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?
Increased revenues from the Parks, Hotels and Disney Village failed to outweigh the extra investment pumped into maintaining those assets during the past year, Disneyland Paris has recorded in its Fiscal Year 2011 Results, leading to a net loss of €64 million. Though these Resort operating revenues rose by €60m to €1,275.2m, they couldn’t make up for an increase of €42.3m in direct operating costs to pull Euro Disney SCA, the operating group behind the resort, out of a net loss. As CEO Philippe Gas comments, “This past year we further invested in enhancing the overall guest experience, by introducing longer park operating hours, adding new entertainment and improving the appearance of our guest facing assets. Although these investments increase our costs, they are critical to maintain our long-term attractiveness as Europe’s number one tourist destination.”
Numbers are made to look worse, year-on-year, by the exceptional €47m sale of the land beneath the Val d’Europe shopping centre last year, which also affected Third Quarter 2011 results. Had this not taken place, rather than losing “just” €45.2m in 2010 the company would have seen a €92.2m net loss last year. Considering the heavy operational investment leading up to the 20th Anniversary and the lack of new attractions, the resort perhaps didn’t fare too badly in 2011. In fact, the figures which remain strikingly positive are those for visitor numbers. Park attendance rose to a new record of 15.6 million visitors, while hotel room occupancy grew back up to 87.1% from 85.4% last year (it was at 87.3% in 2009). Average spending per room also increased by around €10 to €219.74, no mean feat given the economic climate across Europe and continuous special offers.
But, as ever, the challenge for Disneyland Paris remains turning these strong numbers into a profit on the bottom line. €123 million in borrowings was reported to have been paid back this year, but if the resort can’t turn a profit on 15.6 million visitors, will it ever climb out of its estimated €2 billion debt? Was the heavy investment in refurbishments this year a one-off, or just the level of rolling investment the resort should be putting into its parks and resort all the time? And if visitor numbers rise again for the 20th Anniversary, will that translate into a profit, or will grand plans for the new nighttime spectacular (etc) — and the longer opening hours required to present it — outweigh the gains yet again?
Speaking of which, the report finally confirms: “In April 2012, Disneyland Paris will launch the celebrations of its 20th Anniversary. A number of brand new experiences await guests, including Dreams, a night-time show with classic Disney storytelling and the latest technical special effects.”
Perhaps the greatest special effect Dreams can pull next year is that, come November, Euro Disney SCA inches into a profit. That’ll take more than faith, trust and pixie dust.
Get ready folks: you’ve got less than 4 years to work your way to top of the Disney corporate ladder. The Walt Disney Company just made the somewhat surprise announcement that Bob Iger will see his tenure as chairman and chief executive officer extended until 31st March 2015 when he will step down as CEO, giving him a neat 10 years in charge. This will leave the door open for a new leader, a rare moment indeed for Disney. Iger will continue to serve as executive chairman for 15 months as part of the succession plan, which you can read the full details of in the ABC News article here.
Unlike Michael Eisner, the previous CEO from 1984 to 2005 who was unceremoniously ousted from the position after a shareholder revolt led by the late Roy E. Disney, Disney has set Bob Iger’s departure date far in advance, while he still well admired by shareholders, Cast Members and fans. In the past six years, he has led Disney back toward quality entertainment after the deluge of so-called direct-to-video “cheapquels” of earlier in the past decade; overseeing massive expansions of Hong Kong Disneyland, Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom in Florida and of course the billion-dollar Disney California Adventure rebirth. Shanghai Disney Resort, which broke ground earlier this year, will open in 2016.
Beyond the parks and just a year into his leadership Iger led the $7.4 billion acquisition of Pixar, after Michael Eisner very nearly drove the visionary studio away from the company; bringing John Lasseter to the forefront of Disney’s creative vision and launching a rebirth of traditional animation at the studio. This would also make the now sadly passed Pixar co-founder Steve Jobs the largest individual Disney shareholder and member of the board, providing an important relationship with Apple at a pivotal moment as it revolutionised the entertainment and technology industries.
