Disney announced its fourth quarter earnings yesterday and while profits are up for the company overall, thanks in part to its lucrative ESPN franchise, parks and resorts reported a 17% drop in profits and a 4 percent drop in revenue. This, despite the fact that attendance is up. Incentives like free dining an “Buy 4/Get 3 Free” are working to fill the resorts and bring guests into the parks, but per-room spending is down as people react to the continued uncertainty of the economy.
Meanwhile, disgruntled Disney fans everywhere are noticing cutbacks in the parks, from the quality of dining to fewer Christmas lights on display. Even DVC owners, some of Disney World’s most loyal guests, felt the pinch last month when free valet parking, long a perk of owning part of the Mouse, was discontinuted. I have to admit, I didn’t notice any difference when I went in May, save for the fact that some of the bathrooms were in need of attention. And I think most of us understand that in this economy, companies need to cut back in order to survive. However, at what point do cutbacks begin to negatively impact your experience in the parks? If you’re a first timer, you might not notice; those who visit frequently may be a different story.
I’m going next month and I hope to report that the same old Disney quality that brings me back again and again will still be there. What about you? Have you noticed that the Mouse just isn’t the same in the last couple of years? Are these grumblings among fans justified or not?
*Disney Vacation Club, Disney’s on site timeshare properties.