Tuesday, August 9, 2022

So Busch Gardens announced a new membership plan. Will you need to update your plan?

Apollo's Chariot (WYDaily photo/Courtesy Busch Gardens Williamsburg)
Apollo’s Chariot. (HNNDaily photo/Courtesy Busch Gardens Williamsburg)

Busch Gardens has revamped their membership plans and not everyone is happy about it.

SeaWorld Parks announced Monday in a news release it is restructuring its membership system, adding a new tier of benefits and providing park fans more options.

The change comes after the park unveiled three tiers of membership in February. Frequent park guests could choose between one of three plans — Basic, Unlimited and Premier.

After this week’s announcement, the three plans will remain in place with altered benefits. A fourth plan, Platinum, was also introduced this week and includes the most benefits, including ride-again privileges for select rides and access to other SeaWorld Parks.

Current park members will have to change to an updated membership plan once their current plans expire 12 months after they were purchased. Park officials said they have no plans to raise rates on existing members.

The changes initially sparked some confusion among members, and many voiced their concerns on the Parkfans.net online forum.

“We were surprised it happened so soon after the initial roll-out,” said Nicole Pelletti, administrator on the ParksFan.net forum and Premier plan member. “We thought we’d get at least a year before they changed it.”

A screenshot from Busch Gardens' website detailing the perks for each plan. (WYDaily/Courtesy Busch Gardens)
A screenshot from Busch Gardens’ website detailing the perks for each plan. (HNNDaily/Courtesy Busch Gardens)

Premier plan members will no longer receive a popular perk once their plans expire.

Before the introduction of Platinum plan, Premier was the highest available plan and offered unlimited trips to 11 SeaWorld Parks, but that’s not included under the newly-released Premier plan. Platinum members will receive unlimited visits to the 11 other SeaWorld parks.

Access to other parks will continue for members who purchased their Premier plan before Oct. 1, until their plan expires.

“It’s kind of sad because the old Premier was for all the parks excluding Discovery Cove, and that’s why we picked it,” Pelletti said. “We picked Premier specifically to have access to all the other (SeaWorld) parks. Now that Premier has lost that, when those 12 months are up do we lose that access?”

Platinum plans cost $28.99 per month. Pelletti said she wasn’t sure if she and other Premier members will decide to upgrade to Platinum in order to retain the benefits they’ve enjoyed.

Pelletti also said an unofficial perk of the Premier plan had been the use of the employee gate to skip long lines at the park’s main gate. She said she was not sure if the perk would continue.

2- Park Membership Plans Previous Plan Pricing New Plan Pricing (Oct. 1, 2018)
Basic $12.00 per month $11.99 per month
Unlimited $17.00 per month $16.99 per month
Premier $22.00 per month $22.99 per month


Members can also remove access to Water Country USA from their plans and subtract about $2 from their rate, and Pelletti said she was happy to see that change.

Busch Gardens said the change was made to give customers the options to suit their needs.

“Our consumers wanted more value and simpler choices prompting us to introduce the Membership Program in February,” said Kevin Lembke, park president for Busch Gardens and Water Country USA.  “Our guests quickly saw the value in membership, but also wanted more flexibility.  We listened to that feedback and now we’ll offer a wide range of Membership Plans that best suits their needs.”

When the park announced the new membership system in February, a $12/month Basic membership provided park admission to both Busch Gardens and Water Country through certain dates, half-price parking and in-park discounts.

The Unlimited membership plan cost $17 per month and came with unlimited park access, free parking and two free guest passes annually.

The premier plan, at $22 per month, gave access to both Busch Gardens and Water Country USA, a 10 percent discount on in-park purchases, free parking for both parks and three free guests passes.

John Mangalonzohttp://wydaily.com
John Mangalonzo (john@localdailymedia.com) is the managing editor of Local Voice Media’s Virginia papers – WYDaily (Williamsburg), Southside Daily (Virginia Beach) and HNNDaily (Hampton-Newport News). Before coming to Local Voice, John was the senior content editor of The Bellingham Herald, a McClatchy newspaper in Washington state. Previously, he served as city editor/content strategist for USA Today Network newsrooms in St. George and Cedar City, Utah. John started his professional journalism career shortly after graduating from Lyceum of The Philippines University in 1990. As a rookie reporter for a national newspaper in Manila that year, John was assigned to cover four of the most dangerous cities in Metro Manila. Later that year, John was transferred to cover the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines. He spent the latter part of 1990 to early 1992 embedded with troopers in the southern Philippines as they fought with communist rebels and Muslim extremists. His U.S. journalism career includes reporting and editing stints for newspapers and other media outlets in New York City, California, Texas, Iowa, Utah, Colorado and Washington state.

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