While Iger has so far been spotted during visits to Disneyland Paris several times, the resort has failed to see many revolutions during his time. The last expansion wave of new attractions between 2006 and 2008 was already signed and sealed a few months before he became CEO, and current projects such as the Ratatouille dark ride, Disney Village and hotel expansions continue to languish on the drawing board. A full-scale project to “fix” Walt Disney Studios Park with a huge DCA-style investment package has been rumoured for later this decade, but so far not forthcoming. The park is perhaps the final piece of Eisner’s later legacy that still requires fixing to bring it up to the Disney name. Could Iger help it along as a final hurrah before 2015? And who do you think will be his likely successor?
For once it was good news all-round as Disneyland Paris operating group Euro Disney SCA published its Third Quarter 2011 revenues announcement earlier this month. A 5% increase in park attendance, 4% increase in guest spending and 1.3 percentage point increase in hotel occupancy boosted the Resort revenues by almost 7% compared to the same period last year. Though the group chose to lead with this positive improvement in its core business, it’s important to note that overall revenues for the quarter actually decreased by €28.7m (7.7%) because figures for the period in 2010 included the exceptional €47m sale of the land on which the Val d’Europe shopping mall is located.
Nevertheless, the full report paints a positive picture for the parks and hotels as we head towards the financial year-end. Visitor fluctuations continue, with fewer visitors from France now reported against more from the United Kingdom and Italy. This might appear to show that steady and widespread promotional campaigns for the resort in the British Isles have paid dividends with extra bookings following several years of decline for the cross-Channel market. The resort notably partnered with Walt Disney World for its first joint television advertising earlier this year and has had a strong showing with it’s Magical Moments Festival promotions despite the lack of any true new attractions this year. Somewhat desperately, both the obligatory comment from CEO Philippe Gas and “update on recent events” quote the return of The Tarzan Encounter as a key recent draw — a show which returned for just three months and originally premiered over ten years ago.
Still, if they’re posting attendance boosts in a year as anodyne as this, when half of Disneyland Park has been under scaffolding for refurbishment (which would have been a much more welcome thing to promote to investors) it’s looking good for the 20th…
Eighteen months into his role as chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, Tom Staggs has announced a big reorganisation for the department that appears to bring Disneyland Paris more tightly under Disney’s managerial wing. The former President of Worldwide Operations position has been eliminated following the retirement of Al Weiss; in its place a new expanded role for Walt Disney World President Meg Crofton, pictured above, who will now not only oversee the resort and four parks in Florida but serve in a new position as President of Operations in the US and France. Reporting to Meg will be George Kalogridis of Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California (and previously chief operating officer in Paris) and our own Philippe Gas of Euro Disney SCA, the group which operates Disneyland Paris. Meanwhile, previous Euro Disney CEO Karl Holz will add Disney Vacation Club to his current role overseeing Disney Cruise Line and Adventures by Disney.
In a memo sent on Tuesday Tom Staggs writes,
“Meg’s strong leadership abilities and broad experience make her the perfect person to lead resort operations in our established markets in the United States and Europe. Meg will report directly to me and become a member of my executive committee, allowing us to continue the great work of sharing best practices and leveraging our operational expertise across our properties. Meg understands and respects the unique heritage and characteristics of each of our theme park resort locations, which gives me great confidence in her ability to fulfill this role while preserving and enhancing what makes each of our properties so special in their own right.”
Whilst crossovers between Disneyland Paris and the American resorts have been noticeably increasing in recent years (the UK even had a joint Paris/Florida TV campaign earlier this year), this appears to be the firmest move yet in bringing their trans-Atlantic management closer. In fact, the Orlando Sentinel reports that it is all part of an initiative known as “One Disney”, which has been seeking to merge functions and responsibilities between resorts. What do you think — Is it a good thing for Disneyland Paris to be brought closer to the American resorts? And is Meg the right person to do it?
