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Disney lays off 1,900

The Walt Disney Co. has eliminated 1,900 jobs since Feb. 18 in its backstage operations in Orlando and California, the company confirmed late Friday.

Disney lays off 1,900

The Walt Disney Co. has eliminated 1,900 jobs since Feb. 18 in its backstage operations in Orlando and California, the company confirmed late Friday. Of that total, 1,400 of the positions were in Central Florida. The company laid off 900 workers and eliminated 500 positions, the company said. In California, 200 workers lost their jobs and the company eliminated 100 positions, Disney said.

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The job cuts are related to an overhaul of Disney’s theme-park management structure the company announced February 18. The jobs were all executive, management, and professional positions, the company said. The goal of the restructuring was to consolidate much of its decision-making process for Disney World and Disneyland. Disney also offered buyouts in January to 600 high-level management executives in Orlando and California, which was accepted by 50 people. Disney has about 62,000 workers in Central Florida.

“These decisions are not made lightly, but are essential to maintaining our leadership in family tourism and reflect today’s economic realities,” said Mike Griffin, a Walt Disney World spokesman.

The job cuts have been occurring over the past several weeks, the company said. Those laid off receive a 60-day paid administrative leave, a severance package that is based on their years of service, extended medical benefits, and job placement.

The layoffs come as the economy, and the black eye that companies have received over corporate meetings and executive travel, has the Orlando travel industry reeling.

Orange County reported February resort tax collections were down 29 percent and air traffic at Orlando International Airport was down 11 percent during the same period. From October through February, resort tax collections are down 12 percent.

Smith Travel Research, which tracks hotel performance nationwide, reported Orlando hotel occupancy in the last week of March was down 26 percent — the greatest decline in the nation. Smith Travel also reported that Orlando area revenue per available room, the key measure of hotels’ financial health, fell 35.4 percent to US$68.15.

Particularly troubling to area tourism officials is the industry relies on business during the first four months of the year for much of its annual revenue. “You can’t underestimate the importance of the first months of the year to the Orlando destination,” said Rich Maladecki, president of the Central Florida Hotel & Lodging Association.

Although the bulk of the job cuts have been made, Disney said the company does manage its operation based on demand and like any other business it is subject to the ups and downs of the economy.