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Climate Change “Disrupting” Business at Disney World, Other Florida Theme Parks

disney world climate change
Credit: Disney

A recent report explains that climate change has been more instrumental in disrupting attendance and business at Disney World and other Florida theme parks than we might have realized.

The Walt Disney World Resort has not had the easiest year, much like its parent corporation, the Walt Disney Company. Disney—the company—has seen massive reorganization with significant 7000-person layoffs (wherein 4000 people were let go, and 3000 job postings were canceled); Disney CEO Bob Iger has spent the year trying to clean up the mess that Disney found itself in after former Disney CEO Bob Chapek’s tenure combined with the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

disney world crowds low

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

When it comes to Walt Disney World, Bob Iger himself admitted attendance numbers were down at the Central Florida Disney Park this year, particularly during the 4th of July weekend.

A recent report from CNN Business asserts that this difficulty is part of a larger pattern one can observe in the Florida theme parks at large. According to the article, climate change is one of the primary factors and causes for many Florida-based theme parks suffering hits to their business.

The report explains that “intense rain and flooding stranded more than 70,000 people at Burning Man in the Nevada desert,” one of many instances of extreme weather that affected North American attractions this summer.

Tusker House Animal Kingdom

Tusker House, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park / Credit: Disney

In the example of Walt Disney World, the occurrence in question is, in fact, the 4th of July weekend when temperatures were upward of 100 degrees, and attendance was down, notably, at the Disney theme parks and Universal Orlando as well. However, this isn’t all.

CNN Business reports that because these theme parks are highly dependent on the weather—there are many reasons, the weather being one of them, that Disney World was built in Florida, and the state has such a large tourist economy—some analysts are now lowering their estimates for the theme park industry at large because inclement and extreme weather poses a significant risk to these theme parks’ businesses.

Tower of Terror at Disney's Hollywood Studios Theme Park

Tower of Terror at Disney’s Hollywood Studios Theme Park, Walt Disney World Resort / Credit: Disney

“Weather was the clear driver of weakness in the period across regional theme parks,” Paul Golding, an analyst at Macquarie Research, said in a note to clients.

“Attendance isn’t just driven by the weather in the moment,” but the weather when customers buy tickets months in advance, Brian Witherow, Cedar Fair’s chief financial officer, also shared, on an earnings call last month.

Parks and destinations like SeaWorld are also affected by climate change. In fact, SeaWorld explained, “The series of extreme weather events experienced in recent years presents an alarming trend. Changing climate conditions could add to the frequency and severity of natural disasters and create additional uncertainty.”


Big Thunder Mountain Railroad / Credit: Disney

Theme parks are also now changing their policies; they are beginning to offer free return tickets when temperatures hit extreme levels: “a sign that parks believe heat waves could hurt attendance in the future.”

These reports are a clear indicator of the risk that climate change poses to the theme park industry, and it’s possible they could have a more adverse effect if steps aren’t taken to mitigate these observations immediately.

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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