Disney CEO Bob Iger responded to recent reports of plummeting attendance at Disney World - as evidenced by a drop in wait times for rides and attractions this summer - attributing it to an overall trend in tourism to Central Florida.
"Florida opened up early during COVID and created huge demand, and didn’t have competition because there were a number of other places, states, that were not open yet," he said Thursday, adding
"If you look at the numbers in Florida in 2023 … versus 2022, where not as much was open, and Florida was the only game in town, there is a lot more competition today."
According to the Wall Street Journal, however, lines for attractions at Disney's most popular park have become increasingly shorter - with the average wait time shrinking from 47 minutes per ride in 2019 to 31 minutes per ride in 2022. This year, wait times have dropped to 27 mintes per ride and attraction.
When asked by CNBC if the feud between Disney and the state of Florida are to blame, Iger said "No," adding "We see no sign of that at all."
Disney has been embroiled in a legal and political fight with Mr. DeSantis that was, in part, triggered by the company’s vocal opposition to a bill that bans discussing sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through third grade. The company has also faced streaming losses, and its stock was recently downgraded in part due to fears of lower attendance at its Disney World and Disneyland theme parks.
Mr. Iger also claimed that the WSJ’s recent report did not take into account Central Florida’s weather. The temperatures, he said, rises “to about 100 degrees and 99 percent humidity” during the summer months. It means that recent figures for the Fourth of July wait times published by the paper aren’t fully “accurate” year-over-year because it measures only a single day, he said. -Epoch Times
"We do not have long-term concerns about that business," said Iger, adding "We actually track hotel tax revenue across the state, which is a matter of public record, and there are counties in Florida that have been down 6, 7 percent recently."
Yet, according to Becky Gandillion of Touring Plans, "This is not normal."
"Let’s face it. If this weekend didn’t turn crowds around at Walt Disney World … crowds aren’t going to turn around," she wrote.
"All signs point to this continuing in the short and long term."
Disney-themed content creator Kayla Pareti, a travel agent for a Disney-related travel agency, told CNN that the crowds were similarly light.
"It was a Saturday before Fourth of July, which is a major holiday. You’re expecting a lot of crowds, and it was just crazy that nobody was there," she said.
"Usually, when you walk into the park, they have Hollywood Boulevard, which is like the main thoroughfare, and it’s usually packed with people," Pareti continued. "At one point around noon, I turned around and no one was on the street. It was just a strange sight to see."