Disneyland Paris Celebrates 20th Anniversary Amidst Financial Woes

on April 12 2012 12:35 PM
Mickey and Minnie are pictured at the 20th anniversary celebrations of Disneyland Resort in Marne-la-Vallee, outside Paris
Saudi prince Fahd al-Saud spent $20 million at Disneyland Paris. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

It's a not so happy birthday for Disneyland Paris. As the European branch of the playland empire celebrates its 20th anniversary, the merriment is accompanied by mixed financial concerns.

The park, which opened its doors in 1992, is said to be Europe's number one tourist destination, with a reported 5.7 million visitors in its fiscal year, which ended on September 30, 2011.

However, analysts are looking at -- among other things -- the damp, chilly winters as the reason why Mickey Mouse's overseas estate posted a net loss of 55.6 million euros ($72.8 million), despite a modest increase in sales.

Prior to the reported net loss, Disney bet big bucks on its Euro branch, as the extensive grounds boast high-speed trains that transport its guests to 57 park attractions, including Big Thunder Mountain and Space Mountain Mission 2. But don't be fooled by all the glitz and glamour.

In addition to its mountainous roller-coaster rides, Disney reported a mountain of debt last year that peaks right around 1.87 billion euros -- an amount Disney says it will pay off by 2024, according to AFP.

In an effort to deflect attention away from the reported losses, Disneyland Paris is highlighting its reputation as one of the most popular employers in Marne-la-Vallee.

According to the company, the theme park is the top single-site employer in the city, with 14,500 cast members under contract.

Last year alone, the park issued approximately 55,000 direct and indirect jobs with 500 different titles and 100 different nationalities represented. Each Disneyland job was said to generate nearly three others elsewhere in a nation where the unemployment rate stood at 9.4 percent of the workforce in the fourth quarter, according to a study commissioned by Disney and regional authorities.

American companies don't care if you have exactly the right profile for the job, we look first and foremost at potential, Disneyland Paris chief executive Philippe Gas told AFP.

Another area that Disneyland Paris is veering away from is its real-estate division. The sector of Disney's Euro branch reported plunging sales of 62 percent last year, while cash flow from operations fell more than 28 percent to 169 million euros, partly due to a one-off gain a year before that.

But despite all of the financial hoopla, Disney is the one company that knows how to sport a smile.

The 20-year milestone was celebrated with a Disney Dream gala, which included a laser, water and fireworks show.

The group also reportedly plans to expand its connecting Walt Disney Studios complex and is even talking up a third park in 2030.

Financial problems? What financial problems?