TWcrossroads associate editor Rebecca Tobin is on-site at Walt
Disney World, attending the 100 Years of Magic birthday
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Walt Disney World park attendance is
creeping back up following a post-Sept. 11 downturn, said Al Weiss
the president of Walt Disney World theme park, although October
levels were still about 25% below last year's attendance
Hotel occupancy also is on the uptick, although it's still below
what Disney would like to see, Weiss told a select group of
reporters here during the 100 Years of Magic celebration
In terms of getting people traveling, Weiss said, "It's not just
a Walt Disney World effort. It's a worldwide effort. We're spending
$25 million to launch the 100 Years of Magic and the governor [Jeb
Bush of Florida] allocated $20 million to the Visit Florida
But Weiss, and other top Disney officials here, agreed that
travelers want to be with friends and family -- and that Disney can
provide the setting for people to do that.
"[Sept. 11] makes us more important than ever before," Weiss
said. "We see a situation where people, because of family and
friends, will choose a place like Walt Disney World."
According to Disney's fourth-quarter report, operating income in
the Parks and Resorts division (which includes all Disney theme
parks) dropped 13% compared with fourth-quarter 2000.
Since Sept. 11, there's also been a shift in booking patterns:
Travelers are booking their trips closer to their departure dates,
which makes predicting future revenue streams and making business
decisions more challenging.
A few of the things Walt Disney World has done since Sept. 11 is
move some staff positions; close sections of the resorts, such as
the Port Orleans, and reduce park hours and attractions.
Disney's Pop Century resort, for example, which was scheduled to
open in March, is now waiting in the wings. Weiss said half of the
5,760 rooms will be fully finished and furnished so it can be
opened quickly when the demand exists. A rumored fifth theme park
is "not on the drawing boards," he added.
But several new attractions and parades have been introduced for
the 100 Years of Magic celebration. And Imagineers, the term Disney
gives to their creative teams, are hard at work on new attractions
tabbed for five to 10 years down the line. And, he said, the
question of economic recovery is "not if, but when.
"We've had impacts to our business before, but we've always
recovered," he said.
"I'm proud we're still here," said Roy Disney, the chairman of
The Disney Co. and Walt Disney's nephew. "We have an enormous
history of things that Walt handed down to us, and to keep that
alive and to build on that -- you got to be proud of that."
For previous installments of Rebecca's reports from Disney's
100 Years of Magic birthday celebration, click a link
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