Attendance at Walt Disney World parks remained largely unchanged this summer from a year ago, reported Disney on Friday. According to information obtained by the Orlando Sentinel, Disney stated that Florida attendance levels were “within a percentage point” of last year’s totals.
The company began reporting combined attendance levels for its California and Florida theme parks in its fourth fiscal quarter, the first time in at least the last five years that they have chosen to provide the important operating indicator as a combined figure.
Critics say that combining the attendance totals is an attempt on Disney’s part to downplay its flat attendance numbers for its Florida attractions, while major competitor Universal Studios’ Islands of Adventure saw a 36 percent increase in attendance, owing to the debut of its new attraction “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.” Disney denies any correlation, saying that the combined reporting was a business decision. “Our reporting of park financials has evolved over time,” said Disney spokeswoman Kim Prunty. “Given our international expansion efforts…we believe this disclosure is appropriate to our business as it is conducted today.”
Still, the company’s decision to discontinue separate attendance reporting for the California and Florida parks hinders anaylysts’ ability to determine Walt Disney World’s performance. With more than 60,000 employees, Disney is by far the area’s largest employer, and attendance is considered to be a significant indicator of a theme park’s performance.