This data analysis looks at hotel performance surrounding the opening of Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland theme park.
BROOMFIELD, Colorado—A rush of visitors was anticipated as the much-anticipated Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge theme park at Disneyland Resort debuted in Anaheim, California, but a look at hotel performance around those dates shows room demand actually dipped while rates saw some lift.
The soft opening of the park on 31 May required guests to have a reservation, and limited reservations for visitors who were not also guests of one of three Disneyland hotels. Even so, for the park’s full opening on 24 June, visitation was expected to set records. In preparation, Disneyland increased ticket prices earlier in the year, redesigned pathways within the park, set up the soft-opening procedures and expanded blackout dates.
Did reality meet the hype? STR analysis of local hotel performance surrounding the opening of Galaxy’s Edge shows:
- Average daily rate was up 22.1% at Anaheim hotels for the soft opening day, but demand actually experienced a 9.6% decrease; and
- Key performance indicators for the third week of the official opening were the strongest, with absolute occupancy of 84.5% and absolute revenue per available room of $146.
The Prelude: A Soft Opening
Looking at data three days before and after the soft opening, demand was lowest the day before, with an 11.2% decline compared to the previous year.
During the soft-opening period, many visitors surprisingly reported smaller crowd levels and lessened ride wait times, which mirrors what the data shows. Average daily rate was the only key performance indicator that showed significant increases, although rates softened as hotels attempted to boost demand growth. Occupancy declined six of the seven days post-opening, the exception being the day after (+0.7%). The second and third week after the soft opening performed better as Disney lifted some blackout date restrictions and increased promotions to increase visitation.
The arrival: Galaxy’s Edge begins
On 24 June, the official opening date for Galaxy’s Edge, reservations were no longer required, and as visitors flocked to Disneyland, with the area reaching capacity shortly after the park opened. However, hotel KPIs were still relatively low.
Part of the reason for the low performance is that the Disneyland Resort has a very strong Annual Pass holder base, with most pass holders living in the Southern California area. Despite the fact that all but holders of the two top-tier annual passes were blocked out from visitation on opening day, a large number of pass holders live within a drivable distance to Disneyland.
Also, perhaps in anticipation of large crowds and knowing that a second themed ride in Galaxy’s Edge is not set to open until early next year, transient guests have been avoiding travel to the area.
On the positive side, hotels overall reported some strong absolute KPIs for the week of the official opening. Average absolute occupancy for the week was 83.7%, and absolute ADR was $171. The first Saturday of opening week experienced the strongest absolute numbers with occupancy reaching 91.9% and ADR hitting $181. Looking at year-to-date KPIs, both ADR and RevPAR are up 3.1% and 2.6% respectively and rooms revenues are up 3.1%.
The Battle of the Openings
To get an idea of what typical hotel KPIs have been for similar large-scale theme park event openings, data was pulled for the dates surrounding Disneyland’s opening of Carsland; Walt Disney World’s opening of Pandora - The World of Avatar; and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter openings at Universal Studios parks in Hollywood and Orlando.
Overall, these events did not generate large KPI increases during opening week. The average demand percent change was only an increase of 2.7%, while RevPAR on average increased 5.2%. Of the six events, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter openings had the strongest KPIs. The opening at Universal Studios Hollywood registered the largest demand growth (+5.5%) and the largest RevPAR growth (+17.6%) of all of the parks. The opening at Universal Orlando Resort: Islands of Adventure realized the strongest KPIs overall, with demand growth of 42% and RevPAR growth of 83.2% the third day after opening.
May the Force be with you
Although hotel performance during the initial opening weeks of major theme park attractions does not seem to be significantly strong, over the long term, the popularity of these types of events make them a huge source of revenue for the local economy. The Disneyland Resort alone is expected to bring in more than $14 billion in revenue to the local economy in the next few decades; and after the opening of Carsland at Disneyland Resort, the city saw an additional $60 million in tax revenues over a five-year period.
As long as local hotels remain strong with the Force, they shouldn’t need to worry too much about the payoff of Galaxy’s Edge.
Raquel Ortiz is assistant director of financial performance at STR. STR is the parent company of Hotel News Now.
This article represents an interpretation of data collected by STR, parent company of HNN. Please feel free to comment or contact an editor with any questions or concerns.