Here is a transcript of the speech Catherine Powell, President of Euro Disney S.A.S. made at last weeks Annual General Meeting of Shareholders held at Hotel New York in Disneyland Paris.
Euro Disney S.C.A. Annual General Meeting
March 31, 2017
Speech of Catherine Powell, Présidente, Euro Disney S.A.S.
Thank you Gilles.
And allow me to welcome you, ladies, gentlemen, dear shareholders, to your annual general meeting.
I am very pleased to welcome you to our resort, for my first general meeting with you.
Thank you for coming in such numbers. And I’m delighted to meet you.
It is an honour for me to be here as Présidente of the Euro Disney group. I am very aware of my responsibility. Disneyland Paris is a major player in French tourism, the number one tourist hub in Europe, with more than 320 million visits since it opened 25 years ago.
Allow me to introduce myself.
I started my career in media, making documentaries.
From this first experience, I understood the importance of developing good storytelling in order to thrill the audience and communicate strong, sincere emotion. After that I joined the BBC. And since 2004 I have been working for The Walt Disney Company: this is where I realised the importance of a perfect understanding of the consumer, to better anticipate their reactions, expectations and desires.
More recently, I led The Walt Disney Company for Australia and New Zealand.
There, I had 2 top priorities:
Firstly: Putting the consumer at the center of the game;
Secondly: Adapting the Disney brand to the local culture.
Today, I want to apply these experiences – of creative power, cultural integration and business impact – to the benefit of Disneyland Paris.
The park has never been so beautiful. This is thanks to your support and the recapitalisation plan that we implemented in 2015.
This plan was essential. It has allowed us to invest for the long term, and t o continue to pursue our development.
Above all it has enabled us to initiate a renovation plan, which began 2 years ago, affecting 10 major attractions.
To date, 6 attractions have been entirely renovated; many iconic park features have been transformed; and no less than 4 new shows have been designed.
I am extremely proud of our teams’ creative and innovative work.
I also pleased with the satisfaction expressed by our guests.
This would not have been possible without you.
And our efforts are not limited to the parks.
The changes are visible in our hotels too: ‘Disney’s Newport Bay Club’ completed its upgrade in 2016 by obtaining a 4th star. We’ve also begun renovation of “Disney’s Hotel Cheyenne.”
Let’s take a look at some pictures of these achievements.
As you can see, this renovation plan was ambitious, and it has proven successful. 2016 got off to a great start: visitor numbers were up, and all our operational indicators – spending per guest; Hotel occupancy and average spending per room – were also on the rise.
For this, I would like to pay tribute to my predecessor, Tom Wolber and highlight the key role he played over the last 2 years. Tom led the Group during the recapitalization plan, while simultaneously taking on this unprecedented renovation program. It is thanks to Tom, that the park is so beautiful today!
I would also like to thank Virginie Calmels, who always acted with determination and sincerity as Chairwoman of the Supervisory Board for 4 years. She was a very active participant and contributed much over the years. We wish her much success in her future professional projects and political endeavors.
It is with pleasure that we now welcome Axel Duroux to lead the Board. He knows the Group well, having been on the board since 2013. He has taken on his new role as Chairman in a most constructive and positive way.
But… 2016 proved to be a difficult year for the country. Everyone involved in tourism has been impacted, and Euro Disney was not spared. I would like to revisit these facts in more detail.
A few days after the attacks of November 13, 2015, we made the decision to close our parks for 4 days in respect of the national mourning period.
Nonetheless, we initially managed to limit the impact of these events. The terrorist attacks in Brussels in March, and the July attack in Nice changed everything.
The business environment contracted again, and in a very brutal way. We saw a decline in reservations, and experienced many cancellations. Terrorism created a feeling of insecurity, which particularly affected the tourism industry.
Other factors, such as the strikes in the spring and floods in the Paris region, made access to our park very difficult, and affected our visitation numbers.
Our 2016 annual performance reflects this difficult context, with a very significant loss, which Mark Stead will expand on later.
We cannot be satisfied with these results. The gravity of the situation calls on each one of us to take responsibility and work together to secure the future of our resort and its staff. It is in this context that The Walt Disney Company has renewed its support for the group and France, pledging to support a recapitalization to meet the Group’s financial needs. We welcome this development, which is positive for the company. This project will support the future of the Euro Disney Group and enable our on-going investments in France, as the number one European tourist destination.
Dear shareholders, for a long time we have shared a special relationship. I want it to continue even if Euro Disney is delisted from the stock exchange. I have had the opportunity to discuss this with some of you.
