It’s not really a secret that Disney makes a LOT of money. But exactly how much money they’ve made recently was revealed recently in the Q1 Earnings Call.
During that report, we learned about the state of the company’s financial situation, some of their plans for future Disney+ projects, and how the Disney streaming services are doing. Disney also addressed one problem that’s been a popular concern lately: the staffing shortages in the theme parks.
Disney employees experienced more than 32,000 layoffs at the beginning of the pandemic, which primarily happened at the Disney parks (since they were closed at the time). Now that almost all of Disney’s theme parks are open worldwide, the company has been struggling to fill all the necessary roles.
Disney has not made many comments on their hiring struggles, but we’ve noticed in Disney World that many experiences are still closed or are only available some of the time. This could be due to staffing problems.
For example, some booths at the 2021 Flower and Garden Festival would close frequently, and there are still a few kiosks and restaurants around the parks that will be unexpectedly closed.
Cheshire Café in Magic Kingdom had been closed on and off for a while (though we have spotted it operating during normal hours recently) and Caravan Road in Disney’s Animal Kingdom is rarely open at all. Do note that some of these locations operate on a seasonal basis.
Housekeeping is still pretty limited at Disney World hotels, which might be partly due to staffing shortages and partly due to health and safety policies. Currently, guests are being asked whether they’d like housekeeping every other day during their stay, or decline it completely.
When we’ve asked Cast Members in the parks about the unavailable offerings, we have frequently been told that staffing issues are to blame for certain closures and changes. Disney isn’t the only company that’s experiencing struggles with hiring. Many companies (including stores, hospitals, schools, and more) nationwide are having a hard time finding people to fill all the necessary roles.
So what is the staff situation looking like for Disney now? During the recent Q1 Earnings Call, Disney CEO Bob Chapek reported that “85% of our cast members pretty much say ‘yes’ immediately when we ask them back.”
This information confirms a report from last year that said Disneyland brought back about 80% of its workforce when it reopened. This theme park was expected to be back to full staffing by the end of 2021.
And Disney has also brought back the College Program, which brings in college-age students to work in Disney World. This program provides a lot of employees in the hospitality, dining, and entertainment sections of the parks.
The international program hasn’t returned just yet, though Disney recently announced that it will be coming back SOON in phases! According to Disney, “participants from select countries whose 2020 program was shortened or canceled [are] now being offered the opportunity to apply.”
Bob Chapek announced that Disney currently employs about 195,000 people. Let’s take a look at how that number compares with previous years.
How Does It Compare?
For perspective, here’s a look at the number of employees Disney has employed over the last several years:
You’ll see that the number of Disney employees each year rises pretty steadily from around 130,000 in 2006 to around 220,000 in 2019 with only one decrease between 2008 and 2009. After 2019, the number starts to drop. Between 2019 and 2020, Disney employees decreased by more than 20,000 (an 8.97% decline). The downward trend continued into 2021 when an additional 13,000 employees left or were laid off (a 6.4% decline). So between 2019 and 2022, Disney lost around 33,000 employees.
In this graph, you can see that the green marks an increase in employees, and the red marks a decrease. Although Disney lost employees in both 2020 and 2021, it lost fewer employees in 2021. The beginning of 2022 marks the start of a new upward trend since Chapek reported 195,000 employees, which is an increase from 190,000 in 2021. So in general, Disney is just starting to get back into the “green zone” of gaining employees instead of losing them.
Chapek also said this about Cast Members in the parks: “We really haven’t had too big of an issue in terms of retaining and attracting people into our parks.”
So what is the current problem in terms of staffing shortages?
Where Is Disney Still Struggling?
Chapek answered this question during the first-quarter earnings call as well. He said that the two problem areas in terms of staffing have been hospitality and entertainment. “The two areas that have been difficult is hospitality. And right now we’ve got 90% of our hotels at Walt Disney World open, and we’ve got all of our hotels at Disneyland open, but also short of cooks, think kind of short-order cooks.”
It sounds like Disney needs more staff for housekeeping at the hotels and quick service restaurants, which is in line with what we’ve seen in the parks and hotels. Hotel rooms are not being cleaned as much as they previously were, and kiosks and smaller counter service restaurants are usually the ones that close unexpectedly.
In addition, Chapek reported that live entertainment was an area that needs more staff. “The second [area] is live entertainment, and we’re working toward restoring both of those so that we can get up to something that would be more similar to what we’ve seen in the past in terms of the number of people that we put into our parks.”
Disney is bringing back a lot of live entertainment this year, including the Festival of Fantasy Parade in Magic Kingdom (which requires more than 100 Cast Members), Fantasmic! in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and the Finding Nemo Musical in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. They’ll need a lot of staff to keep these shows running, so this is likely a big area of focus for hiring right now. We have seen quite a few listings for auditions on Disney’s audition website.
In general, Disney seems to be back on the upward trend for hiring employees, especially in the parks. They still have a ways to go in order to get back to pre-pandemic employee numbers, and the next year will be a crucial time with all of the entertainment offerings returning.
We’ll continue to watch for more news about the staffing shortages in Disney World, so keep following DFB for all the latest updates.
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Have you noticed the staffing shortages in Disney World? Let us know in the comments.