Disney’s CEO Fiddles With Political Opinions While The Company’s Theme Parks Attendance Numbers Burn

Like apparently everyone else on earth, Disney CEO Robert Iger saw fit to weigh in on President Trump’s removing the United States from the useless Paris Climate Change Accord:

Perhaps Iger should focus less on asinine political pouting and spend more of his time figuring out why attendance is down worldwide at Disney’s theme parks.

In a rare slowdown in one of the hottest areas of the entertainment business, attendance declined at 13 of 14 Disney theme parks around the world in 2016 compared with 2015, according to an independent report released on Thursday. Higher prices, intended in part to ease crowding at certain parks, were a major contributor, analysts said.


The biggest declines occurred overseas. At Disneyland Paris, attendance plunged 14 percent, to 9.8 million, as tourism across Europe continued to be affected by terrorism fears. Bad weather was also a factor. Hong Kong Disneyland had a 10 percent drop, to 6.1 million, amid a continued decline in tourism from mainland China. Disney recently unveiled $1.4 billion in upgrades in Hong Kong.

But Disney’s North American parks had more modest declines. Attendance at the Magic Kingdom totaled roughly 20.4 million, down 0.5 percent; Disneyland’s estimated total was 17.9 million, down 2 percent.

Universal has shown an increase in attendance over the same time period, but even in a down year, Disney’s numbers dwarf theirs.

Now, it’s worth noting that Disney doesn’t disclose its attendance numbers, and these figures are estimates from a trade group. They also don’t take into account recent upgrades like the Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission Breakout attraction at Disneyland in California, which boasted 300 minute wait times on its opening weekend and the Pandora: The World of Avatar land at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Florida, whose attractions has 200 and 250 minute wait times when it opened.

(Future upgrades will boost attendance as well. Star Wars Land, when it opens at both American parks in 2019, will surely show an increase in numbers.)

It’s also worth considering that lower attendance doesn’t equal less profit. Disney still reported a profit over that time period thanks to its ticket pricing structure, as well as hotel and resort pricing.

What’s the point, you ask? It’s simple: lowering attendance numbers should be cause for concern, regardless of profits (though selfishly, as a Disney addict whose family visits Walt Disney World at least once a year, I like the thought of shorter lines). Bob Iger should focus more time on growing every area of the company he leads and less time on political opinions that don’t really matter to most people.

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Chris Queen

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