NBCUniversal CEO calls demand for Universal theme parks ‘historic’

In a discussion on the company’s theme parks, CEO Jeff Shell said the parks have come ‘roaring back’

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said Thursday, April 30, 2020 that the company was delaying construction on its fourth park at Orlando Universal Resort. The Epic Universe theme park was announced last year to great fanfare. (AP Photo/John Raoux, file) (John Raoux, Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

ORLANDO, Fla. – Universal’s theme parks are “selling out” and it’s only going to get better as more international travelers return, the company’s CEO said Tuesday.

Jeff Shell, the CEO of NBCUniversal, discussed the economic condition of the company’s theme parks at the 24th Annual Credit Suisse Communications Conference.

According to Shell, the company’s theme parks, such as Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure, have “come roaring back” following their shutdown during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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“We’re above where we were in 2019, despite not a lot of international travelers still,” he said. “We (have) historic bookings in Florida hotels and our theme park attendance.”

Shell added that — despite both inflation and gas prices climbing to historic highs — attendance at the parks hasn’t seen any impact.

“As gas prices rise, you would expect to see a decline... and it’s more expensive to fly, by the way, as airlines have to raise their prices to offset deals,” he said. “We are seeing none of that, yes, literally none of that. If you landed from Mars and looked at our numbers for our theme parks and tried to discern if there was inflation or not, there’s no impact on our business.”

Shell stated that he expects even more visitors to the company’s theme parks following the federal government dropping testing requirements for international travelers.

“We expect a surge of international (travelers) because there’s hopefully, when domestic starts to decline — if and when it does decline, it hasn’t yet — we’ll start to see that offset with people flying in from other places,” he said. “There’s a big pent-up demand we take around the world for people flying into our theme parks.”

Shell also brought up the future of the parks, saying that the increased demand has left the company with little capacity in theme parks and hotels — a fact made evident by recent ticket price increases.

In addition, Shell talked about a partnership with Nintendo to create the Epic Universe theme park, pointing to massive upticks in demand for theme parks in Orlando. Epic Universe is currently under construction, on track for a summer 2025 opening.

“We’re addressing, basically, this supply-side imbalance by continuing to deploy capital of the business: rides, new parks and smaller things... We’re out there investigating for new experiences,” he said. “So that’s our strategy for (it). We’re building capacity to deal with excess demand.”

About the Author:

Anthony, a graduate of the University of Florida, joined ClickOrlando.com in April 2022.