Which countries were the biggest visitors to Disneyland Paris in 2010? Last week’s AGM presentation was published online this morning and includes the exact percentages for the past year, showing an interesting shift in where those 15 million visitors are travelling from. Here’s the big news: For perhaps the first time in the resort’s history, more than 50% of visitors came from France itself — a huge 51%, to be precise. This seems to show a big boost from the resort’s home country, but may hide continued falls in attendance from surrounding countries. Back in 2002, for example, the percentage of visitors from France was just 40%, whilst an impressive 21% of visitors had travelled across the channel from the United Kingdom. In 2010, that figure has dropped dramatically to just 12%, perhaps the lowest percentage of British visitors ever, after falling from 20% in 2006, 18% in 2007, 16% in 2008 and 14% in 2009 — a worrying trend of falling visitor numbers every year for the past five years now.
Visitors from the Benelux meanwhile have remained relatively steady in percentage terms over the past decade, with Belgium and Luxembourg making up 7% of visitors in both 2010 and 2009, having been recorded at 6% for 2002 and 2006. The Netherlands appears to have experienced a slight drop in prominence, at 7% of visitors for 2010 but previously having made up 8% in 2006 and 9% in 2002. One big success for Disneyland Paris in recent years has been in attracting more guests from Spain, but even here the draw appears to be waning. Back in 2002, Spain was even combined with Italy, for a total 9% of visitors, but by 2005 had attained this number all by itself. Spanish visitors appeared to reach their peak in 2008, making up 11% of guests, but this dropped to 8% in 2009 and 2010. Finally, visitors from the rest of the world have remained steady at 9%, having stuck at that percentage for the past decade (though Euro Disney SCA claims an increasing demand from visitors of further afield for 2010).
But wait — we’re forgetting somewhere. Making just 3% of visitors in 2010, Germany is at risk of barely even registering on the figures. This German market has dropped consistently for the past few years — from 4% in 2006, 5% in 2005 and 7% back in 2002 — despite being a wealthy country of 80 million where Disney is as popular as anywhere, with several big theme parks of its own. Those successful parks might be part of the problem, as might the lack of a direct Eurostar-style link, but surely this should be a bigger market for the resort. Back in 1992, it seemed to be expected that Germany would be right behind the UK as one of the biggest visitors. So, what’s keeping Deutschland away from Disneyland?
Here it is, the joint advertising campaign for both Disneyland Paris and Walt Disney World Resort in Florida we teased a couple of weeks ago. The spots, almost entirely consisting of user-generated videos, launched on TV networks in the UK on Sunday and will run for two weeks, until 27th February. Coming in 20 and 40-second editions, they show real children being told they’re off to Disneyland (or Disney World) as their parents watch — and film — on, hoping for a reaction that might just make the Disney cut.
The ads have already run in some high-profile slots, including two in a single break during last night’s primetime broadcast of The BRIT Awards on ITV1. Curiously, the “2 destinations, one single emotion” tagline has been dropped, with only the two resort logos and a new web address — www.disneyparks.co.uk — offered instead. For the UK market at least, the commercials could show the start of a new, more joined-up approach to marketing the two Disney resorts, which could particularly help Disneyland Paris as it is often publicly perceived as a much lesser destination.
Once this campaign ends, similar ads will start up again from 1st March all the way into April, focusing specifically on Disneyland Paris and the Disney Magical Moments Festival. Such a heavy advertising spend, also including TV on demand platforms, print advertisements and outdoor poster boards, could be an attempt to address the falling visitors from the UK continually reported in Euro Disney SCA’s financial results.
First Quarter revenues are up 8% in the results published this morning by Euro Disney SCA, the operating group of Disneyland Paris, but show a struggle to recover from the dent taken during the worst days of the economic crisis in 2008 and 2009. Though the 8% rise to €316.8 million in total Theme Park, Disney Village, Hotel and Resort revenues represents a boost in revenues of €24.8 million, it still fails to fully reverse the huge 10.5% drop the resort saw in First Quarter 2010, when revenues in the period fell from €326.4 million in financial year 2009 to €292 million in 2010. Whilst theme park attendance dropped 11% year-on-year in 2010, it has only grown back by a disappointing 1% in today’s results, which the resort claims stems from an increase in visitors from France and Belgium — offset by fewer visitors from the Netherlands and, yet again, the United Kingdom. This comes despite the opening of three expensive new attractions in Toy Story Playland just before the quarter.
