The Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Iger attempted to refute a recent report that posited that attendance at The Walt Disney World resort in Orlando, Florida was down. However, he appeared to confirm that attendance was indeed down.
A recent report in The Wall Street Journal by Jacob Passy reported that “Travel analysts and advisers say traffic to Disney’s U.S. parks, and some rival parks, has slowed this summer. Data from a travel company that tracks line-waiting time at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., shows that the Independence Day weekend was one of the slowest in nearly a decade.”
Not only did they cite data from Touring Plans, but they also spoke with Jaime Brown, a Walt Disney World annual pass holder who visited the park during the Independence Day weekend. She remarked, “I couldn’t believe how light the crowds were.”
Greg Antonelle, the co-owner of MickeyTravels, a travel agency in Florida, informed the outlet, “From what we’re seeing with our bookings, that pent-up demand has somewhat transitioned to cruises and Europe.”
Passy eventually concluded that the main reason park attendance was down was due to higher costs writing, “Travel advisers and industry analysts say the slowdown is the latest sign that Disney’s recent price hikes and changes to park operations have soured some families on visiting the Most Magical Place on Earth.”
However, he also noted that summer is usually a quieter time at the parks due to Florida’s weather, “Florida’s summer heat, humidity and heavy rains make summer a relatively quiet season at the state’s theme parks.”
While attending the Sun Valley Conference in Idaho, Iger was asked by CNBC’s David Faber about The Wall Street Journal report, “There was an article in The Wall Street Journal that seemed to indicate that people aren’t going to Disney World at the rate that they did certainly a year ago. And your fight with the governor there, or his fight with you, is he having an impact do you think on attendance, his continued criticism of the company?”
Iger answered, “No. No. No, we see no sign of that at all. The article that you referred to was not accurate, actually. It was measuring attendance at Disney World on July 4th, which didn’t really factor in temperature, which was about 100 degrees and 99% humidity on that day.”
“But there are other factors as well. One is, and I think this is kind of complicated, Florida opened up early during Covid and it created huge demand and didn’t have competition because there were a number of other places, states that were not open yet,” he asserted. “So if you look at the numbers in Florida in 2023, which is just recently, versus 2022 where not as much was opened and Florida was the only game in town; there’s a lot more competition today.”
So against 2022 the state of Florida has been down. We actually track hotel tax revenue across the state, which is a matter of public record, and there are counties that have been down 6, 7% recently,” he continued. “We also know that our competitors are discounting in that state.”
“So there are some near term issues in Florida that I don’t think have anything to do with politics,” he said.
Faber then asked, “And not about pricing either? Because obviously, when it comes to pricing in the parks you have a great understanding there of what that can do.”
Iger replied, “One of the things that we addressed as soon as I came back was whether or not our pricing was right or not, and whether our pricing reflected value.”
He then took the time to attempt to tout the park, “I should also say, I don’t know when the last time you visited Disney World, I say it’s where the Disney brand lives in its most sublime form. I still believe that. It’s an incredible experience. It’s a very, very popular business and product. It’s very successful and we are not wringing our hands over it.”
Iger continued, “There’s some near term issues in Florida as we’ve talked about, but– And pricing is not an issue. We addressed some of those issues.”
When asked if he was concerned, he said, “I am not. I am not at all. No, I think you are looking at a comparison to last year and it’s very, very different. We do not have long term concerns for that business.”
While Iger says he’s not concerned, it does appear that he confirmed that park attendance is indeed down from at last year as he noted he’s facing more competition in other states as well as competition from other parks in the state of Florida.
What do you make of Iger’s comments? Do you think he confirmed attendance was down?