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Economic Engine: Report Finds Disneyland Creates $8.5B Economic Impact In Southern California

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An independent study commissioned by The Walt Disney Co.'s Parks and Resorts division found that the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim in 2018 generated an estimated $8.5B in economic activity in Southern California.

Economists from California State University, Fullerton, which Disney commissioned for the report, found that the Disneyland Resort continues to be a major creator of jobs and a catalyst for tourism in the region and generates a significant amount of tax revenue for state and local governments.

Disneyland resort
Disneyland

Disneyland Resort comprises two theme parks — Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, the Downtown Disney District retail center and three Disney-owned hotels. Disney paid $75K to Cal State Fullerton to conduct the report. 

Using an input-output economic model, the report found the resort's impact on jobs in the region has grown at a 7.2% average annual rate since 2013 — triple that of the region's average employment growth of 2.3% — and created more than 78,000 direct and indirect jobs from Imperial County to Ventura County. Nearly 73% of those jobs are in Orange County

Of the 78,000 jobs, Disneyland Resort employs 31,000 cast members (the company's term for employees). The rest of those jobs are from hotels, restaurants and other third-party businesses that feed off the 25 million-plus visitors that Disneyland attracts annually, economists said. 

Additionally, the report found the Disney employees, visitors and supporting third-party businesses generated nearly $510M in annual state and local tax revenue, an increase of 6% since 2013. Nearly $162M in tax revenue went to Anaheim’s general fund.

"They obviously have a big impact on the region and an important impact on tourism," Cal State Fullerton Professor of Economics Adrian Fleissig told Bisnow. "Disneyland is all year round so it generates revenue for hotels and restaurants all year. It makes a significant contribution to the region and Orange County."

"It's very good for business," Fleissig added. "Disney keeps adding more and more things to Disneyland and it's an attraction so there is a need for more hotels and restaurants. It's a great opportunity for businesses."

Disney and Cal State Fullerton released the summary of the report Friday at an OC Forum event at Disney's Grand Californian Resort and Spa. The report analyzed Disney's fiscal year from October 2017 to September 2018. Economists said they could not release the full detailed report due to its proprietary nature. 

Disneyland President Josh D'Amaro and Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu talk after the OC Forum event at Disney's Grand Californian Hotel & Spa.
Disneyland President Josh D'Amaro and Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu talk after the OC Forum event at Disney's Grand Californian Hotel & Spa

Disney commissions economic impact studies about every five years to measure the success of the Disneyland Resort, Disneyland President Josh D'Amaro told Bisnow after the event. Disney has been doing this since the early 2000s, and steadily seeing an increase in impact. 

In 2014, a Disney-commissioned economic impact study — by a different company — found the Disneyland Resort contributed $5.7B of economic activity in Southern California. In 2009, it drove $4.7B annually to the Southern California economy. Disney's 2004 report found it had generated $3.6B.

"When we are successful here at the Disneyland Resort, Orange County and Anaheim will be successful," D'Amaro said.  

Anaheim Councilman Jose Moreno told the Orange County Register that the numbers released do not account for the $500M in bonds from infrastructure investments made by the city of Anaheim in the mid-1990s to build up the resort. It will cost the city more than $1B to pay off those bonds, Moreno told the Register.  

Still, Moreno said D'Amaro has done a great job working with the local community since he took over last year. 

During his short tenure, D'Amaro has struck a deal with Disney unions to increase employee wages to $15 an hour, $3 more than California's minimum wage, and helped implement Disney Aspire, a 100% tuition-free education plan for employees.

D'Amaro said the company is not done expanding.

Just two months after opening Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge land, Disney announced at its biennial convention this past summer the creation of a Marvel Super Hero-themed land called Avengers Campus for Disney California Adventure. 

Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu told Bisnow after the event he wasn't surprised by Disneyland's economic impact on the region.  

"A lot of people underestimate what Disney does for Anaheim and this is not only for Anaheim but the entire region," Sidhu said.