Nevertheless, hotel occupancy rose a strong 5.6 percentage points, suggesting that the resort segment of the business has fared better in the harsh weather conditions seen over the three months from 1st October to 31st December 2010, which analysts expected to curb Disneyland Paris from making bigger gains. Philippe Gas, Chief Executive Officer of Euro Disney S.A.S. commented: “Following the improvement we saw at the end of last year, we are encouraged that our First Quarter guest visitation and spending continued to improve over the prior year. Total first quarter revenues were up 8% versus last year, which is particularly significant given the extensive travel disruptions experienced throughout Europe during the holiday season. We look forward to launching the Disney Magical Moments Festival this spring, where we will celebrate the role of Disney magic in creating lasting memories for families and friends at the Resort.”
After announcing a net profit of €2 million in 2008, its first since the opening of Walt Disney Studios Park in 2002, at the height of the boom and after a hugely successful 15th Anniversary campaign, Euro Disney SCA was almost immediately plunged back into debt. It still currently has around €1.8 billion in loans to pay dating back to the construction of the resort, when Disney wildly overestimated guest spending levels and the number of hotel rooms required in the first phase.
Seeing Disneyland Paris under a white blanket of snow might have been awfully pretty, but analysts are expecting the tumultuous weather conditions experienced in this corner of Europe over the past three months to have a negative effect on revenues for Euro Disney SCA, the resort’s operating company, which announces its First Quarter results tomorrow. The heavy snow and icy conditions across northern France will have likely deterred some short-notice visitors from making the trip, whilst others may have had to cancel longer-planned reservations, during one of the key seasons for Disneyland Paris.
Despite this, revenues are still apparently expected to improve from the disappointing results for the First Quarter of the 2010 financial year, which saw revenues for the three months drop by 10.5%. It became the first set of negative results in a bad year, with revenues dropping overall by 7%. Tomorrow’s results will cover the period from 1st October to 31st December 2010.
Notes from a Shareholders roundtable meeting at Disney’s Hotel New York back in December suggest some changes to the Passeport Annuel programme could be on the way this year. The first has already taken place: the launch of an official fourth ticket, the Passeport Annuel Classic. Primarily given away free via other companies a promotional tool (to “convert a new population to annual passports”, as the roundtable notes put it), the ticket offers 277 days of park access within each year (that’s 88 blockout dates). Where this gets interesting is that the ticket reportedly went on general sale at the parks on 17th December, costing €98. That’s just one Euro less than the freely-available Passeport Annuel Francilien, which offers a full 300 days in the parks. Confused? Though the Classic has yet to be listed on the official AP pages, the price point and the offering would make it a likely successor to the Francilien, whose name causes confusion (it’s not just for those in the Paris region) and whose advantages are arguably just a little too generous for the price, compared to regular tickets. Discontinuing the Francilien in favour of the Classic would even-up the benefits of each pass. We’ll see…
At the other end of the scale, the Passeport Annuel Dream already gives holders some fantastic discounts and year-round access, but has jumped in price a little lately to €199 after several years at €179. This is still a real steal compared to similar APs at other Disney resorts — and even Paris’ own top-level tickets in years gone by — but the roundtable notes (PDF) reveal that an even more “prestigious” and interestingly, “personalised”, pass could be developed, offering even more benefits. What benefits those may be exactly is unclear — the return of that Disney Hotel parking privilege is unlikely.
Finally, and what could be the biggest change of all: subscription payments. At the moment, each Annual Passport is sold as a one-off ticket, and though the holder should receive an offer to renew at the end of their pass, it’s a considerable hassle for the customer (particularly if you don’t speak French or don’t live in France) and must present quite a drop-off of potential on-going customers for Disney. The meeting notes state that a number of improvements are being studied regarding customer relations, which could lead to “development of tailor-made offers, loyalty programmes and payment by monthly instalments”.
This same idea is currently being discussed quite actively for the American parks, and would mean that an Annual Passport effectively becomes an open-ended ticket to the parks, paid directly from your bank account each month with no need to queue at the Passeport Annuel Bureau each year or send off any renewal forms. Presumably passholders would still need to pay for, say, their first 12 months up-front or be locked into something resembling a phone contract, but in the long term this would surely be very popular for most frequent visitors and fans. Your thoughts, passholders?
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