Disneyland Paris unveils major refurbishment plan for the resort

September 26, 2013, 9:32 AM · Disneyland Paris has been taking heat from fans recently, with complains that maintenance standards have fallen at Europe's most-attended theme park. The park's second gate, Walt Disney Studios, continue to languish as the runt of the Disney Parks chain, even as the other two parks Imagineers have conceded were "built on the cheap" — Disney California Adventure and Hong Kong Disneyland — get lavish upgrades.

Disneyland Paris

Today, Disneyland Paris hosted a media day for European bloggers who cover the resort, to outline plans for refurbishments and improvements at the parks. You can follow the #eventDLP hastag on Twitter for updates during the presentations. I've selected some of the highlights to feature below.

Disney detailed plans for the redesign and refurbishment of rooms at all of Disneyland Paris' on-site hotels, including the addition of Cars "elements" to the Santa Fe Hotel. Wait a minute, I thought that Cars took place in California… ;^)

Disneyland Paris will not be adding DVC rooms to the resort, however. Now on to the parks themselves.

Crush's Coaster might be the nastiest queue in all of Disney, a limited-capacity spinning coaster with no FastPass or single rider line, and a queue that often fills to an hour wait before the park even opens. I'd love to see Disney try something to fix that mess.

Park officials also detailed improvements for Disneyland Paris' Halloween and Christmas celebrations, including new parade floats, soundtracks, and enhanced decorations in the parks. Managers also are working to address complaints about customer service by launching a new cast member recruitment campaign, targeted throughout Europe. (Translation: Let's get more non-French employees.)

Some DLP fans expressed skepticism about today's announcements, tweeting that they've been promised improvements in the parks before. But Disney's clearly "turned on the money hose," as one industry insider has said, trying to fix problems at its theme parks around the world created by corporate stinginess in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Maybe now will be Disneyland Paris' turn.

Replies (16)

September 26, 2013 at 10:26 AM · How very cool! Joe Schott and I worked together at Walt Disney World's Jungle Cruise. In fact, Joe was my lead one of the night's I worked crowd control for the Candlelight Processional when it was still taking place on Main Street USA. That was in 1982 (Yikes!) 31 years ago!
September 26, 2013 at 10:47 AM · I wonder if I could submit this as an idea for a future article by Robert Niles himself: "Would a Disney park ever close or be unbranded?".

This happens to hotels a lot...where something like a Ritz-Carlton either closes down or the Ritz stops operating it and the owner rebrands it to another kind of hotel. That's what's happening to the Peabody in Orlando as it's becoming a Hyatt hotel soon. Other times, hotels close down and are either torn down or become condos or apartments after a while of being closed.

I don't know a lot about Disneyland Paris but I keep seeing articles calling it a money pit. I believe that it only recently had its first profitable year, and it was not much profit. If it was not being propped up by Disney at large, I wonder if it would have been closed.

Would Disney ever allow that though? Would that be seen as a huge embarrassment to the company? That would be a terrible visual...seeing a Disney park torn down. Or, worse, having it be deflagged and turned into a generic local park.

I'd love to see an article from Robert about if he thinks DIsneyland Paris will ever close or be deflagged and turned into another park.

I also would like to know from Robert and others why they think Disneyland Paris isn't profitable...and what it would take to make it a big success. The Studios Park is just junky so I know what that is a failure, just as junky DCA was a failure before the remodel last year. But Disneyland Paris looks GORGEOUS...and it's still pretty much a failure.

Why is that when other theme parks in Europe seem to thrive?

September 26, 2013 at 11:34 AM · I'm on it. :^) Thanks for the idea.
September 26, 2013 at 11:44 AM · @ Annette I think that already happened to some extend. Remember Walt Disney and what he was good at? Right, making hand drawn animated features that delighted kids and adults. Most of them where retellings of popular fairytale and some of them where original experimental efforts that delighted many. That core business is gone. Instead of repairing what is broken they buy companies who do a better job then they do. Blaming customer in that they don't want to see hand drawn animation anymore (BS right?).
Of course that could happen to theme parks. Many popular entertainment venues of the past disappeared but non of them had that a big diversity of companies to fix what is broken due to bad management decisions.
If Disney is thinking their EU resort will ever be as popular as their other parks they are in for a disappointment. It's just not in the DNA of Europeans to see a theme park as a destination. I generalise here but although there is a minority who graves theme parks most don't. When they go they would never invest that much in the parks economy. We are used to take our own food and drinks to a park and not used to buy overpriced souvenirs. We are not used to drive 1 hour to a shopping mall let alone 5 or 10 hours to a theme park. I think DLP can be a minor successful park but never bring in the top dollars Disney need to keep investors happy.
September 26, 2013 at 12:21 PM · I'm SO thrilled to see that Disney is planning to do something about Disneyland Paris..We visited this past summer and were beyond disspointed. See my review here: http://www.tripadvisor.ca/ShowUserReviews-g226865-d189258-r173046497-Disneyland_Park-Marne_la_Vallee_Seine_et_Marne_Ile_de_France.html

It needs a LOT of work to be up to Disney standards...let's hope they can deliver.

September 26, 2013 at 12:55 PM · Wonderful news, at last! I was especially happy about this:
"Managers also are working to address complaints about customer service by launching a new cast member recruitment campaign, targeted throughout Europe. (Translation: Let's get more non-French employees.)"

At the moment I would rather spend money on a 10 hour flight to Tokyo Disney Resort to experience true Disney hospitality, than fly 2 hours to our "local" resort, DLP, to receive mediocre service.

September 26, 2013 at 2:10 PM · "Would a Disney park ever close or be unbranded?"

