Mouse parks perk up

Analysts see attendance rise in December

NEW YORK — Threats of terrorist attacks apparently didn’t deter travelers from returning to Disney theme parks this holiday season.

Credit Suisse First Boston sounded an upbeat note for Disney’s most battered division Friday, citing a survey by travel industry research group Smith Travel that occupancy in Anaheim and Orlando were up for the four weeks to the end of Christmas weekend compared to last year.

According to Smith Travel, Disneyland’s Anaheim hotel occupancy rates were up 10.8% to 61.6% for the four weeks ending December 27, while Orlando was up 3% year over year to 51.9%

Occupancy gain

For the one-week period ending Dec. 27, research showed Anaheim occupancy was up .6%, marking the twelfth consecutive week of gains. Noting that total occupancy in the U.S. fell 2.5% over the same period, CSFB took the figures to suggest an upbeat finish for the year at Disney parks .

CSFB also cited anecdotal evidence that theme park attendance last month was very strong at both locations in December.

Disney shares edged up 1.46% to close at $23.67 Friday.

Disney execs have already warned of soft financial results at its parks and resorts division for the first quarter of 2004 due to higher marketing expenses and personnel costs.

For fiscal 2003, Disney’s earnings from its parks and resorts were down 10% over 2002 due to the economic slump afflicting the travel industry overall.

Theme park rival Six Flags has also enjoyed a recent stock market boost, and on Friday saw its shares gain 2.66% to $7.72 after the debt-encumbered U.S. amusement park leader survived a lackluster year.

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