A senior member of Disneyland Paris management has suggested a plan to renew Disney Village will be “the next step” after recent park renovations, sparking much speculation about the entertainment district’s future. Read More…
Soundbites about “challenging tourism climates” and “investing in growth strategies” aren’t all you’ll find the Euro Disney S.C.A. Annual Review. Published by the Disneyland Paris operating group each year, the splashy document is also filled with a host of fascinating and intriguing facts and figures about the resort, its parks, its Cast Members and its visitors.
You can browse the 2013 Annual Review now online. Surprisingly, this year breaks with tradition and abandons the usual overblown website dedicated to the report (last year complete with Philippe Gas video intro) and presents it just as a standard e-brochure. We’d love to know the figure for how much cash that decision wisely saved. But instead, here’s our quick pick of the key figures and fun facts of 2013 at Disneyland Paris…
Last, but not least, the geographical split of theme park visits, where France has broken 51% leaving all other feeder nations languishing. It’s fascinating to look back ten years to the results from the 2003 Annual Review and see how dramatically the breakdown has shifted.
Where once 22% of visitors were from the United Kingdom, now that percentage is a tiny 14%. Worse for Germany; its percentage share has halved from 6% to 3% in 2013. Italy and Spain meanwhile used to make up 9% together and have now increased to 11%, mainly thanks to a boom in visitors from Spain begun a few years ago, but which now appears to have ebbed away, in line with the country’s economy, to 8%.
Attendance figures in 2003 were 12.4 million, so 22% would give an estimated 2,728,000 British guests for the year. The same calculation for 14% of the 14.9 million guests in 2013 gives 2,086,000 guests crossing the channel. Far from a scientific, watertight calculation, obviously, but you could see it suggesting that roughly 654,720 fewer visitors from the UK went to Disneyland Paris in 2013 compared to ten years ago, a 24% drop.
Overall, with 49% of visitors now coming from outside France in 2013 versus 61% in 2003, you could estimate the resort’s entire non-domestic park attendance has actually fallen by over a quarter of a million guests in the past ten years, from 7.6 million in 2003 to 7.3 million in 2013. In the same period, meanwhile, you could estimate attendance from within France has grown by a huge 2.8 million guests, from 4.8 million to a strong 7.6 million visitors.
Clearly it is time Disneyland Paris took a few of its œufs out of its panier and worked on growing visitor numbers from other countries too, if only back to the levels they were ten years ago.
That’s not something even Rémy can do alone, or is it?
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.
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.
You’ve already upgraded from a standard lodge room to a Montana room, perhaps even a Lake View. But from April, Disney’s Sequoia Lodge begins offering an altogether more “exclusive” category of room with the launch of its own Golden Forest Club.
Modelled on the successful Castle Club of Disneyland Hotel and Empire State Club at Disney’s Hotel New York, these rooms will be located in the top floors of the main building and come complete with their own Golden Forest Club Lounge. Besides the privileged room location, benefits include breakfast with Disney characters and private reception, plus free soft drinks and afternoon snacks in the adjoining lounge, which is said to have a “beautiful tree” as its centrepiece.
Special Disney’s Fastpass tickets are also a benefit, although not as generous as the other “Clubs” which provide unlimited VIP Fastpass tickets: For Golden Forest Club, you’ll only receive one “Disney Hotel Fastpass” per person per day, which is a single-use, any-time, any-attraction ticket.
A higher tier means a higher price, and that’s especially true here. For one night including park tickets for two adults sharing a Golden Forest Club room, prices start at €634 according to Disneyland Paris’ standard pricing grids. That compares to €498 for a standard room at Sequoia Lodge and is notably more than the €596 for the same stay at the Admiral’s Floor of Disney’s Newport Bay Club, which doesn’t offer the private lounge nor any special Fastpass.
The rooms of Disney’s Sequoia Lodge were completely refurbished throughout 2011 and 2012, adding light “Bambi” touches. Current hotel refurbishment efforts now centred on the lowest tier Disney’s Hotel Santa, adding touches from Disney-Pixar’s “Cars” to the rooms. Up next for a major update is said to be Disney’s Newport Bay Club, which rumour suggests could enhance its “Admiral’s Floor” offer to become more like these Club rooms.
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…
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…
Les Villages Nature de Val d’Europe might not have the most catchy name, particularly for non-French speakers, but the project’s new website has just launched at a more succinct www.villagesnature.com. This is the 50/50 development between Euro Disney and Pierre & Vacances Center Parcs, a huge new leisure and accommodation destination planned to be built on land surrounding Disney’s existing Davy Crockett Ranch a few kilometres south-east of the parks. A first phase of 1,730 accommodation units (710 apartments surrounding the main lake, 1,020 individual cottages further south) would also see the creation of a unique geothermal heated lagoon and the largest water park in Europe, along with restaurants, shops and other amenities. This new website seeks to collect questions and opinions from those affected in the local area, with a budget of €700 million “subject to public debate”. Of that, €430 million would be for accommodation units, to be leased to individual investors for periods of 9 years, whilst €260 million would be for the water park, leisure facilities, shops and restaurants.
The results of this public inquiry will be known in August, when the authorities are hoped to give the go-ahead. Marketing would then begin towards the end of this year with construction starting in the first quarter of 2013 for a first phase opening date of first quarter 2015. Don’t think this project will be a self-contained expansion, either — we’ll certainly see the effects back up at the main esplanade. The Transports page confirms some big changes, such as the long-awaited construction of a southern entrance to the TGV platforms, opposite the new World of Disney, allowing travellers from Val d’Europe and the south to access the high speed rail station without crossing the busy park entrances. Not only that, but a southern RER entrance is now also planned, and a southern bus station to be positioned in front of the Disney Village parking building.
Even more dramatic, Disneyland Paris would no longer be the end of the RER A line, with a plan to extend the line to join up with RER Line E at the town of Esbly to the north-east — currently very close but hard to access from the resort. Sadly for international travellers there’s no such rail extension in the pipeline up to Charles-de-Gaulle Airport (which would surely be both profitable with tourists and hugely useful for locals, better than using the TGV for such a short hop), but an “intensification of shuttle services”. The envisaged tramway system also appears to have hit a buffer-stop when Val d’Europe lost its bid for the French Open tennis tournament, meaning the super-eco-friendly project will probably be relying on shuttle buses. Although a stop at least looks to be provided for Davy Crockett Ranch, which will remain separate from the project, allowing trappers to leave their cars behind to get to the parks. Finally, the road network would be improved — in particular with an entrance to the Villages Nature themselves branching south from the main Exit 14 of the A4 autoroute, visible in the map above.
Architecturally, many of the buildings revealed so far are certainly daring. In fact, you might worry that these are going to be the 2015 equivalent to 1992’s soon-dated Festival Disney. But a strong artistic direction at this stage could also be reassuring. The most exciting aspect so far is that Joe Rohde, the lead designer of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, has been mentioned as part of Walt Disney Imagineering’s artistic involvement, and it seems you can see that influence already in the buildings overgrown by plants, creating a mélange of man and nature. Arts & Crafts and Art Nouveau are strong influences, with the styles of Frank Lloyd Wright and Friedensreich Hundertwasser quoted officially as inspirations.