Wednesday, 5th February 2014

First Quarter 2014: Revenues, attendance, hotel occupancy down; guest spending up

Disney Dreams! of Christmas - Disneyland Paris

Euro Disney S.C.A. published its First Quarter results yesterday for the 2014 fiscal year, with the Disneyland Paris operating group announcing a series of disappointing drops across the board, helped only by some modest guest spending increases.

Covering the period from 1st October to 31st December 2013, the first quarter saw overall Resort revenues fall by 5% to €304.9 million, from €320.7 million in the same period the previous year. For the Theme Parks segment it was less severe, with a drop of just over 3%, while the Hotels and Disney Village saw the worst results with an almost 6% drop in revenues.

Disneyland Paris First Quarter Q1 2014 results

With a 9.6 percentage point decrease in hotel occupancy, equating to 51,000 fewer room nights old compared to the previous year, an increase of 6% in average spending per room might look like the only good news here. But even this rise was due only to higher daily room rates, and actually offset by lower spending on food and beverage.

In the parks, attendance decreased by 7%. Though this quarter marks the first results since the end of the 20th Anniversary on 30th September 2013, this figure must still be disappointing given the extra investments made to the Halloween and Christmas seasons, arguably now at their strongest for years. Average spending per guest increased by 4%, however, with Euro Disney S.C.A. pointing to not just higher admissions prices but (at long last) higher spending on merchandise, too.

In his standard statement, Philippe Gas, Chief Executive Officer of Euro Disney S.A.S., said:

“In a still challenging economic environment, we realized lower attendance and occupancy as compared to last year, which resulted in a 5% decrease in resort revenues. However our strategy aimed at increasing guest contribution helped us offset some of the attendance and occupancy weakness as we achieved record guest spending in both our parks and hotels for a first quarter.

Even though we remain prudent given the current economic environment, we believe the fundamentals of our business are strong and we are confident in our long-term strategy focused on investing in the guest experience. The opening of our new Ratatouille-themed attraction this summer fully reflects this growth strategy.”

What appears evident, from the hotel results in particular, is that visitors are more careful than ever about how they spend their money and whether they actually get value back. For an experience like Disneyland Paris, visitors are probably more willing to splash out on a luxury like a Disney Hotel stay, even though they know the value-for-money is questionable. But only up to a point.

And after such a large initial outlay, most will inevitably then reign in spending on extras — meals, shows, merchandise — and scrutinise every Euro spent. Getting greedy with that initial booking price could mean a loss in spending throughout the entire trip. Or it could, more and more often it seems, mean that the initial hotel booking never takes place at all — another company gets the revenue and the room night — or, worst case, the visitor decides not to visit Disneyland Paris at all.

We have, at least, seen a slight shift in hotel package promotions away from huge discounts of up to 40%, which surely only eroded the perceived brand value, and towards “added value” offers like free Half Board Meal Plans or extra nights. More like this would be welcome — rather than taking Euros off a booking, why not offer that as “free” spending money in the parks on a gift card?

Could Ratatouille: The Ride be the saving grace of 2014? Intriguingly, this press release suddenly changes the wording to an opening date of “early Summer”. With results like these, the sooner they can get something of that “growth strategy” on the table, the better.

VIA Disneyland Paris Corporate (PDF Press Release)

Monday, 18th March 2013

Video: Disneyland Paris president Philippe Gas officially announces Ratatouille attraction

Ratatouille dark ride announcement [Video still © Disney Central Plaza]

Each year, late February brings the Shareholders’ Annual General Meeting for Disneyland Paris operating group Euro Disney SCA. And each year, without fail, an optimistic few anticipate the next big attraction will be announced there on spot. This year, that actually came true.

Little fanfare, even fewer hard facts and absolutely no Walt Disney Imagineering concept art accompanied the brief announcement by Philippe Gas on 28th February, now shared online in this video by Disney Central Plaza. Accompanied only by a promotional still from the Disney-Pixar film itself, the CEO of Euro Disney S.A.S. stated that “Ratatouille”, as it was simply referred to, would open next year and “mark a new generation of attractions.”

