Report says Walt Disney World theme parks saw rise in attendance last year, despite recession

Posted Tuesday, April 27, 2010 11:13 AM | Contributed by Jeff

Although it was forced to take a hit to its bottom line, Walt Disney World managed to use the global economic downturn to pull some business away from its theme-park rivals. A closely watched industry report released Monday found that all four of Disney World’s theme parks managed to eke out attendance gains last year, despite the worst recession since the Great Depression. At the same time, the report found that both Universal Orlando and SeaWorld Orlando suffered substantial losses.

Read more from The Orlando Sentinel.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010 11:14 AM

I'll say what I say every year, that this report gets it wrong more than it gets it right (seriously, some basic networking would get you more reliable numbers), but the main point of the story, that Disney held on, is pretty noteworthy. Not surprising either, if you visited the parks last year.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010 1:49 PM

To be fair, the article directly admits that the numbers are unofficial and that the parks call them unreliable.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010 2:03 PM

I am surprised nobody has discussed how Cedar Point has fallen under the 3 million mark.......for being the "#1 amusement park in the world" this should be yet one more indicator to investors that something MUST change at Cedar Fair.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010 2:22 PM

If sheer attendance was all that mattered, I'd be more impressed.

I mean anyone can drop prices and draw customers. Is keeping the attendance numbers up really all that great if you're offering 40% discounts to do it?

I guess it depends on what ratio of attendance vs price integrity one feels is sufficient.

I know Jeff likes to say that falling attendance and rising per caps can't be sustained forever, but neither can rising attendance and falling per caps. Having to choose, I still think I prefer the former to the latter.

Last edited by Lord Gonchar, Tuesday, April 27, 2010 2:23 PM
Tuesday, April 27, 2010 3:47 PM

mlnem4s said:
I am surprised nobody has discussed how Cedar Point has fallen under the 3 million mark...

And where would one find that gem?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010 4:30 PM

Jeff said:

mlnem4s said:
I am surprised nobody has discussed how Cedar Point has fallen under the 3 million mark...

And where would one find that gem?

Page 14 of the report:

Of course this is estimated, but I will say that I trust it more than the "Dirty" Golden Ticket awards they tout every single year...

Last edited by Jerry, Tuesday, April 27, 2010 4:36 PM
Tuesday, April 27, 2010 5:02 PM

This helps explain while I enjoyed my Universal trip more than my Disney trip this year. I'm not big on the crowds and we had a great day jumping between the two Universal parks back in November. In early December, when the Disney parks are traditonally "slower" we had a packed day. It wasn't even fun trying to cross Main Street.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010 5:11 PM

Thanks Jerry for posting a reply with the info on where I am taking CP attendance from. I believe 2008 they just barely squeeked over 3 million as well if the numbers I hear are truthful.

If my recollection is correct, Cedar Point has always maintained 3 million plus attendance since about 1976 when Corkscrew opened or 1978 when Gemini opened. That is nearly 30 years; now with more rides, attractions and entertainment options at the peninsula somehow they can't maintain that level of attendance when in fact they now draw on a world-wide basis? Hhhhmmmm, I dare say somebody somewhere needs to wake up.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010 9:05 AM

Some will argue that this is the result of the midwest being more heavily impacted by the recession than others. And, to some extent that is true. But, I don't think you can discount the idea that people are probably visiting less times in a season and as much as the economy is to blame I think too the value perception is key. In park prices are just out of control to the point that I'd be embarassed as a manager or executive.

As Dick once said so famously..."they have to eat". Yeah, well, one day a summer I suppose that is true. But, I don't have to go back another day...particularly if I feel like I'm getting bent over a chair.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010 10:27 AM

Is keeping the attendance numbers up really all that great if you're offering 40% discounts to do it?

They were discounting the rooms. But, for the most part, they were not discounting the gate. For package guests, it's all part of the same pot. But, it's still been a pretty consistent strategy.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010 11:20 AM

Hell, I'm still looking for another free dining promotion to come up from somewhere. It's not going to make or break the trip, but it sure would be nice.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010 11:32 AM

Brian Noble said:
They were discounting the rooms. But, for the most part, they were not discounting the gate. For package guests, it's all part of the same pot. But, it's still been a pretty consistent strategy.

I wonder what percentage of guests stay on property? Is that number available somewhere?

I ask because the gate seems to be the cheapest component of a trip to WDW. That may have been a more interesting promotion - come stay with us and get your park tickets for free.

Rather than discount the highest price parts of a trip, give away the cheapest parts.

People like to hear 'free' - just ask Holiday World.

On second thought (and I'm still posting this after second-guessing myself) most people probably do it the opposite of what we did. We went bigger on the room and cheap on the tickets. (AK Lodge and basic tix) I bet a lot of people got cheap on the room and get tickets with all kind of options.