With regard to Disneyland Paris, no.

Why would you worry about something that is old news.

September 26, 2013 at 2:32 PM · To Anon Mouse,

I'm not worried about anything. In fact, I only very rarely think about Disneyland Paris. Except when I see articles like this one talking about it.

I just wonder if people who are experts in the theme park industry even think it's possible that Disney could shutter this park or sell it and remove the Disney branding from everything. I think that's a valid question: if there ever will be a point where Disney sees this as a money pit and shuts it down.

For instance, I think there's about zero chance that Disneyland or WDW would ever close down...short of some catastrophic natural disaster. I think they will be there 100 years and more from now, long after I am dead.

I don't know much about Disneyland Paris and have never been there, but I wonder what percent chance experts would give that Disneyland Paris would ever close down.

September 26, 2013 at 3:57 PM · Well, guess we know why there's no money for DHS getting CarsLand or other upgrades. Maybe they could simply turn DHS into the location for all of the afterhours hard ticket parties...

As to unbranding the parks, I recall more than a couple of articles over the past 10 years suggesting that maybe Disney would sell off the parks and just be in the hotel and time share business. In the minds of at least some of the suits, this probably seems like a much better deal.

September 26, 2013 at 3:58 PM · Well Annette: In the back of my mind, several incidences should be noted. ESPN Zone Restaurants, DisneyQuest, Disney Kitchen, Disney Store.
September 26, 2013 at 4:03 PM · My daughter was at DLP in the spring. We live 20 minutes from DLR, and she is a previous CM there, so we're VERY familiar with DLR. She was appalled at the lack of cleanliness. She wondered if she was really in a Disney park. There were cigarette butts all over the ground, the bathrooms were filthy, and the whole time she was there she didn't see one custodial CM. AT DLR we see them everywhere. She was incredibly disappointed. They not only need to spend money on refurbishment but on custodial and maintenance.
September 26, 2013 at 5:17 PM · @Anon Mouse,

I don't think the ESPN Zone restaurants, the Disney Stores, and the other things you mentioned are in the same league as the Disney theme parks.

A restaurant chain closing that the public does not identify with Disney doesn't tell us anything about whether or not one of the parks would ever close. Chains of restaurants go out of business all the time.

We've never seen a Disney park closed down. As for the Disney stores, those are just retail locations to people. They are not high profile vacation destinations. I remember being sad when a Disney store I liked closed but I just buy things online. A whole lot of stores, like Borders and Barnes & Nobel, are going out of business and retail is moving more and more online.

So retail locations closing aren't similar to the closing of a park. Disney's closed plenty of attractions, resort hotels, restaurants, and other things in both Florida and California through the years...and it owned and then sold the Queen Mary tourist attraction in Long Beach. So I know that Disney divests itself of properties and other ventures from time to time.

But it's never closed down a castled park and I wonder if it ever would or if that is just totally off the table.

September 26, 2013 at 5:48 PM · What Annette bringing to light here (and maybe why some of the responses are so intense?) is that if Disney wants to be associated with top quality theme parks, and wants to protect their brands, they have two choices: upgrade DLP dramatically, or shutter it. For the moment, it seems that they are trying to step up the service a bit. None of the announced measures seem big enough to address all of the problems with the park (the weakness of the studios park, the costumer service problems, the cultural aversion to destination theme parks, the weak financial footing). But, Disney is a big company and has time and money to help fix the problem. My guess is that they will make some improvements--see if they can turn the ship around, and reassess in 5 years. If it is still a failing business, then I don't think Annette's line of thinking is too far off at all.
September 26, 2013 at 6:35 PM · Annette: Based on your question ""Would a Disney park ever close or be unbranded?" I would say look at what they done before. It might be farfetched, but not impossible.

Certainly, a theme park closing like Disneyland Paris would be the ultimate in failure, but Disney as a business isn't into propping up a failed enterprise. Besides, it is a minority owner, which means it is limited to what it can do.

"I wonder if it ever would or if that is just totally off the table."

You just talked yourself out of considering such an option. I am afraid to bother you.

September 26, 2013 at 9:22 PM · This isn't much to be excited about. It sounds to me that these parks need investment in the form of expansion and better attractions than putting the money into making existing things just a little bit better.
September 27, 2013 at 9:41 AM · A couple of things here.
DLP is the the 5th most visited attraction in the WORLD. They are only surpassed by the other DLs in the world (CA, FL, Japan and DisneySea). They are the number ONE theme park in Europe by a LONG shot (11.2 mil vs Europa Park at 4.6 mil. Even the much maligned Paris Studios gets 4.8 mil).
BUT there is a difference between POPULAR and PROFITABLE. DLP is POPULAR, but NOT PROFITABLE. That is a totally different thing. I'm not 100% sure why they are not profitable, so I won't talk from ignorance.
I also know that the Walt Disney Company does NOT own DLP 100%. I believe there ownership is somewhere a little below 50%. Through some VERY complicated business dealings and holding companies and the like they do however have 100% control. The ownership issue helps to contribute to the issues that DLP has experienced. You are seeing recent changes happening because I believe that WDC took ownership of all or most of DLPs debt which I think also increased their ownership share.
Although as to the profitable issue, Disney normally takes the long view. WDC doesn't want any of their properties or divisions to be unprofitable, but some of those properties and divisions can drive profits at other divisions. Hong Kong Disneyland is not very profitable, BUT it raises awareness of the Disney brand in Asia and drives profits in Film, consumer products, etc. Plus it also gave Disney a "foothold" in China and lead to Shanghi Disneyland. DLP as well keeps the Disney brand alive and "upfront" in Europe and helps to create new Disney consumers.

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