After two straight quarters of declining or flat attendance numbers at its U.S. theme parks, Disney saw more favorable numbers between October and December 2019 — but its next report will reflect the negative impact of the novel coronavirus outbreak on international operations.
In its first quarter earnings report (Disney’s fiscal year begins in October), the company’s theme parks reported a 2 percent increase in attendance at Walt Disney World and the Disneyland Resort. Guests spent 10 percent at the parks thanks to higher admission price and increased spending on merchandise and food, while hotel occupancy rates hit 92 percent.
Overall, the Parks, Experiences, and Products division reported a 8 percent increase in revenue, hitting $7.8 billion.
In the previous two quarters, Disney chairman and CEO Bob Iger had been explaining slight drops in attendance following the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. The difference in this past quarter, however, was the opening of the land’s delayed marquee attraction, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance.
“Our Imagineers and the design team at Lucasfilm did an absolutely phenomenal job and it’s one of the most immersive, ambitious, and technologically advanced attractions ever created for a Disney park and it’s elevating storytelling to exciting new levels,” Iger said. “Not surprising, Rise of the Resistance has quickly become a fan favorite at both parks and Galaxy’s Edge has been a great success at Disneyland and Walt Disney World.”
The outlook for the division is less sunny for the current quarter, thanks to the outbreak of the coronavirus known as the 2019-nCoV that began in China.
Due to public health concerns, Disney has temporarily closed both of its Chinese parks — Hong Kong Disneyland and Shanghai Disneyland — with no indication as to when they might reopen.
Disney chief financial officer Christine McCarthy said the closure will have a negative impact on the company’s second quarter, especially since it came during the busy traveling season associated with the Chinese New Year.
Only 11 cases of the virus have been confirmed in the U.S., despite rampant online misinformation about the outbreak. With the vast majority of cases occurring in China, travel restrictions there and in the rest of Asia are unlikely to have a major impact on attendance at Walt Disney World.
“In general the parks do not have a significant amount of visitation from Asia,” McCarthy said. “When you look at Walt Disney World, no Asian market even factors into the top five and the top one being the U.K., I think everyone knows that, and then we have Brazil, Canada, Mexico, and Argentina.”
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