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13 WTHR Indianapolis | Indianapolis Local News & Weather

How to save money on your next Zoo visit by planning ahead

As more businesses turn toward "surge pricing" to maximize their profits, you can save big money by thinking ahead.

The price you pay for goods and services is changing, and now more than ever, it can change with a moment's notice.

Whether it's getting a ride with Uber, or visiting Walt Disney World, you now pay more during the busiest times.

It's called "surge pricing," and there is an Indianapolis company, Digonex, behind the new shift in prices.

Digonex provides pricing guidance to the Indianapolis Zoo. The size of the crowds here changes with the weather. But even on a chilly day, a wave of visitors comes to see the newest addition here - a two-week-old baby orangutan bonding with her mother, Sirih.

The zoo's International Orangutan Center has helped attract more than 2.5 million people to the zoo since it opened two years ago. That's when they switched to "surge pricing," also known as "dynamic pricing."

"What we've discovered with dynamic pricing is you can create opportunities for growth on those days where demand is very high and actually help manage those excessive crowds so that the experience is much better," said Digonex President Greg Loewen.

At the company's offices on Monument Circle, a team of economists use an algorithm and large amounts of data to determine the daily admission price.

For example, purchasing your ticket at the gate on Tuesday of this week would cost about $18 for an adult. Had you purchased your ticket last night, it would be about $16, but if you purchased your ticket weeks or months ago, you would have saved much more.

On some days it can cost as little as $8 to get into the zoo. On the busiest days, it costs $30. The price grid is posted on the zoo's website.  

It's a concept that's being used by the ride-sharing service Uber, the airlines, large amusement parks, and spreading to sporting events and concerts.

Indianapolis based Emmis Communications has a majority stake in Digonex.  

"We saw that it was an idea whose time is coming," said Emmis Chairman Jeff Smulyan.

He expects even more business as clients like the zoo see the benefits of managing large crowds.

Indianapolis Zoo President and CEO Mike Crowther says that's the main reason the zoo turned to surge pricing.

"The whole purpose of dynamic pricing was to enable us to take care of our guests to the best of our ability, by matching our capacity to the number of guests who come into the zoo on any given day," Crowther said.

For the consumer, it means more planning to take advantage of the lowest prices. In most instances, the earlier you buy, the better price you get.