75.2 BILLION Reasons Why Florida (and DeSantis) Needs Disney

disney numbers florida desantis

After humble beginnings in 1923, the eponymous company founded by Walt Disney and his brother Roy O. Disney began its journey that would revolutionize entertainment and animation, and pave the way for the Walt Disney Company to become one of the most prominent names in its field over the next hundred years—though it certainly had its ups and downs. The Walt Disney Company became known for its family-friendly entertainment offerings and iconic characters, including Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and more; it acquired Marvel Entertainment, and 20th Century Fox, allowing Disney to diversify its content.

cinderella castle magic kingdom

Cinderella Castle, Magic Kingdom Park, Walt Disney World Resort / Credit: Disney

Most relevant to the state of Florida, however, is Disney’s Theme Park business. In 1955, Walt Disney opened Disneyland Park in Anaheim, California. The Disney Park was the brainchild of Walt Disney, who wanted to create a place where families could come together and experience the magic of Disney’s animated films and characters in real life. “The Happiest Place on Earth” was instantly successful and had millions of visitors in the first year. Central Florida’s Disney Resort, the Walt Disney World Resort, opened in October 1971. The Resort included not only one Theme Park—Magic Kingdom Park—but also three others, including EPCOT, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom, as well as numerous hotels, restaurants, and more.


Sorcerer Mickey meet ‘n’ greet at Disney’s Hollywood Studios Theme Park/Credit: DVC Shop

But you can’t become as big and prolific as the Walt Disney Company without your fair share of controversies. And the one that’s been making the most headlines recently has been Disney’s feud with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. For the last year, the Florida Governor has been working through legislation that would rid Disney’s Reedy Creek of its special status as “payback” for the ‘Don’t Say Gay” bill debacle (called the Parental Rights in Education, officially).

Earlier this year, Ron DeSantis officially signed this bill into existence and introduced a new board to take over decisions for the district—the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District Board. However, in a clever maneuver, Disney outplayed DeSantis’s hand and emerged victorious in the fight—a slight DeSantis did not take kindly to, and has since been combating, while many have criticized the Governor for his priorities. Disney CEO Bob Iger recently even called the Florida Governor “anti-Florida” and “anti-business.”

florida gas desantis criticism

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis received a lot of flack recently for focusing on his fight with Disney while Florida faced a gas crisis

Related: ‘Florida’s Being Laughed At.’ The Real Reason DeSantis Can’t Back Down in Fight With Disney

But why is Disney oh-so-important to Florida? The numbers are quite revealing.

As broken down by NBC News, Disney has an incredible impact on the Sunshine State, be that through foot traffic, taxes, employees, and overall monetary impact. While accounting for the fact that the pandemic had a notable effect on tourism everywhere, here’s how Walt Disney World did:

In 2019, the Disney Resort had 58.6 million visitors, and in 2021 it brought 36.2 million people to the state. That’s a little more than one-tenth of the U.S. population (331.9 million in 2021). By contrast, per Statista, attendance at the world-famous Theme Park Universal Studios Orlando reached a high of 8.99 million in 2021.

Tree of Life, Disney's Animal Kingdom

Tree of Life, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park, Walt Disney World Resort/Courtesy of Disney

Per NBC News, “Disney says it paid and collected more than $1.1 billion in state and local tax revenues in Florida last year.” And as the article points out the number doesn’t include the totality of tax receipts generated by Disney, considering that visitors who come for a Disney World trip might stay off property, which comes with its separate set of tax receipts Disney is not privy to.

Disney is also the second largest employer in the state, with over 75,000 employees who contribute to the state economy in a long list of ways, from buying homes, paying rent, shopping, and going to other Theme Parks. They’re part of the larger economic system.

DeSantis can't back down in fight with Disney

Disney CEO Bob Iger, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis / Credit: Disney/ABC

Putting all of this together, Disney’s overall economic impact on the state. Per a 2019 study by Oxford Economics, Orlando-area tourism generated $75.2 billion in economic impact for central Florida—about $1,000 for every tourist.” Disney is part of that number, yes, but it’s clearly a sizeable portion considering the rest of its numbers.

DeSantis maybe picking a fight with Disney, but if it turns out that Disney leaves, the repercussions on Florida and DeSantis could be much worse.

About Priyanka Kumar

Priyanka is a writer, artist, avid reader, and travel enthusiast based in Chicago. In her free time, she is probably walking by the lake, catching up on the latest releases on TV, or spending inordinate amounts of time rewatching Moana, Encanto, and her Disney Channel life-long favorites Zack and Cody wreak havoc on the Tipton.

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