Bob Iger’s Upsetting Walt Disney World Announcement Sends Shockwaves Across Central Florida

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Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Iger in front of Cinderella Castle

Credit: Inside the Magic

The Walt Disney Company’s Chief Executive Officer Bob Iger recently led the House of Mouse’s Q2 earnings call, and his updates revealed an upsetting trend that is hitting Walt Disney World Resort–a trend that will send shockwaves through the Central Florida communities.

Magical fireworks burst in the sky above a fairytale castle under a bright blue sky.
Credit: Theme Park Tourist, Flickr

Demand heightened in the immediate months and years that succeeded the pandemic closures of the Disney World theme parks. Then, once social distancing measures were dismantled and borders were opened for international visitors, attendance soared to peak levels.

Walt Disney World Resort may have been closed for months, but developments did not cease, and since 2021, the theme parks have welcomed multiple new attractions and experiences.

Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind at night with Spaceship Earth in the background at EPCOT in Walt Disney World Resort
Credit: Disney

Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure debuted for the first time at the domestic parks over in EPCOT’s France pavilion inside of the World Showcase. Not long after, in May 2022, the industry-leading Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind also opened at Disney World’s second theme park, with TRON Lightcycle / Run launching in Magic Kingdom Park in early 2023.

All the innovative attractions and experiences Disney World installs attract guests year after year. Josh D’Amaro recently told The Hollywood Reporter that guest experience is always top of mind for the Mouse House.

Guests ride TRON
Credit: Disney

“We’re talking to our guests all the time, and so we have a really good sense of what they’re reacting to on-screen and understand then how to translate that into stories inside of our theme parks, cruise lines, and experiences around the world,” D’Amaro said, following up on his previous comments that the company’s $60 billion investment, half of which is for parks and resorts, will be geared towards “turbocharging the Disney Experience business.”

That said, Disney World, and by extension, the rest of the Disney Experiences brand, are not immune to intense and sometimes incredibly vocal criticism.

Josh D'amaro with Goofy, Minnie, and Mickie in Animal Kingdom at Disney World
Credit: Josh D’Amaro, Instagram

Regarding the rising ticket costs, the latest update sees 2025 single-day tickets go up by $10, plus the variable pricing on Disney Genie+ and increasing food and beverage costs, guests are forking out hundreds, if not thousands, for a trip to “The Most Magical Place on Earth.”

In an ever-changing and turbulent theme park environment, eyes are constantly on Florida’s flagship destination, meaning Disney’s quarterly updates are popular events.

Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse in front of Cinderella Castle at Disney World
Credit: Disney

On Tuesday, May 7, 2024, Disney released its fiscal Q2 results, which revealed a 10% increase in park and experiences revenue. For Q2, the division had a revenue of $8.393 billion, up from $7.646 in 2023. The financial report reads:

At Walt Disney World Resort, higher results in the current quarter compared to the prior-year quarter were due to:

Increased guest spending attributable to higher average ticket prices

Higher costs due to inflation, partially offset by lower depreciation and cost saving initiatives

Crowds on Main Street U.S.A. at Disney World with Cinderella Castle in the background
Credit: Forsaken Fotos, Flickr

Even with this increase, Disney warned that a slowdown was not only anticipated but expected.

“In terms of attendance, what we’re basically communicating is relative to the post-COVID highs; things are tending to normalize,” said Bob Iger (via Skift). “We still see in the bookings … as we look ahead … [signs that] indicate healthy growth in the business. So we still certainly feel good about the opportunities.”

Chief Financial Officer Hugh Johnston added: “We are seeing some evidence of a global moderation from peak post-Covid travel.”

Guests walking around World Showcase at EPCOT
Credit: Inside the Magic

With that, and even after the announcement that the Mouse’s fledgling streaming business saw profitability, Disney’s stock dropped.

Former Disney employee and UCF professor Dr. Duncan Dickson has weighed in on how this falling attendance will impact the greater Central Florida area surrounding the Disney theme park brand’s beating heart.

The entrance to Walt Disney World Resort as seen through a car window
Credit: Foxbert, Flickr

“If Disney has a hiccup, Central Florida can have a heart attack… There’s just so many businesses that are dependent on Disney locally,” Dickson told Click Orlando. “The smaller hotels on 1-92, the I-drive hotels, if Disney attendance shrinks, those are the first ones to feel it.”

Dickson warns of the shockwave coming if attendance continues on a downward trend and what that might mean for the cast members who work at the Walt Disney World parks.

A group of excited teenagers, including a boy in sunglasses and a striped shirt, screaming with joy on Disney Thunder Mountain roller coaster.
Credit: Disney

“If Disney employees’ hours are cut, they may not be laid off, but their hours may be cut, which means they are not able to spend as much at Sam’s Club or Costco or whatever, so all of those things go hand in hand, and when you have 70 thousand employees that is a huge monster to tame,” the professor added.

However, it’s not like Disney does not have multiple projects up their sleeves, which might bump up attendance in the near future.

Tiana's Bayou Adventure, which replaced Splash Mountain, at Disney World.
Credit: Disney

Related: Disney Park Takes Action: Tinker Bell Indefinitely Suspended Following Controversial Incident

At Magic Kingdom Park, the Splash Mountain replacement, Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, will be opening in the summer, and later in the year, events such as EPCOT’s Food and Wine Festival and Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party at Magic Kingdom will return.

Further afield are the large-scale developments heading to Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom. At the former, a permit has been filed for the so-called “Beyond Big Thunder” project coming to the area adjacent to Frontierland.

Frontierland at Magic Kingdom
Credit: Allen Castillo, Flickr

This project will be the largest in the theme park’s history and, per Josh D’Amaro’s announcement at the D23 Expo 2022, could bring the Disney Villains to the location. Reports are now circulating that Big Thunder Mountain Railroad will be closed indefinitely closer to the end of 2024.

Then, at Animal Kingdom, the DinoLand, U.S.A. location will be rethemed to include both the Encanto and the Indiana Jones franchises for a Tropical Americas destination. This will be the newest land to debut at the park following Pandora — The World of Avatar years ago.

Concept art for the all-new area coming to Animal Kingdom inspired by Encanto and Indiana Jones
Credit: Disney

Related: “Infuriating”: Guests Accuse Disney World Security of Racial Profiling

No news has surfaced on when the Tropical Americas expansion will officially commence; Walt Disney Imagineering recently took to social media to showcase concepts and designs being explored for the upcoming area.

All eyes and ears will be on Disney’s next earnings call for Q3, and a stock price fallout will likely follow.

Do you think Walt Disney World attendance will suffer in the coming months? Let Inside the Magic know in the comments down below!

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