“Vous serez acteurs dans une nouvelle dimension. Servies par les technologies numériques de pointe, nos réalisations vous donneront des sensations inédites en vous immergeant dans l’univers de Ratatouille. L’immersion dans le Paris : des restaurants, des cuisines, de la gastronomie; l’interactivité, l’innovation, l’émotion. Ratatouille ouvrira ses portes l’an prochain. Nous serons donc très bientôt en mesure de vous dévoiler la primeur de cette réalisation qui marquera une nouvelle génération d’attractions.”

“You will be taken into a new dimension. Thanks to advanced digital technology, our advances will give you brand new sensations to immersing you in the world of Ratatouille. Immersed in Paris: restaurants, kitchens, gastronomy; interactivity, innovation, emotion. Ratatouille will open its doors next year. We will be able to unveil more soon about this development, which marks a new generation of attractions.” (loosely translated)

Concept art and exterior plans for the Ratatouille Kitchen Calamity (working title) dark ride showbuilding have previously been sourced from the local town planning department, still viewable here, but Disney has yet to officially release any artwork for the attraction itself.

Watch the video below… Read More…

Thursday, 28th February 2013

Disneyland Paris officially announces “new Ratatouille-themed attraction” for 2014

Ratatouille dark ride

You thought it might never happen. But at last, the Ratatouille dark ride is official. After years of winks and nods to this open secret from Euro Disney S.C.A. officials, not to mention that vast concrete shell of a showbuilding at Walt Disney Studios Park, CEO Philippe Gas has today publicly confirmed that a “Ratatouille-themed attraction” will open at Disneyland Paris in 2014.

Here’s the full press release, released to coincide with today’s Shareholders annual general meeting:

Marne-la-Vallée, 28 February 2013. During the group’s annual shareholder meeting on 28 February, Euro Disney Chairman Philippe Gas announced plans for the continued development of Disneyland Paris, with the addition of a new attraction based on the hit Disney/Pixar movie Ratatouille.

‘Our new family-focused Ratatouille attraction, which is scheduled to open in 2014, symbolises all of the creativity, innovation and emotion that guests associate with a Disneyland Paris experience,’ Gas said.

Set to open in Walt Disney Studios Park, the attraction is part of the group’s long-term commitment to investing in high-quality guest experiences. That strategy has been fundamental to strengthening the appeal of the multi-day destination, which achieved record-breaking attendance of 16 million visits in 2012.

This unique attraction will take guests into the world of the Oscar-winning Disney/Pixar movie Ratatouille which tells the tale of Remy – a talented young rat who dreams of becoming a renowned French chef. Disney storytelling and state-of-the-art technology will come together in this romantic, larger-than-life, Parisian experience.

‘By developing this new Ratatouille attraction, we continue to ensure our guests can experience their favourite Disney stories in memorable ways that only Disney can provide,’ Gas said. ‘The theme, which is very français, is a tribute to our capital and the unforgettable characters that make Ratatouille the ideal choice for an attraction that fits perfectly at Disneyland Paris.’

The group also announced the extension of its 20th Anniversary celebrations until 30 September 2013. Guests now have a second chance to enjoy the festivities that include a new twist on the award-winning ‘Disney Dreams!’ spectacular. The unforgettable show will now be enriched with scenes from two much-loved Disney animated classics, The Lion King and Brave. In addition,each performance will become an interactive experience when guests wear Disney Light’Ears.

These magical Mickey ears will change colour in time with the show, making ‘Disney Dreams!’ an even more spectacular experience for the whole family.

From today’s annual general meeting, the operating group’s strategy for the resort is now more firmly fixed on expanding Walt Disney Studios Park into a viable partner for Disneyland Park, though no detail was apparently given beyond this already-under construction development.

The press release naturally fails to give many details away about the new attraction — there’s plenty of time ahead for that. Hopefully this is just the start of a well-organised promotional campaign to maximise this €150 million investment. Disneyland Paris has been notoriously poor at “hyping” its new attraction openings, compared to other theme parks and the American Disney resorts — notably California — which build interest with updates and teasers well in advance of the opening date.

