Disney World to Turn Into Permanent Ghost Town by 2025, Expert Predicts

in Walt Disney World

The new Magic Kingdom Central Plaza area between Main Street, U.S.A. and Cinderella Castle.

Credit: Disney

Walt Disney World Resort is predicted to see the most significant drop in its attendance since the pandemic in 2020 when it shuttered its gates.

It hasn’t taken long for crowds to make their way back to Walt Disney World Resort– including Magic Kingdom Park, EPCOT, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios– in droves. As a matter of fact, especially in 2022 and 2023, there became a term known as “revenge travel,” when there was a surge of people taking vacations attempting to make up for lost time when places shut down for the pandemic.

Magic Kingdom shot of Cinderella Castle
Credit: Julio Tejera, Flickr

In addition to making up for lost time, many Disney World guests were coming to visit “The Most Magical Place on Earth” with more money than usual. As hundreds of thousands of guests did not vacation in 2020 and 2021, they allegedly had money sitting around ready to travel beginning in 2022 and running through 2023. However, as we head into 2024, the market expectation is that some of these attendance will correct themselves. For Disney World specifically, it seems that another major development on the horizon could take away millions of visitors in the near future.

As anticipation builds for the opening of Epic Universe, the latest expansion from Universal Orlando Resort, discussions around its impact on the local hospitality industry are reaching a fever pitch. A recent interview with Michael Weinberg, managing director at Berkadia, featured in the Orlando Business Journal, sheds light on the magnitude of the forthcoming demand surge and the potential challenges it presents for existing hotel infrastructure.

An artists rendition of Epic Universe at Universal Orlando Resort, opening summer of 2025.
Credit: Universal

Weinberg’s assessment underscores the significance of Epic Universe’s opening, revealing that the addition of three new hotels alongside the theme park—particularly the two located just outside the gates—is a crucial step in accommodating the expected influx of visitors. However, he warns that these 1,500 rooms may only scratch the surface of the burgeoning demand projected for the upcoming year.

“If you add this big demand driver in the market and then you look back at previous big demand generators—like when they added [Wizarding World of] Harry Potter in 2010—the spike was around 10%-15%,” Weinberg stated. “This is like adding four or five Harry Potters.”

This analogy paints a vivid picture of the immense impact Epic Universe is poised to have on Orlando’s tourism landscape. Weinberg further highlights the historical dominance of the Universal Boulevard hotel corridor, which is set to ascend to the top spot in terms of revenue, surpassing the longstanding stronghold of International Drive.

The Universal Helios Grand Hotel Resort coming to Epic Universe.
Credit: Universal Epic Universe’s Helios Grand Hotel

With the imminent debut of Epic Universe, all eyes are on Walt Disney World Resort to respond effectively to the potential shift in park attendance. While it’s improbable for Disney to match Universal’s grandiose addition of an entire theme park, innovative new experiences could be the key to attracting crowds and maintaining their competitive edge.

Moreover, the forecasted impact on Disney’s attendance is not lost on industry analysts. The Wall Street Journal has also now published an article predicting that Epic Universe will reduce Walt Disney World Resort attendance by 1 million visitors within two years. This projection underscores the seismic implications of Universal’s expansion for Orlando’s tourism landscape. The same article projects that Universal Orlando Resort could see a boost of over 8 million to its attendance numbers.

“…it could be a big blow to Disney’s most profitable division at a time when the company is struggling to juggle other priorities, including finding its next chief executive, reinvigorating its movie studios and making money in streaming,” the article states.

Mickey Mouse in front of the Cinderella Castle inside the Magic Kingdom with a couple of children
Credit: Disney

A spokesperson for Disney took exception with the idea that Epic Universe could somehow propel Universal past Walt Disney World Resort, saying that Universal is simply “playing catch-up.”

Epic (Universe) is Universal playing catch-up on a decade of nonstop development at Walt Disney World,” – a Disney spokesperson via The Wall Street Journal said.

When Epic Universe opens, it will be home to several unique lands, including Wizarding World of Harry Potter, How To Train Your Dragon– Isle of Berk, SUPER NINTENDO WORLD, and Dark Universe.

Right now, no more information has been given on the future of the two Orlando theme parks.

What do you think of the battle between Universal and Disney? Let Inside the Magic know in the comments!

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