Ridership dips on Disney Magical Express

Magical Express

Magical Express

The number of tourists that Walt Disney World bused away from Orlando International Airport dipped 1 percent during the first half of the year, according to new airport figures.

The giant resort’s shuttle-and-luggage service, Disney’s Magical Express, ferried a little more than 1.1 million arriving passengers from the airport to Disney World hotels between January and June.

That was about 11,000 fewer than during the first six months of 2011. It was also the lowest total for the first half of a year since 2007.

Disney makes Magical Express complimentary to all of its hotel guests. It uses the shuttle as a lure, hoping travelers will choose its hotels over cheaper, off-property competitors and will spend more in its parks and restaurants by reducing the likelihood they will rent cars while in Orlando.

The shuttle’s 2012 performance was dragged down by an abysmal May, in which Magical Express ridership plunged 14.1 percent — from nearly 212,000 in May 2011 to less than 182,000. Traffic rebounded slightly in June, rising 2.5 percent to 184,000.

“Ridership alone is not an indicator of business performance,” Disney spokeswoman Andrea Finger said. “Disney’s Magical Express is a popular service provided to our guests. While our guests appreciate the service, it also positively impacts the airport and our community in numerous ways.”

Two years ago, the Walt Disney Co. stopped reporting theme-park attendance and hotel-occupancy trends for Disney World and instead began reporting only combined results for its domestic operations, which include Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif. That makes Magical Express traffic one of the only Disney World-specific business barometers publicly available.

The data suggest that Disney may report lower U.S. hotel occupancy when it releases its quarterly earnings Aug. 7. Because of the weak May, Magical Express traffic slumped 3.8 percent from April to June, which parallels Disney’s fiscal third quarter.

Disney said in May that U.S. hotel bookings for its fiscal third quarter were running 1 percent ahead of last year’s pace. And roughly 90 percent of the company’s domestic rooms are at Disney World.

Magical Express ridership rose 1.9 percent during the first three months of the year compared with the same period in 2011. Disney’s U.S. hotel occupancy rose two percentage points during that quarter, to 82 percent.

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