Here’s to Paris, 2014…

VIA Disneyland Paris Corporate (PDF)

Monday, 11th February 2013

Disneyland Paris Fan Survey: Results make for interesting infographic

Official Disneyland Paris Fan Survey

Congratulations — if you’re reading this, you’re likely one of the 85% of Disneyland Paris fans who visit fansites at least once a week. Let’s hope you’re not also one of the unfortunate 8% of fans who have never actually visited the resort. There, just two of the many intriguing statistics recently dug out in a huge “infographic” of 7,760 responses to the official Disneyland Paris Fan Survey we were asked to help promote last year.

The full infographic is included below. Revealing that fans who responded visit Disneyland Paris on average 10 times a year, 71% are between 18 and 34 years old and 59% (versus 41%) are male, the results of the online survey also reveal what fans themselves want from Disneyland Paris and its communication with us. The official Facebook, YouTube and Twitter streams are given a perhaps surprisingly resounding thumbs up — 87% satisfied with the official Facebook page, 83% with Twitter — while a slightly lower 79% are satisfied with merchandise opportunities.

Disneyland Paris Fan Survey

Though the simpler tickbox answers have generated some nice stats for this infographic, the more interesting text-based answers are what we hope the resort listens and learns from. Most fans, as well as desiring special treatment from the resort, also want to see it succeed and improve in itself. After all, the more successful Disneyland Paris is, and the more people who understand the “magic” of the place, the more confident we’ll feel in our own position as fans.

The suggestion of an official blog for news and backstage insights is still a great one, and probably brought up as much from our desire to read it as our belief that — like the excellent US Disney Parks Blog — it would help in the resort’s promotion and communication with the wider public.

Likewise merchandise, which it’s noted fans want to see more “geared to the resort experience” (ie. based around lands and attractions, rather than generic characters) — we want better merchandise so we can more happily part with our cash and support something dear to our hearts. Rather than improving for us, fans mostly want Disneyland Paris to improve for itself first.

Full infographic attached below… Read More…

Tuesday, 18th September 2012

Debt Mountain: The Walt Disney Company agrees €1.3 billion Euro Disney refinancing

Time to shoot for the moon again?

It’s not the rumoured share buyout, but it’s big: Euro Disney S.C.A., operating group of Disneyland Paris, tonight announced that a huge €1.3 billion of its epic debt pile will be refinanced by The Walt Disney Company itself, taking over from the banks which have stunted the resort’s growth. Given a longer lending term, less restrictive financial commitments and reduced interest payments, Disneyland Paris will be free to invest more in long-term growth and enjoy greater operational flexibility. Read More…

Tuesday, 13th March 2012

TWO new attractions for Walt Disney Studios Park in 2014 with €150m investment?

UPDATE: Disneyland Paris has confirmed Le Figaro’s transcription was inaccurate — only one new attraction is scheduled to open in 2014.

We know Disneyland Paris has the money, we know they’ve finally started construction on the Ratatouille dark ride, and Brad Bird knows all about it, too. But now, in an interview with French newspaper Le Figaro, Philippe Gas has let slip a surprising statement that Walt Disney Studios Park will see not one, but two new attractions opening within its gates in 2014. In the brief article headlined “Disneyland Paris ‘has learned from its mistakes'”, the resort president and CEO of Euro Disney SCA discusses the company’s tumultuous financial situation as it approaches its 20th Anniversary.

Asked as a final question “What will you do to avoid the park reaching saturation?”, he comments:

Knowing that a customer is satisfied when they can see at least six attractions in a day, we estimate our maximum capacity to be 17 million visitors annually. So we still have room for improvement, but we must grow. In January, our banks have given us 150 million euros in new funding to build two new attractions, which should open in 2014 in our second park, Walt Disney Studios. In 2010, we also obtained the agreement of the State to build a third park. We are looking at it very seriously, even if the decision won’t be made until 2020. We will also build new hotels, restaurants and shops.

