Get the Facts About Our New Membership ProgramFebruary 9, 2018
We just announced a whole new Membership Program for Busch Gardens® Williamsburg and Water Country USA®, and so far the response has been very positive. Initial sales and many positive comments online have validated the months of planning that went into this big move.
This change is something we did not take lightly, knowing it would cause some angst for long-time Pass Holders. We did extensive research that showed both current Pass Holders and those without a Pass preferred the new plans by a 2-to-1 margin over the previous Pass options. With this program, we have been able to answer a consistent request to include Christmas Town™ in a Membership Plan, and keep prices at a level that many Pass Holders will be able to move to Membership at a rate close to – or even less than – what they are paying now.
We have been busy answering all the questions that have come in on social media forums, by email and by telephone, and have endeavored to keep the Frequently Asked Questions updated on our website. However, there still seem to be a few myths floating around that are causing confusion and concern.
Let me do my best to spell out some key facts to correct this misinformation …
FACT: If you have an active Annual Pass you can continue to use it with the same entitlements.
You do not have to switch to a Membership Plan, nor will you automatically be assigned into a new plan or a new rate. It is your choice to keep your Pass or make a change.
FACT: Current Passes are not set to automatically expire January 1, 2019.
In response to questions, we have tried to reassure Pass Holders that if they keep their Passes they will be valid throughout this year. However, that does not mean they will expire immediately at the end of the year.
There will be a point in the future that we will inevitably decide we can no longer honor Passes purchased years ago, continuing monthly payments. We have not put a timeline on that yet, because we want to ensure a fair and smooth transition over time. At that time we will notify any remaining Pass Holders and offer them an opportunity to move to Membership – no surprises.
For those whose Passes will expire in the next year (who paid in full without monthly payments), they may continue to use it until it expires, or cancel and apply any remaining value to a new Membership Plan.
FACT: Monthly rates for previously purchased Passes will not increase.
A number of Pass Holders have shared on our social media sites that they are paying extremely low rates from years ago, and they fear (or have been misinformed) that we are going to jack up these prices if they keep the Pass. This is not true. As long as we honor these Passes, they will maintain the same rate they are paying today.
FACT: Rates for new Memberships will not increase automatically after the first 12 months.
What we have said is that the rate you get when you become a Member, and when you agree to the initial 12-month commitment, will not increase during that time. You make a commitment to us to stick around and pay for a year, and we commit to you that your rate will stay the same during that time.
After the initial 12-month commitment any Membership is subject to price increases, with notification – but this does not mean increases are immediate or automatic. It means that every so often we might slightly increase the rates for all Memberships that are beyond the initial 12 months. This is no different than most memberships, subscriptions and monthly services.
FACT: We are trying to make pricing fair for all Members.
Many Pass holders have enjoyed exceptionally low rates because they have maintained monthly payments for several years – in effect paying prices from more than a decade ago for today’s Pass. This is because we never chose to increase those rates. (Only in the past few years did we include a limited “Price-Lock Guarantee” in our EZpay contracts.)
While that practice benefitted some long-time Pass Holders, it caused prices to be higher for the majority of guests who purchased Passes more recently. Going forward price increases can be smaller and less frequent because they will be spread across all eligible Members. This seems only fair.
FACT: Christmas Town prices are going to change this year.
At this point, we have not made a final determination of the ticket options and prices for Christmas Town, as we continue to evaluate some plans for the event. However, it is safe to say that with the inclusion of the event in Membership Plans and some other likely event expansion, prices will go up. In addition, the deeply discounted tickets we often have offered will likely be curtailed.
We also have decided to eliminate the Christmas Town pass, which was available as an add-on for active Pass Holders, since we now have that benefit built into Memberships. A Christmas Town Fun Card is likely, but not definite at this point, but its price will surely be more than last year.
We hope to have these details nailed down soon so guests can better evaluate the value of Christmas Town as part of the Membership Plans. Suffice it to say, Membership will be the most economical way to experience Christmas Town.
FACT: We value our loyal Pass Holders tremendously.
To be honest, it has been discouraging to see some comments in social media alleging we are treating long-time Pass Holders unfairly with these changes, or that we have somehow acted in bad faith. We certainly had the option on the table to discontinue Passes entirely, issue refunds to those entitled to them and leave Pass Holders to join Membership or find other options. We also could have increased the monthly rates for most Pass Holders. Instead, we have chosen to continue honoring those Passes, at the current rates. I can’t think of another business that allows its customers to hold onto the same prices for 10 or 15 years.
Fortunately, most of our loyal Pass Holders understand that we have tried to design a new offering that responds to the most common requests for simplicity, value and inclusion of all our parks and events. They understand that we must change to remain a viable and thriving business, and to keep bringing additions and improvements to the parks.
FACT: We will continue to enhance Membership as we go forward.
The initial launch of the Membership Program is just the start. We are already working on various options that will bring even greater value to Membership, and provide a deeper level of access and engagement with the parks. We are committed to ensuring Members get the first shot and best access to the experiences we offer. We also have some exciting plans for additional discount and reward opportunities that will give Members the best savings in the parks.
We are eager to share details as we roll out more benefits and special opportunities over the coming months. Stay tuned.