December 11, 2003
Anticipating a seasonal slowdown that usually begins right after New Year's Day, Walt Disney World said Wednesday it will cut rates at its new Pop Century Resort and its All-Star Resorts to $55 a night and temporarily shutter its Wonders of Life pavilion at Epcot.
The announcements came a day after the company narrowly averted layoffs of more than 100 banquet servers and other resort employees after the workers agreed to potential cuts in hours in return for keeping their jobs.
A top Walt Disney Co. executive, speaking at an investors conference in New York, said the company's theme-park attendance was still running about 11 percent ahead of last year's first-quarter pace.
But Chief Financial Officer Tom Staggs said that year-over-year increase could shrink between now and the end of the fiscal quarter on Dec. 31, in part because of higher employee-benefit costs and money spent on marketing and sales initiatives to drive long-term growth.
Staggs said spending inside the parks is currently "in line" with a year ago, while room reservations for the current quarter are running 9 percent ahead of last year.
The $55 room rates at Disney World are good for travel from Jan. 1 through Feb. 11 but must be booked by Dec. 29. Pop Century, Disney's single-largest economy-class hotel, with 2,880 rooms in its first phase, opens Sunday with rooms that normally start at $77 during slow seasons such as the post-Christmas period. The All-Star Resorts have the same basic rate.
Disney representatives said the deeper discounts were also offered last year. "We did the exact same thing," said Disney spokesman Craig Dezern, and in prior years other package deals were made available in January. "It's just a slower time."
Other hotel operators conceded the cut will tend to hold down rates for Disney's competitors as well.
The $55 Disney deal represents a nearly 30 percent discount in the normal room rate for its moderately priced hotels, but Disney representatives would not characterize the offer as a sign the resort is having trouble filling rooms.
Spokeswoman Rena Langley said the closing of Epcot's Wonders of Life pavilion as of Jan. 5 is also related to the seasonal slowdown.
"It will be available during periods of peak attendance," Langley said, such as Spring Break.
Copyright © 2003, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
So Jillian, how cheap do these rooms become for you? :content: If my math is right, half off $55 is like $27.5/night