Disney World has become synonymous with Orlando ever since Walt Disney World Resort opened there in 1971. The Florida location has grown into Disney’s most-visited theme park, welcoming over 58 million guests in 2021.
But recently, rumors have emerged that Disney World could relocate to New Orleans, Louisiana in the future. This speculation has sparked debate and raised questions about whether a major Disney expansion in New Orleans could be on the horizon.
In this article, we’ll dig into the context behind the rumors, analyze the feasibility, and look at arguments on both sides of the debate on whether Disney World might end up moving to The Big Easy down the road.
Background Behind the New Orleans Relocation Rumors
First, what sparked rumors about Disney World eyeing New Orleans? There are a few key dots connecting the city and Disney’s future plans:
- The Princess and the Frog Setting – Disney’s 2009 film The Princess and the Frog was set in New Orleans. Some speculate this Walt Disney Animation Studios project revealed Disney’s interest in the city as a theme park backdrop.
- New Orleans Square at Disneyland – One of the original themed lands built at Disneyland in California was New Orleans Square, bringing the flavor of Louisiana to Anaheim.
- Canceled Disney’s America Project – In the 1990s, Disney proposed a Disney’s America theme park focused on U.S. history in Virginia. The concept featured a New Orleans component, hinting at Disney’s broader plans for the city in parks. The project was eventually canceled due to environmental concerns and backlash.
- Recent Tourism Struggles in New Orleans – The COVID-19 pandemic delivered a huge blow to New Orleans’ tourism sector, just as the city was recovering from prior hurricanes. This has fueled theories that Disney could invest in and revitalize the city.
- Disney Cruise Line – Disney Cruise Line recently announced upcoming expansion of its port in New Orleans. While small, this shows Disney’s willingness to grow its Louisiana presence.
These factors have led some to connect the dots and believe a much larger Disney World-scale theme park relocation to New Orleans could make sense in Disney’s future expansion plans. But is a move genuinely possible? Let’s analyze the cases for and against.
The Case For Moving Disney World to New Orleans
At first glance, New Orleans seems like an odd choice compared to keeping Disney World in its longstanding Orlando location. But there are some arguments that a relocation to The Big Easy could make strategic sense for Disney:
Bringing Disney Characters Like Tiana to Life
New Orleans is intrinsically linked to some of Disney’s most beloved modern characters and stories, like those seen in The Princess and the Frog.
Bringing a theme park to life in New Orleans would allow Disney to fully immerse guests in the settings of these characters and tales in a way Orlando doesn’t offer. Disney has a chance to let visitors step right into the world of Tiana and Princess and the Frog by weaving the city’s iconic architecture, music, and culture through the park’s design.
Opportunity For Expansion
Disney World in Orlando is massive, occupying over 25,000 acres of land. While Disney has continued adding new lands and attractions, space is filling up.
New Orleans has more available surrounding land that Disney could purchase for a spacious new resort complex. The opportunity to build from the ground up is appealing.
Boosting Louisiana’s Tourism Appeal
Like Florida, Louisiana is a warm southern state home to beaches, swamps, and lakes. But its tourism numbers lag far behind Florida’s, especially recently given hurricane impacts.
Disney World’s huge economic impact could bring jobs and a surge in tourism dollars to aid Louisiana’s recovery. And guests would flock to a uniquely themed park blending New Orleans charm with Disney magic. It’s a big potential economic win for the state.
Lower Operational Costs
Louisiana’s land, construction, and labor costs would likely be cheaper compared to central Florida, especially with tourism still rebuilding. Disney could potentially save on operating expenses with a move.
Keeping Things Fresh
Orlando has been home to Disney World for over 50 years now. Relocating to an exciting new city like New Orleans could help Disney keep things fresh and reach new demographics of tourists. The novelty factor would drive excitement and attendance.
There are definitely angles to consider that make a Disney World move to New Orleans conceivable from Disney’s perspective. But there are also plenty of counterpoints.
The Case Against Moving Disney World to New Orleans
Here are the biggest factors that suggest keeping Walt Disney World in Orlando is the far more likely scenario versus Disney uprooting and relocating to New Orleans:
Massive Investment in Orlando
Disney has spent over 50 years growing Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando into a world-class tourist destination. Their investment includes 4 theme parks, 2 water parks, 25+ themed hotels, dining, entertainment districts, and more.
