Indianapolis Zoo to Adopt Dynamic Pricing

Heading to the Indianapolis Zoo on a weekend day during the summer? Be prepared to pay more than if you’d gone in the middle of the week and during the off-peak season (or purchased your tickets in advance).

A new online ticketing system uses “dynamic pricing” for the popular Indy attraction. Prices are adjusted based on the day’s projected attendance – hence, busy weekend days during the summer will cost you more.

The Associated Press is reporting the change was spurred by the brand new Simon Skojdt International Orangutan Center, which opened at the end of May. Zoo officials identified the new pricing model as the best way to control crowd numbers to allow visitors to enjoy their experience, especially as crowd numbers are expected to increase by 24% over last year.

A spokesperson for the Association of Zoos and Aquariums told the Associated Press that the Indianapolis Zoo is the only member of the organization to use the dynamic pricing model.

How does it work? Saturday, June 14, for example, will cost over $26 for adult tickets and over $20 for child tickets. Wednesday, June 18, on the other hand, will cost around $15 for adult tickets and $12 for child tickets.

Purchasing tickets in advance leads to lower prices – heavy attendance days in August (Saturdays, specifically) are just over $22 for adults and $17 for children this far out. The web site also warns that ticket prices are higher at the gate (though it doesn’t say by how much). A color-coded calendar on the zoo’s web site makes it easy to identify the more expensive days.

It seems that the pricing model doesn’t affect membership to the zoo: the basic family membership package (two adults and all children under age 21) is still $136 for the year.

Dynamic pricing isn’t a new concept – sports teams have already been using the pricing model. A story in the January/February 2014 edition of BizVoice® takes a deeper look into the trend.

What’s the lowest ticket pricing for the rest of the year? Wednesday, November 19, when it’s $8.70 for adult and $6.70 for child tickets (if you buy them today).

I appreciate the zoo’s forward-thinking to help control crowds without truly pricing people out. Who wants to pay hard-earned money to stand in a crowd five-feet deep to see the lions and tigers and bears (oh my!)? It will be nice to know which days attendance is expected to be heavier and I anticipate more organizations will be moving toward the dynamic pricing model as it becomes more well-known.