Now, presuming Mr Gas doesn’t count the adjoining restaurant or those desperately needed new toilets which should be installed next to Ratatouille, this gives us an odd surplus in the new attraction count for 2014. So what are the possibilities? Again, this could depend on how you define a new attraction, but let’s throw Studio Tram Tour: Behind the Magic right out there straight away.

An expanded Tram Tour, perhaps a new show scene, perhaps even a relocated station — allowing the park to begin that announced “multi-year expansion”, expanding the current Hollywood Boulevard — could all be strong possibilities come 2014. Relaunching it as a “new attraction”, given changes like these to make it a worthwhile experience, would be far more appreciated than previous half-hearted relaunches such as Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril: Backwards! and Space Mountain: Mission 2. The route itself has already been pushed even further back into the forest by current construction works, yet still desperately needs things to actually see along it. Those huge, people-eating trams are surely not reaching their full capacity with the disappointing tour which exists today.

We had assumed that €150 million would only just cover Ratatouille itself, so a second attraction would likely be a smaller, less expensive project. We’re not expecting a Soarin’ here just yet. So presuming CinéMagique is safe and Aerosmith still have a few years left in them yet, the only likely replacements for existing attractions are Armageddon: Les Effets Speciaux and Animagique.

Armageddon suffers with its poor throughput and even poorer pre-show; having been the focus of a previous replacement proposal, to build a Chronicles of Narnia-based attraction in its place, could its time finally be up? Recent rumours have suggested that the licence to the 1998 Jerry Bruckheimer film itself could soon run out, further fuelling the desire for a replacement. With the more neutral Backlot location, this could be the perfect opportunity to introduce Disney’s recently-acquired Marvel characters to the parks, although the building’s small size would certainly be restrictive. It might not be the easiest way to add capacity to the park, as Philippe Gas desires.

Meanwhile, the live Animagique blacklight puppetry show in Toon Studio will be approaching its twelfth birthday in 2014. Popular though it is, that’s a long time for a live show, and considering the huge 1,100-seat capacity of Studio 3, the show provides the park with relatively little capacity. Finally going ahead with a long-mooted replacement by a certain 3-D film such as, ooh, Mickey’s Philharmagic would boost capacity in this part of the park enormously — and that’s precisely what Philippe Gas seems concerned about here, making it a very strong possibility.

Due to the live puppeteers involved, Animagique stages only around five shows per day in the vast auditorium, whereas a 12-minute projected film show such as Philharmagic is able to play continuously from park opening right to closing time; cycling through audiences every 20 minutes or so, and with lower operational costs to boot. The pair are practically cousins, conceived around the same time and both seeing Donald Duck getting lost in a series of classic musical scenes. But with 3-D films becoming passé again and Philharmagic due to be nearing 11 years old in 2014, could it still be viable as a new attraction? A belated opening at Tokyo Disneyland just last year suggests it certainly is.

As you can see, while two new attractions in one year may be a surplus, there’s still no shortage of possibilities in Walt Disney Studios Park to use that valuable credit on. Watch this space…

VIA Le Figaro.fr

Tuesday, 7th February 2012

Resort revenues up 4%, attendance up 5%, not a rat to be found in First Quarter 2012 results

Disneyland Paris saw overall revenue growth of just 1% in the first quarter of its 2012 financial year, from 1st October to 31st December 2011. The results, published this morning by operating group Euro Disney S.C.A., make for unremarkable if somewhat reassuring reading given the economic climate. Resort revenues, for Theme Parks, Disney Village and Hotels, actually rose a good 4% in the quarter, brought down for the total figure only by lower real estate revenue compared to 2011. Park attendance itself grew a surprising 5%, due to higher numbers visiting from France itself, perhaps taking advantage of the mild late Autumn for last minute trips, with total Theme Park revenues up 7%.

Philippe Gas, CEO, comments that “improved attendance and guest spending are encouraging, especially in light of the challenging economic environment.”