Uprooting this entire infrastructure that hosts 58+ million visitors yearly would be astronomical in cost and complexity. It took decades to build – starting fresh elsewhere makes little financial sense.
Brand Equity in Orlando
Relatedly, the Walt Disney World name is intrinsically tied to Orlando. That brand power and identity can’t be easily replicated elsewhere. Disney would be abandoning decades of equity built up in Orlando as a global vacation hub.
Proximity to Other Attractions
Orlando offers unparalleled proximity for visitors to experience Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, SeaWorld, and countless other attractions. New Orleans is relatively isolated as a tourism destination and couldn’t offer the same multi-park convenience.
Florida’s weather is less prone to hurricanes and severe storms that have devastated New Orleans in the past. For family vacations, Orlando’s mild temperatures are also more favorable than Louisiana’s humidity.
Central Location for East Coast Traffic
Orlando airports receive heavy East Coast traffic from major population hubs like New York. A New Orleans location would lose these valuable visitor demographics that Florida can easily capture.
Operational Expertise in Orlando
Disney has perfected park operations, vendor networks, hiring, supply chains, and more in Orlando over decades. Abandoning this expertise for a fresh start in New Orleans would wipe the slate clean unnecessarily.
When balancing all the enormous costs against the benefits, the scales tip heavily in favor of Disney remaining in Orlando for the long haul.
What Has Disney Said About Relocating Disney World?
Disney has not officially commented on rumors that it could relocate its flagship Walt Disney World Resort from Orlando to New Orleans. There have been no announcements or confirmation from Disney on any plans to move its Orlando theme parks.
The rumors appear to be purely speculative rather than based on any real Disney plans. Disney is continuing its massive expansion of Walt Disney World, including the just-opened Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser hotel.
While Disney does have some ties to New Orleans, there is no evidence currently that Disney World or any major theme parks will shift from their longstanding Orlando location. Disney’s focus remains on enhancing its existing park infrastructure.
Barring an unexpected major announcement from Disney, Walt Disney World appears certain to operate in Orlando for the foreseeable future rather than packing up for The Big Easy.
Would Relocating Disney World Even Be Allowed?
If Disney ever did want to uproot its 50 year-old vacation empire from Orlando to New Orleans, would it even be allowed legally? The company’s contracts and agreements likely preclude any rapid relocation.
Here are some of the barriers that could block a Disney World move:
- Long-term Municipal Commitments – Disney may have multi-decade agreements with Orlando and Orange County tying the resort to the region through taxes, infrastructure, services, and other incentives.
- Ongoing Business Partnerships – Disney relies on countless vendors and suppliers in Orlando that support resort operations. Existing contracts may mandate location.
- Property Rights – Disney likely does not fully own all of its Orlando resort property, with complicated land leases and ownership stakes involved. Moving large-scale attractions may face blocks.
- Regulatory Approvals – New environmental, building code, and other reviews would be needed to construct a new resort. Opposition could derail approval, much like Disney’s America in Virginia.
While not entirely impossible, untangling these complex contractual and legal obligations to facilitate a rapid move of Disney World’s scale would be extremely difficult. Disney has deep roots in Orlando that won’t be simple to move.
How Potential Relocation Could Impact Orlando Tourism
If Disney World did unexpectedly pack up and relocate to another city like New Orleans, the tourism impact on Orlando would be massive:
- Lost Tourism Revenue – Disney World drew 58+ million visitors in 2021. Removing that traffic would decimate Orlando’s tourist industry. Billions in annual Disney tourist spending would disappear.
- Hotel Vacancies – Orlando’s hotel scene caters heavily to Disney visitors. Without this demand, occupancy rates could plummet as rooms sit vacant.
- Airport Upheaval – Orlando International Airport counts on Disney tourists to fill flights. Airlines would likely need to cut back or cancel routes.
- Local Job Loss – Disney World employs over 75,000 workers in Orlando. Relocation would eliminate these jobs and cut income relying on park guest spending.
