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Sure, Disney World Attendance is Down But Don’t Blame DeSantis

Disney World 2023 attendance figures are down
Credit: patchrick84, Flickr

It’s hard to change a narrative once it gets going. The narrative about Walt Disney World is that it has been a ghost town this summer, complete with tumbleweeds rolling down Main Street, U.S.A. And now, insiders want to speculate that the Walt Disney Company’s feud with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is to blame.

But the reality of the situation, as is almost always the case, is much more complicated. Yes, attendance at Disney World is down this summer, but to say that people aren’t going because of a political feud oversimplifies a complex situation.

epcot animal kingdom crowds

EPCOT and Disney’s Animal Kingdom are much the same/Chris Epifanio

Where Are the Crowds?

Disney CEO Bob Iger told CNBC that tourism throughout Florida is down about five percent. That’s across the entire state. So, where is everyone?

According to AAA, International travel is up more than 200 percent since 2022, and cruise bookings are up 300 percent. London alone saw a 350 percent increase in bookings over the summer of 2022.

“Travelers are making up for lost time and willing to spend more to see the world,” said Paula Twidale, Senior Vice President of Travel at AAA.

Disney World and Universal Studios Orlando saw this same bump in 2021 and 2022. There was pent-up demand after Covid, and travelers used those years to get back to the Theme Parks in Florida, but now, they’re heading around the world.

Disney parade disturbed

Credit: Disney

Jakob Wahl, president of the Orlando-based International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, told the Orlando Sentinel: 

Florida was booming, and that was great, and we saw it in the parks. … 2023 is maybe not as strong as 2022, but we still hear it is a good season. Those are all kind of massive investments, massive new attractions, which create a lot of attention from people. What we sometimes see is that people wait for the opening of new attractions to actually go to the parks. We actually are expecting a strong second term in the season and looking forward to actually experiencing all those attractions.

Disney and Universal Studios are experiencing the inevitable decline from those overly successful years after Covid. It was never going to last forever.

Is it DeSantis’ Fault?

What effect are the policies put forth by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and the Florida Legislature having on travel? It’s hard to say. Could those policies have anything to do with the decline in trips to the state? Again, hard to say. Are people boycotting Disney for going “woke?” No.

Boycotts of Disney have never worked in the past; why would they work now? Disney fans go to the Parks to specifically forget about the real world, and thinking about Governor DeSantis would ruin that illusion.

Ron DeSantis and Mickey Mouse

Credit: Flickr/Disney

Sure, several Civil Rights Organizations, including the NAACP, have issued travel warnings about Florida, but that doesn’t seem to have had much effect on travel to the state.

Is it the heat? NO. For anyone who has ever been to Florida in the summer, you know it will be hot and humid. You just deal with it. You complain, and you drink water, but you deal with it. Anyone who says it’s the heat has never been to Florida in the summer in the past.

Is it cost? A Disney World vacation is expensive. Some Guests have realized that you can travel to Central Florida for a Disney Park vacation or go to Europe for the same price. Yes, that’s going to hurt Park attendance.

So, what is it? Honestly, it’s the inevitable slowdown after a boiling period after the downturn during Covid. But that doesn’t make for a good narrative.

disney world crowds low

Credit: Disney

Don’t be surprised if you head to Magic Kingdom or Universal Orlando Resort and find the Park crammed with visitors. And know that attendance has been down recently, but it won’t stay down forever. You’ll still be waiting for your favorite ride or attraction, and you can’t say you weren’t warned.

We will continue to update this story at Disney Fanatic.

About Rick

Rick is an avid Disney fan. He first went to Disney World in 1986 with his parents and has been hooked ever since. Rick is married to another Disney fan and is in the process of turning his two children into fans as well. When he is not creating new Disney adventures, he loves to watch the New York Yankees and hang out with his dog, Buster. In the fall, you will catch him cheering for his beloved NY Giants.

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