Sun, 11 May 2003

Euro Disney, an ironic victim of the U.S. boycott of France

Paul Michaud, Contributor, Paris

In a strange twist of fate, one of the French tourist sites to be most hard hit by the American boycott on travel to France is the U.S.-owned Disneyland Paris amusement park -- better known as Euro Disney -- which is located on the outskirts of Paris at Marne-la-Vallee.

According to results published this week, Euro Disney, claimed as Europe's leading tourist destination, lost 82.7 million euros (US$90 million) during the first quarter of 2003. Upon announcement of the unexpectedly bad news, Euro Disney's stock plunged all of 9 percent on the Paris Bourse.

"The loss is twice as large as what we'd been led to expect," noted Tristan d'Aboville, an analyst for the Aurel Leven consultancy, who remarked, "the operating costs seem to have increased tremendously."

As for Euro Disney, it attributes the larger-than-expected loss to "exploitation charges," which it says increased by 16 percent to 456 million euros.

Still, as d'Aboville points out, the theme park managed to do better last year when it had 13.1 million visitors and had to write off the 40 million euro cost of the launch of its second, major, Paris-based theme park, Studios Disney, which was opened on March 16, 2002.

Euro Disney did not say how many visitors had already come to the parks so far this year -- or how many, for that matter, were expected for the entire year.

But other independent sources note that the number will be substantially less than in 2002, this largely a result of the "international climate," which includes not only the SARS epidemic and the war in Iraq, but also the U.S. boycott on France, which has generally discouraged travel to France, not only from the U.S., but also from the UK -- an important source of visitors to Euro Disney -- and America's principal ally during the recent attack on Iraq. In addition, travel has been down from two other countries that took the side of America in its recent war with Iraq: Spain and Italy.