BUSINESS

Disney parks' attendance up 7%; review of 'Magic Band' positive

Expect to see more 'Star Wars' characters and themes at Disney parks

If you have visited a Disney park in the last few months, you may have noticed that the crowds have been bigger and the lines to the attractions longer.

It's not your imagination. Walt Disney Co. reported that domestic park attendance rose 7% in the three months that ended Dec. 27, a record.

In addition, the occupancy at Disney resort hotels also jumped 8% to 89% -- a rate that is as close to completely booked as possible, Disney officials said during an earnings report on the quarter.

The company also reported a 20% increase in income to $805 million from its parks and resorts, compared to the same period a year ago. The company attributed the rise to higher attendance and spending in the parks.

“Overall we feel great about this quarter,” said Jay Rasulo, chief financial officer for the Walt Disney Co.

Reports about a measles outbreak that began after people were exposed to the contagious disease at Disneyland Resort in Anaheim did not reach the public until after the three-month reporting period ended. But Disney chief executive Robert Iger said on CNBC that the outbreak has not hurt attendance so far.

Rasulo and Iger also painted a rosy picture for the future of the parks, with the opening next year of Disneyland Shanghai and positive reviews of “My Magic Band +,” a bracelet embedded with a radio frequency identification (RFID) device offered to park-goers at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., to be used in place of an admission ticket, a Fast Pass for rides and in place of a credit card to buy food and souvenirs.

“What this adds up to is our ability to manage more people at a time,” said Iger. Disney officials have yet to say when they might expand the use of "My Magic Band +" to other parks.

The Shanghai resort was originally set to open in December of this year but Disney executives said they needed to push the opening to spring 2016 after they invested an extra $800 million to expand capacity of the $4-billion project.

Iger also hinted that Disney will increase the use of "Star Wars" characters and themes in all Disney resorts.

“The plans are ambitious,” he said.

To read more about travel, tourism and the airline industry, follow me on Twitter at @hugomartin.

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