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ThemePark Recession Cuts – Fat or Bone?

The Orlando Sentinel has turned it’s industry observer eye on the local economy drivers — the theme parks. The question is with all the cuts going on at the theme parks have they gone too far, cut bone instead of fat?

At Disney two of the parks (DAK and DHS) are regularly closing before 7pm during the summer hours. That’s quite unusual. But the parks, of course, insist they’re maintaining the guest experience.

My personal experience is that the cuts have begun to just slightly dig into the bone. But nothing is beyond repair, yet. The recession could make the Disney World do crazy things, but so far everything has been pretty much by the book. Cut labor and labor hours by reducing attraction and park hours.

It does hurt that they have been cutting so much to generate sometimes obscene profits the last decade or so. In the past they might have saved money by trimming the casts of the parades or shows. (BTW, if you remember the 1st to go at WDW in this recession was some of the pre-show and atmosphere entertainment.) But they can’t do that now because the shows are already running at minimal cast levels to maximize profit. The only thing left was to cut actual whole days worth of shows, which is what they did at DHS dropping Fantasmic! to three nights a week.

Would an observant guest notice the difference between their last vacation 3-5 years ago and their vacation this summer? Definitely. Do they expect it due to the recession? Probably. Can Disney recover its old guest service standards when the economy picks up? You bet.

That’s what I’ll be looking for. When the sweepers come back, Fantasmic! returns to 7 nights a week, and we finally get a new promotion/parade worth writing home about at the Magic Kingdom. Then the question will be how much fun can Disney graft back onto those bones they’ve been scraping down to?

What do you think? Have you felt the effect of recession related cuts at the theme parks? Do you think the observant guest has noticed them too?