Disney CEO Bob Iger pushed back on reports of worrisome drops in Disney World attendance, claiming that foot traffic is down because of difficult comparisons with 2020, when Florida’s lax COVID restrictions sparked an unusual boom at the theme park.
“Florida opened up early during COVID, and it created huge demand. It didn’t have competition because there were a number of other places — states — that were not open yet,” Iger said during a televised CNBC interview on Thursday.
Since 2019, lines for attractions at Magic Kingdom, Disney’s most-visited park, have gotten increasingly shorter, it was reported this week. Average wait times fell from 47 minutes per ride in 2019 to 31 minutes in 2022, according to The Wall Street Journal.
So far this year, lines at Magic Kingdom are averaging 27 minutes, according to The Journal. Shrinking wait times are also reportedly a trend that are apparent at EPCOT, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom.
In response, Iger told CNBC that in 2020, “Florida was the only game in town,” suggesting that wait times have dropped because “there’s much more competition today” and he’s “not at all concerned” that attendance would continue to drop and affect business over time.
CNBC interviewer David Faber asked the Mouse House boss if the company’s warring lawsuits with Gov. Ron DeSantis could be impacting attendance.
“No,” Iger said definitively. “We see no sign of that at all.”
Iger also said that The Journal’s report of declining attendance failed to take into account that Orlando, Fla.’s temperatures soar “to about 100 degrees and 99% humidity” in the summer.
He added that Independence Day’s figures are “inaccurate” measures of year-over-year declines as it only accounted for a single day.
“We do not have long-term concerns about that business,” Iger added of the Orlando theme park.
Orlando’s Walt Disney World closed its doors for COVID on March 16, 2020, and was permitted to reopen just four months later, in July of 2020.
For reference, California officials didn’t allow Disneyland’s West Coast park to reopen until April 30, 2021, more than one year after its initial closure.
July 4 attendance at Disney was particularly dismal, The Journal found.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios, which features Disney’s Star Wars attractions, saw its third-slowest day of the past year on the Fourth of July.
Jaime Brown, a Walt Disney World annual pass holder who lives in Celebration, Fla., told The Wall Street Journal that she visited all four of the resort’s theme parks during the week of July 4.
Brown said that she managed to easily patronize attractions that are normally in high-demand such as Spaceship Earth and the Topolino’s Terrace restaurant.
“I couldn’t believe how light the crowds were,” Brown told The Journal.
The Post has reached out to The Walt Disney Company for comment.
Travel agents have attributed Disney’s pricing model, in part, for its dwindling attendance.
Ticket prices surged in early December — and the cost of entering Magic Kingdom around the holidays nearly doubled.
Despite generating a whopping $28.7 billion in revenue and $7.9 billion in profit for fiscal year 2022 — topping the company’s pre-pandemic performance — Iger upped one-day tickets to any of its four Orlando theme parks from $109 to anywhere between $124 and $189 depending on date and demand.
Three of Disney’s annual passes also got a price increase.
The Incredi-Pass increased to $1,399 from $1,299 and the Sorcerer Pass went from $899 to $969. In addition, the Pirate Pass will cost $749, up from $699, while Pixie Pass prices remain at $399.