The magic kingdom has lost some of its magic in 2020. But Disney fans are devoted, and the theme parks will bounce back.
That’s terrible news for parent company Walt Disney because the “parks and resorts” category had been its most significant division by sales and profit growth.
“We believe that at best, heavy capacity constraints will prevail until at least mid-2021, and believe there is a meaningful probability that the park could be forced to close again,” wrote Cowen analysts Doug Creutz and Stephen Glagola in a report to investors.
“Disneyland remains closed, and we expect that to persist due to California’s more cautious approach in dealing with the virus,” the analysts wrote.
Parks in other parts of the world, such as France, Hong Kong, Japan, and China, may also face halting progress.
Attendance at Disney-run attractions and resorts could drop by nearly 100 million people over two years, the forecast by Cowen found.
Disney’s Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom opened on July 11 in Orlando. But limits on the number of visitors to about 15,000 a day there for the rest of the year will mean that many rides and restaurants will be barely filled, hurting margins. In China, where the pandemic is currently under more control than in the U.S., officials cap Disney parks attendance at about a third of capacity.
The company is the world’s largest theme park operator, according to the Themed Entertainment Association. So it’s a bellwether for trends. For more context, see our earlier story Theme Parks Face Tough Tech Investment Choices and our story on how Tourism’s Jagged Reopening May Be Worse Than Not Reopening At All.
Photo credit: Guests can see Minnie Mouse and other characters during breakfast at Topolino’s Terrace – Flavors of the Riviera, at Disney’s Riviera Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. During the phased reopening of Walt Disney World Resort, characters maintain proper physical distancing. Walt Disney World's theme park division may not recover from the pandemic and become profitable until 2025, analysts at Cowen forecasted. Matt Stroshane / Walt Disney World