And I can announce today that the registered Shareholders Club members will see their benefits maintained for a period of 10 years.
I now hand it over to Mark Stead – I will be back after he has spoken.
Thank you, Mark.
Yes, 2016 was a difficult year. The economic and political situation was in turmoil. And tourism has also changed profoundly. Today it is shaped by the new aspirations of consumers, as they look for new and original ideals.
These consumers want their choices to have meaning and to live unique and authentic experiences. This must be the starting point for our thinking, and our action!
In this context, we cannot continue to operate without changing our approach. We must reinvent Disneyland as we look towards 2020!
This is the meaning of the new initiative that I have already shared and launched with our teams. Today I want to take the time to talk to you about this approach.
It is based on four strategic priorities:
• One: Placing our customers at the heart of all our thinking, at the heart of all our strategies, at the heart of all changes.
• Two: Building on excellence in service and on the commitment of our Cast Members. This is what makes the Disney difference.
• Three: Being a financially solid company. For this, we need to adapt our culture, our structure and our commercial approach to be bolder and more agile.
• Lastly: Continuing to capitalize on the strength of our brand and our franchises.
We have considerable creative potential!
In addition to Disney, we have Marvel, Pixar, and Star Wars! “Season of the Force,” which launched last January, is a perfect example!
To succeed, we must respond and be perceived as more innovative, more enterprising, more agile and more digital! Yes, this is an ambitious strategy and one that will take time; and let me add that I have engaged the whole company and the steering committee in that direction.
We are determined, and we are confident in our ability to implement it.
I spoke of 2020, but let’s come back now to 2017.
2017 is – as I’m sure you know – the 25th anniversary of your park!
Anniversaries are great opportunities to reconnect with our guests and to attract new customers. Our attendance has always increased during these anniversaries.
Take a look at all the festivities we have planned for this celebration.
This year we are celebrating not only the 25th anniversary of our resort, but also the 30th anniversary of the agreement signed with the French state. This partnership represents the first stone in the Disneyland Paris structure, which laid the foundation of our development.
It is built around a shared ambition: to make Disneyland Paris the reference in European tourist destinations and to contribute to the influence of Paris, and more generally, of France.
In my meetings with our elected officials, I have seen first-hand how the destiny of Disneyland Paris, Paris and France are intertwined.
All three were represented at our celebration ceremonies: from President François Hollande to the Chairwoman of the Regional Council of Ile-de-France, Valérie Pécresse, and including representatives of the European Commission and the Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo.
France is a wonderful country that the whole world dreams of visiting. For 30 years, Disneyland Paris has taken strength from the wealth of its heritage, its cultural diversity and the energy of its people.
It seems natural to us, in return, to contribute to the economic, social and societal development of the region. It is in this spirit that we conducted a contribution study, with the French government, that enables us to measure this value creation.
Three figures highlight the findings of this contribution study:
– First: we have had 320 million visitors over the last 25 years, which makes Disneyland Paris the number one tourist destination in Europe
– Second: 68 billion euros of added value have been generated by Disneyland Paris for the French economy
– Third: 56,000 permanent jobs have been created directly and indirectly by Disneyland Paris.
We have a unique public-private partnership in Europe, which will continue into the future.
More than ever, Disneyland Paris is the driver of the tourism of tomorrow. And we are already demonstrating this, with the upcoming opening of “Villages Nature”, a next- generation tourism project designed with the Pierre et Vacances Group. This tourist destination will offer an unprecedented range of “green” holidays based on the quest for harmony between Man and Nature. And it will bring lasting and sustainable strength to the Disneyland Paris division, spearheading tourism policy in France.
Ladies, gentlemen, dear shareholders,
in conclusion, let me convey to you the sense of honour and responsibility that motivates me.
I took the reigns of your group more than 6 months ago already.
Together with the Steering Committee, we have established a diagnosis and defined a strategic vision for 2020. We have shared it with the Supervisory Board and all the group’s teams.
Collectively, we initiated an ambitious but realistic program.
Believe me, I am determined.
And, supported by the incredible combination of talent within your Group, and the reaffirmed commitment of The Walt Disney Company, I am confident in our ability to improve our performance.
We are also fully committed to our responsibilities in promoting France as a destination.
It is also a tremendous opportunity to reinvent the tourism of tomorrow!
And who better than us to meet these challenges?!
We have a great power of attraction; we have unique creative skills; we have a spectacular capacity for innovation; and we have a park that is now transformed to celebrate its 25th birthday!
Ladies, gentlemen, dear shareholders,
Thank you very much.
Source: Euro Disney S.C.A.