However, average spending per guest in the parks was up by only 1% and average spending per room at Disney Hotels up only 2%. Total Disney Village and Hotel revenues grew by just 1% and room occupancy at Disney Hotels actually fell by 1.1 percentage points. It seems that, despite continued success in getting guests through the park gates, the resort still struggles at turning these numbers into anything more than negligible increases in revenue, probably driven more by price increases than additional purchases. It has to be said that, for a visitor, the resort’s casual dining fare remains largely out of date and uninspiring, while the merchandise range simply fails to engage for many demographics. At a time when a guest will consider and reconsider every additional purchase on top of their ticket, the resort certainly isn’t doing badly, but it is failing to make many consequential gains.

Nor is the dip in hotel room occupancy disastrous, especially after a sharp (and perhaps, unsustainable) jump of 5.6 percentage points in FY2011. Yet perhaps it reflects a growing feeling amongst visitors that the Disney Hotels do not offer the best value for their money. High standard room rates have combined with aggressive discounting over several years to suggest that “the price on the label” may not necessarily be the price they’re worth. A quick visit to any online trip planning forum will immediately bring up potential visitors merely biding their time for the next “big offer” or “flash sale” — hey, like this one! — which, while useful for propping up numbers, must surely be harming the brand value associated with Disneyland Paris. Will anyone ever want to pay full price again?

Signing off, Philippe Gas mentions only the 20th Anniversary: “In April we look forward to launching our twentieth anniversary celebrations with brand new experiences for our guests, including the Disney Dreams®! night-time show, an innovative light and color spectacular. It will also be
an opportunity to celebrate a two-decade journey with our cast members, our guests as well as our key public and private partners who have helped Disneyland Paris become Europe’s number one tourist destination.” Meanwhile the footnotes include only the same passing mention to the launch of a “multi-year expansion of the Walt Disney Studios® Park, which includes a new attraction.” So, despite construction having begun, no Ratatouille dark ride announcement yet; and all eyes on the 20th…

VIA Euro Disney S.C.A. Fiscal year 2012 – First Quarter Announcement (PDF)

Thursday, 12th January 2012

Ratatouille dark ride is GO! Construction permit appears for “Toon Studio D” attraction

It turns out, a construction permit really can be this exciting to see. A mere two days after The Walt Disney Company agreed to loan Euro Disney S.C.A. funding of €150m for park expansion, a fresh “permis de construire” has appeared at the rear of Walt Disney Studios Park for a project ostensibly titled “Toon Studio D”. This can only mean one thing: the Ratatouille dark ride is ready to go!

From the first rumours back in 2008 to the first planning application in 2009, apparent special effects testing in 2010, then final confirmation from Disney, concept art and planning permission and a visit from John Lasseter in 2011, this has been one long project. With today’s new permit signalling that construction is imminent at the Studios, it could be around another two years until the attraction opens, such is the average construction period for a large Disney attraction. All hopes are now set on 2014 for a grand opening, providing the perfect pick-up from what might be expected to be a two-year 20th Anniversary celebration, as the previous 15th, to maximise the “anniversary” draw.

Ratatouille dark ride
Ratatouille dark ride

The permit also reveals that the new showbuilding will stand 17.8 m tall with the surface area of construction totalling 5719 m2. For comparison, RC Racer reaches a height of 24.8 m, while the vast “it’s a small world” showbuilding covers around 4000m2. The date of 13th April 2011 coincides well with the publication of concept art and planning documents last May (above), which gave a very detailed look at the exterior of this new “Parisian quarter” but very little clues as to the attraction which will lie inside its walls. Rumours continue to point to a primarily projection-based experience, likely in 3D, likely utilising a “trackless” ride system first used at Pooh’s Hunny Hunt in Tokyo in 2000 and conveniently due to be used for Hong Kong Disneyland’s new Mystic Manor dark ride, due to open late 2013.

Almost more important than the dark ride, for a park so starved of facilities as Walt Disney Studios, will be the restaurant incorporated into the showbuilding itself. As we’ve hinted in the past, this probably won’t be the stuffy Gusteau’s dining experience you might have expected, but a rather more informal and fun “rat-sized” restaurant as imagined at the end of the film itself. Despite much investment in attractions, a short-sighted lack of dining provision is one of the key reasons why the Studios’ opening hours remain cut short even in peak seasons.

