Theme Park Insider

Guess who's (probably not) coming to Disneyland?

February 27, 2017, 12:05 PM · Let's say you're a world leader who wants to call out another world leader. What are you going to do now?

You're going to Disneyland!

Well, that's what French President Francois Hollande did last week. Hollande took the opportunity presented by his visit to Disneyland Paris to celebrate the park's 25th anniversary to take a verbal shot at U.S. President Donald Trump.

Trump had made his own crack at France — specifically Paris — during a speech at a conservative political convention last week, claiming that a friend named Jim had told him that he wouldn't visit the French capital anymore, following the 2015 terror attacks in the city. Hollande fired back, suggesting that he should invite Trump to visit Disneyland Paris so he "understands what France is."

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo also piled on, posting a photo of her at the Eiffel Tower with Mickey and Minnie Mouse.

Paris long has been the world's most popular tourist destination, but the community and its attractions — including Disneyland Paris — have endured a sharp drop in tourism since the 2015 attacks, though Mayor Hidalgo noted in a subsequent tweet that bookings from American visitors to the city are up 30% so far this year.

It's hard to imagine President Trump taking up President Hollande's presumed invitation, but as some of the world's most famous tourist destinations, the Disney theme parks have ended up in the news with world leaders many times over the years. U.S. Presidents Obama, Bush (Sr.), Reagan, and Carter all visited Disney parks while in office. But those were all for routine, photo-op speeches. The really fun incidents involved foreign leaders who couldn't get into the parks.

Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev famously threw a fit when local police wouldn't let him head down to Disneyland on a trip to California in 1959. And the recently whacked son of former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, Kim Jong Nam, pretty much lost his chance to succeed his father when he was caught by Japanese customs officials trying to visit Tokyo Disneyland using a fake Dominican passport.

And I've even had my own encounter with a foreign leader while working at Walt Disney World (with a future president of France, no less!), while my sister had her own run-in with a U.S. president at the Magic Kingdom.

So, you'll never know whom you might run into at a Disney theme park. Or... at the gate trying to get in.

Replies (31)

February 27, 2017 at 2:01 PM · Interesting that France did not address the real issue of safety. Many foreign countries are telling their citizens to avoid Paris and France especially with increased crimes against tourists and terrorist-like acts at Nice and The Louvre in Paris. I don't expect Disneyland Paris to be unsafe, but you have to want to come to Paris in the first place. They are putting in a clear bullet proof perimeter around the Eiffel Tower. You never know.
February 27, 2017 at 3:20 PM · Well, there has been an awfull terrorist attack in Orlando, with 49 people killed. So, you would tell people not to go to Orlando an WDW anymore ? Come on. There are 35000 people dying every year in the United States because of fire arms. It is far more unsafe to go in some cities à the USA that anywher un Paris. I live in Paris and I can tell you that you have far less risk of being killed here than in some places in America (and that will not stop me going to th USA, I am just telling you that it is easy to make fake news like Trump is doing, trying to make Americans believe that if is not allowed to ban muslim from his country, the USA will become as unsafe as Europe)
February 27, 2017 at 4:55 PM · Sorry, but what is the real issue of safety in France? Even with recent terrorist attacks, France has a far lower rate of violent crime than the US. Whether you are killed by a terrorist or a thug mugging you with a gun, you are still just as dead, so why isn't the US addressing their issue of safety?

The risk to peoplr from terrorist related activity in the west is over-exagerated, and whilst prudent measures should be taken, money could be Far better spent in protecting people from things that are much more likely to harm them.

February 27, 2017 at 5:54 PM · Europe has dealt with "terrorism" for as long as I can remember. In the end it's a tiny fraction of people who die a violent death. Don't get me wrong, there are many people working hard behind the scene's to keep that number as low as possible. But no walls, turrets, moat or castle gates will keep the bad people out (as we know from the middle ages) it only gives a false feeling of security.

In the US it's even more disturbing when you look at terrorism in relation to other violent deaths. Look at these historical numbers:
http://edition.cnn.com/2015/10/02/us/oregon-shooting-terrorism-gun-violence/
Oor look at the amount of people die in a vehicle in the US in relation to the EU, it's shocking. All this doesn't stop me from going to the US, or France or Belgium or where ever...

February 27, 2017 at 6:53 PM · Interesting that the article notes Paris as holding the destinction as the "world's most popular tourist destination?"