- Declining Growth – Orlando’s economy and rapid population growth has been fueled by Disney World for decades. This engine would vanish. Building projects may halt and housing values could fall.
- Shift to Other Parks – Universal Orlando and SeaWorld would work to capture more visitors. But they likely couldn’t fully replace Disney World spending and traffic.
Orlando has evolved into a tourism mecca largely thanks to the foundational presence of Disney World. While Universal, SeaWorld and other attractions would remain, the economic impact of losing Disney would be monumental. Tourism would need to be rebuilt.
Could Disney World Move to Another City Like Texas?
Speculation around Disney World moving has primarily focused on New Orleans. But if Disney ever did want a fresh start elsewhere, another city like Texas could potentially house a relocated Disney World.
Disney already considered Texas once before…
Disney’s America in Texas – In the 1990s, Disney originally envisioned its America-themed park based on history in Texas before ultimately planning to build it in Virginia. Moving Disney World to Texas could align with this past vision.
Space for Massive Resort – Like Louisiana, Texas has ample land where Disney could purchase vast acreage for a sprawling new resort, hotels, and infrastructure. Orlando is filling up.
Popular Tourist Destination – Major cities like Dallas, Houston and San Antonio already draw millions of tourists annually. A Disney park could complement these existing destinations.
Business-Friendly State – Texas is famed for a pro-business, low-regulation approach. Disney would likely face fewer legal and environmental hurdles moving major attractions there compared to many states.
But any other relocation would face the same daunting obstacles around existing Orlando investments and operations. While Texas provides some advantages over New Orleans, the case against moving still dominates.
How Likely Is the Relocation? What Are The Odds?
Based on all the evidence, relocating Disney World’s theme parks from Orlando to New Orleans seems highly unlikely in the foreseeable future. The costs and complexities make such a move prohibitive.
The rumors offer fun speculation, but no solid proof exists that Disney is eyeing New Orleans or anywhere else as a potential new Disney World host city. Keeping and growing its current Orlando resort remains Disney’s clear focus.
Here are probability estimates around key questions related to Disney World relocating:
- Odds Disney World moves to New Orleans: Less than 1%
- Odds Disney World moves to another city like Texas: 1-2%
- Odds Disney World stays in Orlando through 2050: 95%+
- Odds Disney builds a new mini theme park in New Orleans: 10-15%
While a small Disney park expansion in New Orleans could happen, the flagship Disney World leaving Orlando any time soon remains just an unlikely rumor.
Is Disney World’s Future in Florida Actually at Risk?
Rumors about Disney World moving out of Orlando seem far-fetched. But some still claim Florida’s shift to right-leaning politics under Governor DeSantis does jeopardize Disney’s future in the state.
Here’s a quick examination of whether Florida’s evolving political climate truly puts Disney World at risk:
- Reedy Creek Elimination – The law dissolving Walt Disney World’s special district status takes effect in June 2023. This loss of local autonomy edges Disney away from Florida.
- Cultural Clashes – Disney’s opposition to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill fueled political tensions with DeSantis. More cultural conflicts could widen the divide and make Florida seem less welcoming.
- Future Legislation – Some speculate Florida could pass more laws limiting LGBTQ+ expression in ways that clash with Disney’s values, further straining relations.
- Tax Incentives – Florida could be reluctant to offer Disney future tax breaks and incentives needed to expand in Orlando, impacting long-term growth.
- Tourism Impact – A prolonged public battle could damage Disney’s brand for some tourists and cause Florida travel declines. Disney could look to relocate to reset perceptions.
However, full abandonment of Disney World remains exceedingly unlikely. Disney and Florida ultimately need each other, as explained below…
- Established Infrastructure – Disney relies on its 5 decades of infrastructure in Orlando. Starting totally fresh with new parks elsewhere faces massive financial hurdles.
- Mutual Dependence – Disney World drives billions in annual Florida tourism spending, while Disney depends on Florida’s warm weather, government support, and operating expertise.
- Cost of Relocation – Moving Disney World’s 4 massive theme parks and 25+ hotels would likely cost tens of billions in new construction – an amount that makes no business sense.
