Bob Iger talks about attendance declines, ticket pricing, the feud with Ron DeSantis, and his huge optimism for Disney Parks and Resorts

Jul 13, 2023 in "The Walt Disney Company"

Posted: Thursday July 13, 2023 9:00am ET by WDWMAGIC Staff

Bob Iger took to CNBC's Squawk Box this morning for an interview with David Faber from Allen & Company's Sun Valley conference.

Top of the discussion was yesterday's announcement that Iger will remain as Walt Disney Co. CEO through the end of 2026, two years longer than originally expected when he made a shock return to replace Bob Chapek in late 2022.

Iger said that "we're pleased with how much we've accomplished in a short period of time" but was perhaps "unrealistic about transforming the company in two years."

Referring to the transformative work that Iger has been undertaking since his return, he named three key areas of the company that he views as growth businesses - parks and resorts, movie studios, and streaming.

Speaking of the parks, Iger said they are "a tremendous business for us." He continued that he has "Huge optimism for Disney Parks and Resorts. We've invested significantly but the investments we've made over the years are really paying off today. We have opportunities to turbocharge that growth."

Asked about recent attendance declines at Walt Disney World and widespread reporting specifically about low wait times on July 4, Iger said, "Measuring attendance at Disneyworld on July 4 didn't really factor in temperature which is about 100 degrees—and 99% humidity on that day."

Iger elaborated further on post-COVID attendance: "Florida opened up early during COVID. And they created huge demand and didn't have competition because there were a number of other places states that were not open yet. There's a lot more competition today. So against 2022 the state of Florida has been down. We actually track hotel tax revenue across the state, which is publicly a matter of public record. And there are counties in Florida that have been down 6 - 7% recently. We also know that our competitors are discounting in that state. So there are some near-term issues in Florida that I don't think have anything to do with politics and not about pricing either."

Discussing pricing at the parks, Iger says that pricing is not an issue since he addressed it on his return late last year. He said of Walt Disney World, "It's a very, very popular business and product and it's very successful. And, you know, we're not wringing our hands over it. There's some near term issues in Florida as we've talked about, but yeah, pricing is not an issue." Earlier this year, Disney made more lower-priced tickets available at Disneyland, removed parking fees at Walt Disney World resort hotels, removed Park Pass requirements for passholders after 2pm, and added more features to Genie+.

Finally, the discussion turned towards Ron DeSantis and the lawsuit currently underway. Iger commented, "What we've said publicly is that we are concerned that he has decided to retaliate against the company for a position the company took on pending legislation in that state. And frankly, the company was within its right even though I'm not sure it was handled very well. It was within its right to speak up on an issue constitutionally protected right to free speech, and to retaliate against the company in a way that would be harmful to the business was not something that we can sit back and tolerate. And so we have filed a lawsuit to protect our First Amendment rights there and to protect our business."

He described DeSantis' presidential campaign trail comments that Disney is "sexualizing children" as "preposterous and inaccurate."

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Disstevefan1Aug 17, 2023

That's Mr. Dumb Tourist please.

larryzAug 17, 2023

Doesn't matter. If you're at WDW, TWDC thinks you're a dumb tourist.

stingrock23Aug 13, 2023

He’s clearly lying. Wdw has relied on guest nostalgia to keep going to the parks despite them reducing value for increased prices. I don’t mind paying a higher price for good value but this isn’t the disney company from yesteryear that focused on the guest experience and ride capacity. All the old school disney management is now gone from the company and the current management doesn’t know what they’re doing. They could all benefit from reading Dick Nunis’s book. Give us value and we will gladly pay for it. They’re not doing that. The lack of ride capacity in 3 of the 4 parks is really stunning. And just a simple thing like no park hopping restrictions would go a long way, yet somehow these idiots can’t even see that. Been going to wdw since 1980, but i haven’t been in a few years. Going in october just to ride guardians but my wife and I have been going to universal annually because it’s an easier experience and we feel like we’re actually getting value. And i’m a dvc member. Sorry for the rant but I’m just frustrated because wdw is such a great vacation kingdom and current management seems clueless on how to run the thing. Tokyo is a good example. They know how to run it, for some reason us management doesn’t. It’s not hard to see how to run the parks yet they can’t. Epic Universe is gonna be a real problem for them, and I can’t wait.

flynnibusAug 11, 2023

lol... avoiding liability is now the same as greed... you all are so willing to paint broadly nothing you say is even credible anymore.

RSoxNo1Aug 11, 2023

Profit is merely a bi-product we've learned to live with.

epcotWSCAug 11, 2023

All depends. Disney is assuming that long distance travelers are staying on site and consuming all that is Disney. We know that's not necessarily true. People can stay offsite, dine offsite, shop offsite, go to Universal and other parks, etc. Locals who are close enough to make a day trip pose a similar problem. However, those who are hours away wont necessarily be taking a day trip and have to stay somewhere anyway. There's also one piece of the pie that people don't consider... It's considerably cheaper to travel to Disney from within Florida vs New York. That factor alone could be the difference between someone budgeting to stay on site vs offsite or discretionary spending once you're there.

CaptainAmericaAug 11, 2023

"TWDC" doesn't do anything for any reason because "TWDC" is a group of hundreds of thousands of individuals. There are people in positions of power within TWDC who don't see themselves as businesspeople or even entertainers, they see themselves as agents of social change.

Disstevefan1Aug 11, 2023

Totally agree - this confirms everything TWDC does is about MONEY.

Disstevefan1Aug 11, 2023

That is correct - we can go on forever. 🤣

GimpYancIentAug 11, 2023

90% - 95% percent is money driven. You are right! not all is about money, not much but hey!

CaptainAmericaAug 11, 2023

That is not correct.

Big T 1963Aug 10, 2023

Couldn't agree with you more JD80 it's simple Disney math pay more get less believe me I don't have a problem paying more like you said it's the things that we use to receive which was a huge part of the MAGICAL experience that we deserve as guests

LilofanAug 10, 2023

You can add the Board who fully supports his leadership and direction.

MisterPenguinAug 09, 2023

You are the voice of your successor's successor's generation!