I've always believed and have heard/read elsewhere that Walt Disney World in Florida holds that honor?

Or is there some technicality in the wording that makes both statements true such as 'most popular' vs 'most visited?'

February 27, 2017 at 7:27 PM · WDW is an individual attraction while Paris is a regional destination. That work?
February 27, 2017 at 8:21 PM · It's news like this that make people not want to visit Paris. "Twenty-seven Chinese tourists were assaulted on Tuesday by half a dozen men as they boarded a bus that was to take them to Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport, a French police source said."

"A group of Roma women are accused of setting off firecrackers on the city's Metro system so that crowds would fly into a panic, thinking a repeat of the horrific Islamic State (ISIS) massacre was unfolding.

They then went around and robbed tourists in the confusion, pickpocketing them of valuables as they tried to flee for their lives."

"About forty South Korean tourists were robbed in Paris at the weekend when men climbed aboard their coach shouting threats."

"Tourists driving to France this summer are warned to beware of robbers disguised as police who are stopping cars and stealing valuables"

"Armed robbers forced their way into a private Paris residence where Kim Kardashian West was staying, tied her up and locked her in a bathroom before making off with more than $10 million worth of jewelry, police officials said Monday."

"In China the words "Paris" or "France" are synonymous with "romantic" and the French capital is a honeymoon destination of choice. But a growing number of Chinese tourists are being robbed in Paris and France's image is taking a battering as a result.

Gan Di, a medical student, took his wife there after their June wedding. Aged 27, he belongs to the balinghou, or "post-1980" generation, those who benefited from the economic reforms of the past 20 years and now travel around the world – as 83 million Chinese did in 2012. But his Parisian honeymoon turned sour after a ride on the Metro. "It was very crowded and they took advantage of us being pressed together," he said. The pickpockets made off with his phone and wallet."

This is aside from the terrorist attacks.

There's also the gritty side of Paris. "“Chinese people romanticize France, they know about French literature and French love stories,” said Jean-Francois Zhou, president of the Chinese association of travel agencies in France. “But some of them end up in tears, swearing they’ll never come back.” "

February 27, 2017 at 11:09 PM · Anton, those are isolated incidents, and looking at the bigger picture France is still a much safer place to travel than the US, or many other countries. The perception from these events is that France is unsafe (when the truth is far from), so in order to maintain tourism, France should address this issue. As a matter of public safety though, France's issues are far less than some other countries.
February 27, 2017 at 11:10 PM ·
February 28, 2017 at 12:05 AM · Grant: Those are the stories where the tourists are targeted. They are not isolated incidents for the frequency constitutes a trend (more than three). Of course you'll say France is safe, but this is true if you're not the victim. So fewer tourists from Asia are willing to take the risk. US has higher crime, but if the tourists avoid high crime areas, they'll be safe. What you don't hear about is a bus hijacking at Paris. Your rebuttal doesn't address the actual concerns about tourism crime and terrorism. Plus there's the import of migrants who are camping out on the Paris streets scaring away tourists.
February 28, 2017 at 2:12 AM · One question Anton M. Have you actually been to Paris or Europe recently?

If so please don't presume to tell us how 'safe' or otherwise our continent is on the basis of some internet stories and reports.

February 28, 2017 at 5:03 AM · Well Donald Trump doesn't seem to be one for optics either. Quite frankly, I think Disney is getting the better end of the deal with the reorganizing of ownership of DLP.

I mean that is America first right?

