Josh D’Amaro, Chairman, Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, The Walt Disney Company, participated in a question-and-answer session at the JP Morgan Global Technology, Media & Communications Conference on Monday.
During the conference, Josh addressed several topics that are of high interest currently.
When asked if the political drama going on in Florida has impacted the way Disney runs the business, Josh simply said it has not impacted the way they do business. When specifically asked about canceling the new Lake Nona campus that was announced about a year ago, he commented that business conditions have changed significantly – so they decided to make that change, but it has had no impact on the company’s plans for investing in its theme parks; they have ambitious plans and continue to think aggressively about what they can do in FL.
Josh was asked for details on why Disney decided to permanently close the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser. He explained that the Starcruiser is a “pretty stunning asset – a spaceship – feels like Star Wars.” He continued stating that despite high ratings, Starcruiser didn’t perform exactly how they wanted it to, and they decided to sunset the experience in September. He said it raised the bar for how far Disney could go. The company will lose money overall, up to $150 million in both Q3 and Q4, but he says it was a boutique hotel – very, very small in context for what they deliver.
Regarding challenges the company faced during COVID, Josh said the theme parks run 24/7 and Disney stopped for a second to look at how they could deliver an experience guests would still enjoy, and Disney could cut their costs. He says they will not cut labor from the front lines, but they will use technology in a more progressive way to save costs to deliver the experience that guests expect.
During the Q&A session, he also mentioned that Walt Disney World expects to have softer results this year coming out of the 50th anniversary celebration.
The fact that going to the parks is more work now than it ever has been was addressed and Josh stated that if he is not in a meeting or on a flight, he tries to be in the theme parks. He continued to say that the parks are huge, with a lot of things to do within the 25k acres at Walt Disney World. Guests are trying to consume all of those things during a 7-day vacation and Disney is trying to serve up the details in a way that they can navigate the huge spaces without feeling that they have to do it all. Josh said that park reservations have helped Disney “aggressively and precisely plan labor, targeting consumers with price offerings, ticket pricing strategy,” and more. He says they’ve been able to predict much more accurately than they were pre-pandemic as they have a more precise understanding of guests and what they like to do. He said the company would continue to invest in technology to simplify guests’ planning, changing pricing in the areas where they want things to be more accessible to more guests.
Josh says the company aggressively works on synchronizing data from each of its divisions together – in a progressive way that meets guests and the company’s needs. Theme park ticket prices are variable and flexible to invite in as many guests as they can with more aggressive pricing on peak days. They offer plenty of options with their resorts, from Value to Deluxe options to allow guests to choose how they spend their money.
In regards to new lands, and new cruise ships, D’Amaro stated that Disney is trying to add capacity to the parks with new attractions like TRON, Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, and more, investing in tech to give more commercial capabilities. He also mentioned that keeping the integrity of the parks is important – Main Street always looks like Main Street even as they grow.
Several times during the session, Josh mentioned that the company has plenty of space outside of the theme parks to grow – at Disneyland and at Walt Disney World. He says they “have plenty of opportunities to optimize…within the berm.” He brought up the Disneyland Forward project and how that will significantly increase the footprint with plenty of space to expand.
Universal was also brought up in regard to the smaller concepts they’ve announced for the US. Josh congratulated them but again said that Disney will continue to focus on its core business. “We think that focusing on our core assets is where we should be spending most of our opportunity, and as I said earlier, we think that there is so much potential there that’s where we’re continuing to focus our efforts.”
You can listen to the full Q&A session here.
Senior Editor for the DIS and DCL Fan | Disney Vacation Club Member | Thrilled to have been a '13/'14 Disney Parks Moms Panelist (now planDisney) | Lover of all things Disney; the Magic of Disneyland, Walt Disney World, and Disney Cruise Line | ºoº