Euro Disney S.C.A.’s first quarter revenues announcement on 7th February could be a good moment for the company to confirm the project. Though given past experience, don’t expect anything more than a black and white footnote to trumpet what may well be the most exciting development for the Studios in all its beleaguered ten years. Something unique to the park, technologically advanced, classically Disney and inclusive to all ages. Come on Rémy, surprise us!

VIA Disney Central Plaza

Tuesday, 10th January 2012

Walt Disney Company gifts €150m to Disneyland Paris for multi-year Studios Park expansion

The Walt Disney Company has begun 2012 with a €150 million boost for Disneyland Paris’ investment funds. Providing the loan agreement as an “additional standby revolving credit facility” to Euro Disney S.C.A., the operator of the resort which is 39.8% owned by Disney, it comes on top of an existing credit facility worth €100 million, giving a neat €250 million for future investments.

Just right for a modest expansion of Walt Disney Studios Park, you’re thinking? Right! The press release published this morning specifically states:

“These investments correspond to the annual recurring investment budget for fiscal year 2012 and a multi-year expansion of the Walt Disney Studios Park, which includes a new attraction.”

That “new attraction” would almost certainly be the Ratatouille dark ride for which we eventually saw concept art and detailed plans last year. With its rumoured trackless ride system, 3D projection effects and adjoining restaurant, this grand-scale E-Ticket would certainly eat a large chunk out of 250 million Euros. However, the precise wording of a “multi-year expansion” suggests that the park could see expansion or improvements beyond this single corner of Toon Studio. In recent “round table” discussions with shareholders, Philippe Gas, CEO has placed the expansion of Walt Disney Studios Park into a “complete destination for a whole days’ visit” as a top priority. With this very happy New Year investment from the Mouse, that long-held priority takes a big step closer to reality.

While the existing credit facility is available until 30th September 2014, this additional facility is available until 2018. With construction taking around two years, the opening of a major new attraction at the Studios from 2014 onwards would be a good promotion tool after the end of the 20th Anniversary. The previous multi-year expansion from 2006 to 2008 overlapped with the 15th Anniversary, leaving a gap in investments from 2009 onwards which the resort has been forced to fill with entertainment “theme years”. Since an anniversary will always attract visits, it should work in the resort’s favour to hold off more permanent investments for the years in-between.

MORE Euro Disney S.C.A. Press Release (PDF)

Wednesday, 16th November 2011

Disneyland Paris welcomes 250 millionth guest – a quarter billion visitors in less than 20 years!

1, 2, 3… 250,000,000! A huge milestone was celebrated at Disneyland Paris yesterday, 15th November 2011, as the resort welcomed its 250 millionth guest into the parks. That’s a quarter of a billion visitors in just 19 years, 7 months and 15 days. Yes, ok, so they’re still not able to turn a consistent net profit, but let the urban myth that Disney’s European resort has been under-attended since 1992 officially be put to rest. In the 2011 financial year, the parks set a new record of 15.6 million visitors, making the outlook for the 20th Anniversary year rosy indeed. With the usual birthday year boom, longer opening hours through the year and the premiere of Dreams, the resort may well hit the magical 16 million.

The guests in question yesterday received the honour of a celebratory ride up Main Street, U.S.A. on the Fire Truck with Disneyland Paris Ambassador Régis Alart and a photocall with Mickey, Minnie and Duffy in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle. Just like the 100 millionth visitors in 2001 and the 200 millionth visitors in 2008, they were a family of mum and dad with two photogenic young kids, but in a groundbreaking move they were Spanish, not French, and visiting for the fourth time. Euro Disney SCA’s own press release (PDF) notes that families with young children make up 66% of visitors. So, by those odds, maybe we’ll see someone from the other 34% awarded the 300 million honour in a few years?

VIA Ambassadeur Disneyland Paris (Facebook), Disneyland Paris Corporate (PDF)

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