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Despite spike in anti-Muslim attacks in US, Disney seeks more visitors from Gulf

Company says there are no signs that GCC visitors are shying away from Disney parks

Image Credit: Bloomberg
Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. GCC visitors spend more on their Disney trip.
Gulf News

Dubai: Disney says it hopes its US and European theme parks and resorts will continue to attract visitors from the Gulf region.

Travel between the Middle East and the US has dropped following the rise of anti-Muslim sentiments in the US and the election of US President Donald Trump.

Disney announced several new attractions at its US and European parks one day after the Trump administration issued a new travel ban on citizens of six Muslim-majority countries from entering the US. It was the second ban in a span of one month following the first ban, which was shot down by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The countries included in the new ban are Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.

However, officials at Disney said the ban has not had any impact on the number of visitors to Disney attractions in the US, Paris or the Disney Cruise line. The company declined to comment on whether their Asian parks would benefit from travellers’ concerns over visiting the US. They also declined to comment on Disney CEO’s Bob Iger involvement in President Trump’s Strategic and Policy Forum, saying only “we are really not getting involved in any of the political developments at all”.

“So far, we have not seen any impact on Disney destinations during the past month when the first episode happened. There is no signal that guests from GCC are shying away from Disney destinations,” said Brigitte Elmkies-Sitbon, Director, International Marketing and Sales.

“Right now, we are all expecting visitors from the GCC this summer as well,” she told Gulf News on the sidelines of a presentation to announce Disney’s latest theme park attractions.

Citizens of Arab Gulf countries, which include UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman, are “very important to Disney, because they do love Disney and they would enjoy Disney anywhere they go to enjoy the experience,” said Elmkies-Sitbon.

VIP services

They are the “number one market when we take the portfolio of the three destinations [US, Europe and Cruise lines] together, and you take the market that is abroad … it makes a very important market for us”.

GCC visitors spend more on their Disney trip, staying at deluxe hotels and resorts and use VIP services, said Damien Vayne, Paris-based head of international press.

This summer, Disney World will add shows based on the award-winning movie Avatar, where the scenes from magical forest tree land will be depicted so the visitors will enjoy the experience, Disney officials said.

Every year, Disney adds attractions based on its massively popular movies, such as Frozen.

Commenting on the popularity of animation movies in theme parks, Elmkies-Sitbon said, “beyond the quality and paying attention to the details of the animation or the production value, I strongly believe it is that uniqueness in the way Disney tells stories …. Stories that structure children’s personalities, help children dream and stories that help children believe in their dreams and have confidence in believing in their dreams, and that is actually what makes Disney stories unique.”

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