February 28, 2017 at 6:36 AM · David: You can't have it both ways. Is the news exaggerated? Alternative news? Goodness. These reports in the media tell a real story of victimized tourists. Nice to tell them to forget about it. You can have Paris. It's not on my travel itinerary. You should be glad I won't have any bad personal experiences to report. As for America first, I doubt Donald Trump will advocate for Disney in America especially with Disney CEO Iger being hostile towards Trump. Iger avoided a business advisory committee. His ABC network also made anti-Trump political jokes at the Academy Awards while showing how incompetent they are in putting on a show. #FakeOscars
February 28, 2017 at 9:55 AM · Haven't been to Paris since November 2001. People tole us we were crazy to go then as well. I think it's time to return! Oh and Paris Disneyland is so much better priced than the US Disney parks I bet it will be cheaper than visiting Disneyland.
February 28, 2017 at 10:06 AM · Robert your borderline talking politics here. I am guessing not all of us reading this agree with your politics.
You couldn't pay me to visit France, which is sad because I would love to go. There are sections of France/Paris that the police will not even go because it is so dangerous. Here is what happens when they do.
https://twitter.com/BakedNorwegian/status/738393262659129344?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw
February 28, 2017 at 1:31 PM · I don't know why the U.S. can't adopt Europe's immigration policies, after all it's worked so well for them. Pres. Trump is just being mean, it's not like we have religious fanatics in the world that are actively trying to kill Americans, destroy Israel or institute world wide Sharia law. Wouldn't it be great if we could be as sophisticated & cosmopolitan as Europe?
February 28, 2017 at 11:15 AM · Rubicon, from this side of the Atlantic we see religious fanatics actively trying to kill Americans on a weekly basis. They're usually other Americans.
February 28, 2017 at 11:26 AM · David Matecki, your point about areas of Paris that even police don't travel into maybe correct, I have never been to Paris. I have been to Orlando three times to visit the parks on our first trip in 2010 with our two boys, first trip we had no children, the battery in my GPS died just after leaving Sea World. We ended up lost in Orlando and came across a couple of police having coffee. I stopped to ask directions and they wrote out directions for me to get back to our condo and explained that we needed to get out of the area as quickly as possible as they were there to provide protection for city workers doing maintenance work. The point is that the city you live in probably has areas that you wouldn't visit in the middle of the night so why should Paris be any different.
February 28, 2017 at 11:37 AM · I am French and Parisian. Since Jan 2015 overseas friends, professionals and journalists call or email same question: is it safe to come to Paris? My answer has changed from dont be silly do come to only if you must and will be careful. Paris suburbs burn cars every weekend for years. Every major city has pickpockets but Paris has gypsies, Russian gangs and basic hoodlums. My beautiful city has more migrants defecating on the street than the old jokes about dog poop. For 2nd year in row my arrondisement has voted to close our park at dark during daylight savings time instead of open 24 hours.A Muslim taxi driver spit in my face as I asked him to use entrance nearest oncology building and refused to take me. My son in law has forbidden my daughter to walk my gran daughter and their dog until he walks with them after work. Mayor Hidalgo has ruined traffic with her changes and turnrd city into migrant hell hole. Big name boutiques offer customers delivery or plain brown bags so we are not robbed of our purchases on way home. My 2 daughters and I now carry tasers daily. The pollution is awful..thank Hidalgo.Our beautiful wrought iron planters and sections of metro entrances are broken stolen and used by angry illegals to beat each other and police and anyone they want too! Trump spoke truth about Paris and about Sweden. Our media and governments are in denial and not responding to reality. Sad and fearful.
February 28, 2017 at 12:40 PM · We all know that if you refuse to kiss the gilded comb over of Trump, he will pretty much make anything up to deride you and where you come from. It is why he has called France, Sweden, Germany and virtually every major city in his own country as apparent war zones. If you stroke his fragile ego though, he will do the opposite. Explains why he has basically said Russia, instead of Disneyland, is the Happiest Place on Earth.
February 28, 2017 at 12:54 PM · I live in Paris and And I assure you that safety is at its maximum.So please come to Paris to judge if in your opinion Paris has changed so much and if it has changed it can only be positively. Best regards.
February 28, 2017 at 1:59 PM · https://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/14/upshot/compare-these-gun-death-rates-the-us-is-in-a-different-world.html?_r=0

You guys kill me (literally). You claim that Paris is unsafe whilst living in one of the most dangerous countries in the world. I take far more of a risk visiting Disney World that I do visiting London or Paris or pretty much anywhere else in in Europe.

February 28, 2017 at 2:23 PM · David Brown: You kill me. I wouldn't want you to come if you believe the USA is unsafe. On the other hand, you hand wave the crimes directed towards tourists at Paris. It's perfectly fine to vacation where you want to. I wouldn't advise traveling to Chicago or Detroit. Avoid some parts of Los Angeles and New York.