Barring Florida passing discriminatory policies that directly target or exclude Disney, a total Disney World relocation due to political tensions stays improbable. Both sides would suffer greatly from Disney’s departure. Expect an uneasy truce to continue.
Future Expansion Sites More Likely Than Relocation
Rather than picking up and moving Disney World away from Orlando, Disney has plenty of options to build totally new theme park resorts across the U.S. and worldwide.
Some leading contenders for potential future Disney expansions include:
Texas – Disney’s America concept could be revisited here, perhaps near Austin or Houston. Massive amounts of affordable land can accommodate sprawling resorts.
California – Disney regularly invests in its original Disneyland Resort. Additional hotels, parks, and expansions of Disneyland remain likely around Anaheim.
Internationally – Overseas markets like India, Vietnam, and South America represent future opportunities for new Disney resorts to drive the company’s global growth.
Domestic Expansion Sites – Candidates for smaller-scale Disney offshoots include Colorado, Michigan, Missouri, and Virginia, among others. Disney will spread its magic selectively.
Rather than one massive relocation, incremental expansions into multiple locations is Disney’s more feasible strategy. But Orlando will stay the undisputed home of Disney World.
Disney’s Future in Orlando Remains Bright
While rumors may swirl online, Disney is showing no signs of abandoning Orlando or relocating its crown jewel Disney World theme park complex. Recent investments only deepen Disney’s commitment to Central Florida.
Disney’s upcoming Orlando projects include:
- Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser – This new Star Wars-themed hotel immerses guests in an interactive space vacation. Its March 2022 debut further grows Disney World.
- TRON Lightcyle Run – Disney is building an all-new thrill ride at Magic Kingdom based on the TRON franchise, opening in 2023.
- Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind – A cutting-edge Guardians of the Galaxy roller coaster is added to the lineup at Epcot in 2022.
- Moana Journey of Water – Disney’s newest spiritual experience will open in Epcot honoring water and nature through the lens of Moana.
- Flamingo Crossings – A new Disney district that offers hotels, shops, dining, and entertainment near Disney World, boosting on-site experiences.
- Disney’s Water Parks – Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon will see upgrades and enhancements to keep Disney’s water park experiences fresh.
Clearly, Disney is fully committed to keep growing and improving its total Orlando footprint. While the New Orleans relocation rumor is an intriguing concept to speculate on, Walt Disney World remains firmly planted in Central Florida for the long run.
Frequently Asked Questions About Disney World Moving to New Orleans
Here are answers to some common questions regarding the rumors of Disney World relocating from Orlando to New Orleans.
Why would Disney move Disney World to New Orleans?
New Orleans is iconic setting for Disney films like The Princess and the Frog. A Disney park there could bring those characters to life and boost Louisiana tourism. Lower costs and available land are other potential perks.
Is Disney actually moving Disney World to New Orleans?
No. Disney has not made any announcement about relocating Walt Disney World to New Orleans. The rumors are purely speculative. Disney appears committed to expanding its existing Orlando resort.
How much would it cost Disney to move Disney World?
Tens of billions, if not more. Relocating Disney World’s 4 massive theme parks, 25+ hotels, and all infrastructure from Orlando to another city like New Orleans would carry enormous costs that likely don’t make financial sense.
When will Disney World move to New Orleans?
There is no set timeline, as Disney does not actually have plans to relocate Disney World to New Orleans. Barring an unexpected announcement from Disney, the iconic resort will remain in Orlando for the foreseeable future.
Would Disney World moving hurt Orlando tourism?
Absolutely. Orlando tourism depends heavily on Disney World’s 58+ million annual visitors. Relocating that traffic and spending would devastate Orlando’s tourist economy and force major cutbacks across hotels, restaurants, airports, and other industries.
Does politics put Disney World’s future in Florida at risk?
While political tensions have risen between Disney and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, the complete departure of Disney World from Orlando over politics remains very unlikely.
Several factors suggest Disney World will continue operating in Central Florida for the foreseeable future:
- Disney has invested over 50 years building up its Orlando resort complex, making a move cost-prohibitive.
- Florida depends heavily on Disney World to drive tourism and would suffer if Disney parks left.
