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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, July 21, 2002

Disney sees its travel business beginning to rebound

By Mike Schneider
Associated Press

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.

Midway rides lit up the night at the then-unopened California Adventure theme park in Anaheim, Calif., in December 2000. The Disney park, next to Disneyland, opened two months later, only to see tourism nationwide crumple after Sept. 11.

Associated Press library photo

But the company's cruise business is healthy and occupancy rates at Walt Disney World are near normal levels, according to the report put out by Prudential Financial. The report was written after a recent meeting between several top Disney executives, including chief financial officer Tom Staggs, and Prudential analysts Katherine Styponias, David A. Lyons and Sameet Sinha.

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.