Either way, I'd still like to know how much of their business stays with them.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010 1:27 PM

I remember someone coming up with a number somewhere about on versus off property, and I remember being surprised that so many people weren't on. Which makes sense, seeing as how there are a whole lot of rooms in that town.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010 2:00 PM

I personally would never dream about going to WDW (unless it was a really short trip) and not get a park hopper or water park add on. The former because AK and DHS are half day parks, also AK does not have a night show and DHS has in my opinion a fantastic night show (one I want to see twice.) The latter because BB and TL are really great water parks. Also my family is totally adicted to the Dining Plan, but seeing as we always ate at 1 TS place a day before it we break even/save a little money with it.

Disney has always tried to avoid discounting the gate. The arguement for not giving resort guests a discount is that they instead get EMH. However I dont think I would ever go to Disney and not stay at at least a moderate resort. I see the throngs of people waiting for the Pop and All Star buses every day and the pictures of what those bus stops look like and I just cringe.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010 2:25 PM

A family of four for a week is going to drop $900-$1000 on tickets, minimum. I'm going to guess most people spend a little less than that on the room---for a seven night stay, that comes to a pre-tax room rate of about $120/night or so. The Value resorts onsite come in under that most of the year (there are about 8500 Value rooms), and most offsite places do too.

Disney owns about 27K hotel rooms, give or take. I don't know what you'd use for average occupancy---let's figure 2.5 guests/room, and all guests go to a Disney park every single day they are there. Neither is probably correct, but we'll run with it. That's about 24.6M in attendance from the onsite hotels, give or take. They did 47.5M in attendance across the four parks, plus another 3.9M in the two water parks.

So, figure a bit more than half of all guests are staying offsite.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010 2:26 PM

Touchdown said:
I personally would never dream about going to WDW...

Shows how everyone is different.

Basic we visit in the exact opposite way you do. :)

I can't see a reason we'd ever benefit by spending extra for park hopper or water park options and last visit we spent a total of three of our six full days there at AK and DHS and nobody wanted to see the DHS show a second time. We didn't do a single EMH day or night either. I do agree about the resort thing, but I would never rely on Disney to get me around - on or off property. It all looked like a nightmare to us. We were so glad we got a car.

I suppose that's why Disney works for so many people - there's so many ways to do it and none of them are wrong. :)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010 2:36 PM

I nearly always get the hopping option, but it's totally a splurge. We don't need it, and probably only use it once or twice. But, I'm a huge fan of being able to go where I want, when I want to, and am willing to pay a little for it. It brings me warm fuzzies. And, we often make use of this. At Disney, we try to hit each of the four parks on the first four days we are there. Then, we decide what we want more of, and that often means hitting different parks for the morning and evening.

We follow this philosophy everywhere. Our trips are usually about a week in an area. We'll pick one or two attractions and buy tickets to allow us to come and go to those at will for the entire trip, and then augment that with single tickets at a few other places. For example, in the Smokies, we 'll stay for six or seven nights, get Dollywood+Splash country annual passes, and then do a few go kart tracks, mini golf rounds, hikes in the National Park, etc. to spice things up. It's a little more than we'd spend if we just got Dolly's three-day combo tickets, but I like to spread things out a little more rather than feel like I have to be somewhere all day to "get my money's worth" or have to plan out what I'm going to do when in advance. Being able to sample a little here and there, and knowing I can take my time, has a lot of value for me.

Last edited by Brian Noble, Wednesday, April 28, 2010 2:38 PM
Wednesday, April 28, 2010 4:00 PM

This could create a real hornets nest but I will relay the story anyway. When I went through the Disney University orientation course (I'm having an old age brain lapse on the name of it at the moment) one of the most memorable times of my experience there happened.

We were sitting in a large room with one of the mid level executives who was there to sprinkle some pixie dust and make us the optimal Disney cast member. When the Q&A session began it was mostly fluff but then an outspoken young lady from the group posed the question...why are your ticket prices so high? He gave some of the more prevalent "nice" answers you might expect but then this gal kept pressing him and pressing him.

Finally, he basically said that there are some elements of society that Disney does not want visiting its parks so there is a conscious decision to keep the gate price elevated. That would certainly explain why they are willing to discount room nights and multiple day tickets but keep a one day park ticket so high. Now, I will admit that this was back in 1992 and prices have gone up significantly since then...but I suspect there is more than a little truth to his admission.

Ah..."Traditons". That is the training program. Maybe I'm just slowin' down a bit.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010 6:23 PM

I've always thought there is a simpler reason.

People go to Orlando for one reason. To see "Disney World" (Magic Kingdom). That's why they are there. It almost doesn't matter what the one-day ticket price is, because people will pay it. They may cut corners on meals, where they stay, what souvenirs they buy, etc. But, they are going to "Disney World" come hell or high water.

So the very last thing you discount is the single-day ticket.

But, if you go back and study a little bit of Disneyland's history, you will also find some quotes attributed to the ol' Mousestro himself that Disneyland was meant to be "a premium experience", and priced that way on purpose. You don't have to read too far between the lines to figure out what he's saying.


You must be logged in to post

POP Forums - ©2019, POP World Media, LLC