticket price changes.
"We're business as usual," he said.
Couceiro said the parks still offer value to families trying to curtail entertainment expenses, singling out the company's "Pay for a Day" plan. It allows Florida residents to buy one full-price ticket to Busch Gardens or SeaWorld, and then return with free admission for the rest of the calendar year.
"You don't need to be paying for a whole lot of other theme parks because you have unlimited access to this theme park each and every day," he said.
Veronica Kilkelly, 41, of Oldsmar was making use of her "Pay for a Day" pass with two of three daughters on Friday when she heard about the increase.
"I spend about $40 in the park on food every time I come with my family," she said. "And parking is expensive, so they should reduce those prices if they're increasing tickets."
Price increases also were announced for the company's water parks.
The one-day price for Tampa's Adventure Island will increase $2, to $39.95 for adults and $35.95 for children. The one-day price for Orlando's Aquatica will jump $3, to $44.95 for adults and $38.95 for children.