Disney to cut 4,000 jobs from worldwide staff

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BURBANK, Calif. -- The Walt Disney Co. said it will trim 4,000 full-time jobs from its worldwide workforce of 120,000 during the next few months in response to a weakening U.S. economy that has impacted its resorts, ABC-TV network and other holdings.

The company's largest job cut in its history is expected to include some 1,200 of the 56,000 employees at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, according to a report in the Orlando Sentinel.

Employees who voluntarily resign will receive a better severance package than those later selected to be downsized after volunteers have been counted, according to the parent company.

Randy Garfield, executive vice president for sales and travel operations at Walt Disney Parks & Resorts and president of the Walt Disney Travel Co., said that reservations staffing levels would be more than adequate to meet demand. Also, the level of guest services and the guest experience will be unaffected, regardless of any staffing cuts, he said.

Disney World's ongoing projects will continue as planned, he said, such as the opening of Animal Kingdom Lodge in April; the opening of phase one of the Pop Century Resort on Dec. 15, and a yearlong, four-park celebration of Walt Disney's 100th birthday starting Oct. 1.

The Walt Disney Travel Co., he said, is doing well and bookings are even "ahead of forecasts."

However, Disney World, which is expected to post a modest decrease in visitors this year, according to its president, Al Weiss, is dependent on visitors from sources other than its tour operation, Garfield said.

Thus, some "softness" in bookings is forecasted from "other channels," Garfield said, which include the resident market, agents (except AAA outlets where business remains strong), Disney's select tour operators (which hold space at its Florida and California hotels), and the international sector.

As for threatened airline strikes, Garfield said that Disney would protect passengers booked on its air blocks, adding that "there are contingency plans in place."

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