Disney sees its travel business beginning to rebound
By Mike Schneider
ORLANDO, Fla. Guests headed to Walt Disney Co.'s theme parks are waiting until the last minute to book trips and international visitors are still lagging behind pre-Sept. 11 levels, according to an analysis released last week.
The Prudential report offers insight into how the company's theme parks have recovered since the tourism slowdown after Sept. 11 and how visitors' behaviors have changed.
For one, the company has cut $250 million in costs out of its theme-parks operations since Sept. 11, a fact that Disney officials say has previously been reported.
Some of those savings came from reducing workers' hours and temporarily shuttering restaurants and hotel rooms in the months after the attacks. Workers' hours have since been restored and many of the shuttered restaurants and hotel rooms are back open.
Disney officials are monitoring guest satisfaction surveys at the four theme parks in Florida and two California parks to make sure the cuts aren't too deep, the report said.
Occupancy rates on Disney's two cruise ships are higher than last year, according to the report, and load factors are 150 percent higher than the industry average.
Hotel occupancy rates at Walt Disney World are 90 percent of normal this year due in part to discounting, but Disney officials plan to cut the size of the discounts as conditions improve.
"We've had solid attendance and we're hoping for continued solid attendance but we're not back to where we were last year," said Leslie Goodman, Disney's senior vice president for strategic communications in Los Angeles.