BTW: Liberal hand waving resulted in a convicted rape felon was allowed into the Academy Awards. Tourists beware. #FakeOscars

February 28, 2017 at 3:09 PM · I didn't say the USA was unsafe. I said that I take more of a risk visiting it than I do visiting Paris.
Statistically there is far greater chance of being killed in the USA than in Paris. However that chance is still only 31 in a million, so pretty good odds.
Yes I could be killed by a terrorist attack in Paris but the chance is so vanishingly small that I would not consider it a reason to cancel a proposed trip and it's still a smaller chance than being killed in the USA.
February 28, 2017 at 3:35 PM · Anton, you're ranting now. If you understand the point most people are making is that not travelling to Paris based on this newspaper report (which as newspapers generally do, is reporting facts) is absurd. It is objectively a much safer place to travel than the US - where most people have no fear of travelling.

These events you mention may reflect a trend, they may not. An analysis of the events in the greater context of crime in Paris needs to occur to determine whether these reflect a true change in crime in Paris.

I live in Melbourne. A few years ago there were several isolated events of Indian students being mugged in our city and there was a big deal made over it and how it was unsafe to travel here. Looked at in the bigger picture, these students were living in a worse area of town and the crime rate was essentially unchanged.

Most big cities have places you should avoid at times, however a random tweet about places police avoid means nothing.

Point is, avoiding travel to Paris, or almost anywhere in western Europe because of safety concerns is silly. It would be like not sending your kids to school for fear of them being shot

February 28, 2017 at 4:12 PM · grant: Goodness. You said I'm ranting, but your rebuttal makes no attempt to filter through the newspaper reports and decide whether they are reasonable or wrong. You cite statistics compared with the US. That's all fine, but this tells you nothing about whether a tourist should take a risk for vacation.

"An analysis of the events in the greater context of crime in Paris needs to occur to determine whether these reflect a true change in crime in Paris."

Yes, go right ahead.... until then, whatever you're saying means nothing to the tourists who are already avoiding Paris.

People are also avoiding Egypt due to crimes directed towards tourists. Tourists can only take so much before their fortitude gives.

"Point is, avoiding travel to Paris, or almost anywhere in western Europe because of safety concerns is silly."

Beyond common sense. People are spending tons of money to go on vacation. Kim Kardashian lost millions of dollars worth of jewelry and valuables from her Paris trip. Given the options, going to a different destination isn't a hard choice.

February 28, 2017 at 4:36 PM · Here's a good article. The comments below are even better. The link is at the bottom.

"Etienne said 4 months ago
This article reflects pretty much reality. Tourists must be very cautious in Paris (especially the ones from Asia) which is becoming more and more dangerous. I'm sorry it may sound harsh to read but yes it is the truth. I'm a frenchman and been living in France for 48 years.. I was even born here, and insecurity has never been at such a critical level since a few years. I would strongly advise people to absolutely avoid metro and RER past 22h, especially the north lines (13... etc..) which can be really dangerous.
"Country of the human rights".. blah blah... blah blah.. solidarity, friendship... nice words for tourists..
Reality is different! ..Communautarism is pleaguing the french society since a few years, and justice is not repressive enough. Most of the pickpockets come from eastern europe (Romania, Bulgaria etc...) and are minors. As such, once caught by the police, they can only be released a few hours later as there is nothing that can be done to stop them juridically speaking.
France could really do way more than "better"... I wished we could just do "much" better to attract tourists again. I quit Paris a few years ago to settle down in Toulouse and for nothing on earth I would come back living in Paris again. Much too unsafe to my taste.
Go rather visit Barcelona, it's a much much safer place and the locals are really nice. Sure you don't get to see Tour Eiffel and Le Louvre... but at least you'll keep your belongings safe... when it's not your health!"

https://www.worldnomads.com/travel-safety/europe/france/crime-in-france

February 28, 2017 at 7:01 PM · Seems a good place to put this Guardian article - no-one (apart from Russia) wants to visit Trump's America:
https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2017/feb/28/us-tourism-experiences-a-trump-slump
March 1, 2017 at 6:31 AM · Maybe so, but it's going to be the Greatest US Tourism Slump!
March 1, 2017 at 11:52 AM · I'd rather visit Trump's America over Merkel's Germany or Hollande's France. Let me know how those refugees turn out. Oh wait...
March 2, 2017 at 6:54 PM · We have refugees here in my UK town. They're not a problem. My last trip to France was perfectly fine (honestly, in France it's the French who are rudest).

Fact is, there are dangers everywhere if you look for them. Just got to get on with life.

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