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Paul Pressler Discusses The Impact of Terrorist Attacks on Theme Park Industry

Aired October 6, 2001 - 11:45   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: From air travel to leisure activities, just about every industry is feeling an economic pinch since the September 11 attacks. That's one reason why President Bush, last week, urged Americans to travel, spend and enjoy life.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And one of the great goals of this nation's war is to restore public confidence in the airline industry and to tell the traveling public, get onboard, do your business around the country, fly and enjoy America's great destination spots. Go down to Disney World in Florida, take your families and enjoy life the way we want it to be enjoyed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Joining us now from Los Angeles to talk about the impact on Disney theme parks is Paul Pressler. He's chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts worldwide.

A nice plug from the president there to go to Florida. We should note that there's a Disney park in California as well. Sir, tell us what has the bottom line been? How much have you yourselves at Disney lost because of this and your assessment of the impact on travel and tourism nationwide?

PAUL PRESSLER, CHAIRMAN, WALT DISNEY PARKS & RESORTS: Well, certainly in the days immediately following the tragedy, we saw a significant decline in our attendance. Some attributed to the difficulty in being able to get to our facilities through air travel and train alike. But in the last couple of weeks, we've seen a steady, positive momentum moving forward as consumer confidence is building.

KING: You say consumer confidence is building. One of the continuing debates here in Washington and around the country is if the United States responds militarily there perhaps might be another wave of terrorist strikes in the United States. And of course, there is some speculation that terrorists would target populated sites, obviously, Disney, Mickey Mouse, a symbol of America, if you will.

What are you doing from a security standpoint? PRESSLER: Well, of course, we've needed to beef up our security. And we've taken what we feel are all the necessary measures to ensure that our guests have a safe environment when they come and visit us.

KING: How difficult is that? On the one hand, much like in the airport security debate, you want more visible security so people feel confident that they are safe. On the other hand, if they see so much security, they might think there's something to worry about. How do you strike that balance?

PRESSLER: Well, it is a challenge, as you said. And of course, we want to make that our guests do feel like they have a secure environment. The physical presence of law enforcement at the front gates, checking of bags are the kinds of things that we're doing to ensure and give the public the sense of security. At the same time, a lot of things that are going on behind the scenes to ensure that safety.

So we don't want to make it so overwhelming for our guests, but at the same time, we are very diligent in making sure that we believe it's a safe and secure environment.

KING: Any negative impact overseas? Any sense that consumers around the world, vacationers around the world, if you will, are reluctant to visit your international parks for fear of being at a site so closely identified with the United States of America.

PRESSLER: You know, so far, we haven't seen any impact on Disneyland Paris or our Tokyo resort at all. We certainly are seeing some impact for international travelers coming to the United States. We haven't seen that rebound as quickly as we see some of the domestic tourism. But internationally, we seem to have been able to avoid any concerns by consumers over there.

KING: A debate now about a subject called - quote - "Homeland Security," increased cooperation not only between federal and state agencies. But are you sensing that there needs to be, as a result of this, increased cooperation between major tourist sites like you own and various government agencies communication, coordination of security matters that might not have existed in the past?

PRESSLER: Yes, I think it's very important. And as an industry, we have come together and met to talk about security measures and issues. We're constantly in contact with local law enforcement to understand what the issues are.

So I think it's going to be critically important as we move forward. And I think it's important for the consumer to have that confidence, to be able to see that the security measures are in place and that the appropriate agencies are working together to ensure their safety.

KING: But you upbeat, you sense a turnaround. And if we visit with you a month, six weeks from now, what is your sense?

PRESSLER: Well, it's always hard to predict the future but based on the results of the last couple of weeks, we definitely see a positive momentum moving forward. Certainly not as fast, as we'd like and maybe not as - to the same level that we saw prior to the tragic events, September 11. But if this trend continues, I think that the industry and the American public will get back to travel and to their vacation plans.

KING: All right. And a personal plug for Disney from the President of the United States can't hurt. Paul Pressler, chairman of Walt Disney Parks & Resorts worldwide, we thank you for your thoughts and your time this morning.

PRESSLER: Thank you, John.

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