The coronavirus cost Disney’s theme park division $2.4 billion as Disneyland remains closed, cruise ships are docked and Disney World is open at a limited capacity, the company disclosed Thursday in its quarterly earnings report.
But looking ahead, executives expect the next few months to be busy in Orlando since about 77% of the park reservations are booked for the next quarter, including an almost completely full Thanksgiving holiday.
Disney CEO Bob Chapek said the reopening is going well enough for Disney World to raise occupancy from 25% to 35%, adding he believes it is still possible to maintain 6 feet of social distancing among visitors with the higher number of people allowed inside.
For the company, it’s a hopeful sign as Disney theme parks try to rebound from the global pandemic.
“We’re very pleased by how we have become adapt at operating under these constraints,” Chapek said during Thursday’s earnings call. He said Disney has a proven track record of running theme parks with new strict safety rules several months into the pandemic reopening.
Walt Disney Co. is fighting back after Sen. Elizabeth Warren wrote a scathing open letter this week that slammed the company for reinstating pay for senior executives who had taken salary cuts during the coronavirus pandemic and other financial decisions benefiting shareholders before the company revealed massive layoffs.
The company said in a statement, “Senator Warren’s misinformed letter contains a number of inaccuracies.”
Warren, D-Mass., wrote to Disney CEO Bob Chapek and Bob Iger, the former CEO turned Disney executive chairman, critical of the company’s compensation to executives and how it has treated workers.
“In the years leading up to this crisis, your company prioritized the enrichment of executives and stockholders through hefty compensation packages, and billions of dollars’ worth of dividend payments and stock buybacks, all of which weakened Disney’s financial cushion and ability to retain and pay its front-line workers amid the pandemic,” Warren wrote.
Warren also expressed concerns about the company terminating Florida workers and blaming the layoffs in California on “public health measures, which were implemented to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and save lives.” Disneyland remains closed without an opening date. Disney World theme parks reopened in mid-July.
Disney’s statement responded with, “We’ve unequivocally demonstrated our ability to operate responsibly with strict health and safety protocols in place at all of our theme parks worldwide, with the exception of Disneyland Resort in California, where the State has prevented us from reopening, even though we have reached agreements with unions representing the majority of our Cast Members that would get them back to work.”
Walt Disney Co. announced last month it was laying off 28,000 people across its theme park division.
The company later disclosed details about how it would affect Orlando, revealing nearly 6,700 non-union Disney World employees are losing their jobs in December.
In addition, about 8,860 hourly part-time union employees who had been furloughed will be laid off, according to the company’s largest union coalition, which said those workers can get recalled when the company eventually needs them again.
The layoffs in Florida amount to about 20% of the company’s pre-coronavirus workforce of about 77,000.
With the professional athletes gone, Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort is laying off about 1,100 employees because of low occupancy and canceled events in another hit to the tourism industry because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The layoffs are coming after Major League players stayed there this summer.
The Marriott hotel between Epcot and Hollywood Studios called the economic impact “historic, swift and devastating” as it alerted the state as a requirement under federal law for mass layoffs.
The entire Swan portion of the hotel had been home to MLS teams who were staying there in the “bubble” in July and August as they played in a tournament at ESPN Wide World of Sports.
NBA players also became guests at other Disney hotels when the league restarted play in Orlando amid the pandemic.
Even though all Orlando’s theme parks are open, September has been a brutal time for the industry as thousands of employees have recently been let go or placed on indefinite furloughs.
New notices filed this week showed 5,400 Universal employees are furloughed and 1,900 employees at SeaWorld’s Orlando properties are now permanently laid off after being furloughed since March.
The Swan and Dolphin warned the economic impact will carry over into 2021.
The 1,136 positions are in multiple departments of the hotel, including 256 banquet servers, 41 cooks, 67 housekeepers and 88 loss prevention officers. The notice said the layoffs are permanent and effective Nov. 13.
Included are about 135 union employees represented by Teamsters Local 385 who work primarily as servers, housekeepers and laundry attendants. Those employees may be among the first to return if the hotel reverses course and brings back jobs.
At 11%, metro Orlando had the highest regional unemployment rate in the state in August, according to a report released Friday.