- Orlando’s infrastructure is tailored to Disney’s operations, and starting fresh in a new city would be massively complex.
- Shifting politics cause friction, but both Democrats and Republicans recognize Disney’s economic importance.
- Florida’s growing population and tourism can compel politicians to moderate stances harmful to Disney’s business.
- Disney has leverage from employing over 75,000 Floridians to encourage compromise on issues of concern.
While tensions can arise depending on the policy priorities of current political leadership, the symbiotic Disney-Florida relationship persists through pendulum swings. Barring extreme circumstances, expect Disney World to remain anchoring tourism in Orlando for decades to come.
How Might Disney Respond if Tensions Rise?
If political clashes with Florida escalate further, how could Disney react? Here are some possible scenarios:
Lobbying – Disney could deploy its lobbyists and use campaign donations to smooth relationships with Florida legislators and exert influence on policy. Maintaining open communications is key.
Legal Action – If Florida passes discriminatory laws targeting Disney, legal challenges citing violations of civil liberties could follow. But lawsuits take time and divert focus.
Withholding Investment – Disney could play hardball by refusing to pursue new Florida expansions or development until relations improve, depriving the state of jobs and tax revenue. However, both sides would suffer losses.
Focusing Elsewhere – Disney may turn attention and dollars toward growing its international parks and resorts if the Florida climate worsens. But global projects move slowly.
Price Increases – Disney could pass along costs from additional taxes or regulations to Florida park visitors via ticket price hikes. But this risks damaging in-state tourism.
Ramping Public Relations – Disney could launch PR campaigns to boost its Florida brand image and smooth over tensions. But some issues may prove intractable.
Weathering the Storm – Disney’s size and profits may allow it to simply endure rocky periods with minimal impact and wait for political winds to shift back in its favor.
Through some combination of defusing tensions, pursuing alternative growth, and riding out turbulence, Disney has options to preserve Florida relations without immediately pursuing drastic steps like relocation. But more surprises could emerge.
What Might Force Disney’s Hand to Leave?
Under what circumstances might tensions escalate enough that Disney would actually start planning a Disney World exodus from Central Florida?
- Passing discriminatory policies that make operating parks uncomfortable or unfeasible for LGBTQ+ guests and cast members.
- Removing Disney World’s long-standing self-governing district permanently, significantly eroding Disney’s control.
- Imposing massive tax hikes, fines, or operational restrictions that specifically target Disney’s Florida properties and industry.
- Blocking Disney’s ability to expand Disney World attractions and hotel capacity necessary to drive future growth.
- Fostering a sustained hostile and unwelcoming environment from legislators and residents that damages Disney’s brand, reputation, and trust.
- Refusing to provide emergency services, infrastructure, utilities, or other essential public services needed to safely operate theme parks.
Barring such extreme actions purposefully undermining Disney’s operations, the smart money remains on Disney World staying firmly put. Both Florida and Disney would pay a steep price from parting ways. But politics holds surprises.
Could Disney Leave Florida Short of Shutting Disney World?
Rather than the nuclear option of closing Disney World, Disney may have intermediate ways to reduce its Florida footprint:
- Halt New Development – Disney could freeze upcoming hotel, restaurant, and attraction projects while leaving current parks open. This halts expansion without wiping out infrastructure.
- Close Water Parks – Shutting Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach water parks cuts operations with less impact versus closing headliner theme parks.
- Sell Real Estate – Disney could sell off land holdings, hotels, and other assets while retaining theme parks. This capitalizes on property values.
- Move Corporate Functions – Disney may shift some of its Florida-based offices and operations elsewhere while preserving Orlando theme parks.
- Focus on Universal – Disney could plough more resources into expanding Universal Orlando if relations deteriorate, despite brand separation.
Smaller strategic reductions like these allow Disney to cut some Florida ties as needed while minimizing disruption to theme park guests. But these shifts alone cannot replace Disney World’s economic impact. A split would still damage both Disney and Florida greatly.
Timeline For Relationship Improvements
How long might it take for tensions to smooth between Disney and Florida politicians if steps are taken by both sides? Some projections:
- 3-6 Months – Smaller conciliatory gestures and communications could help relations stabilize in the near term. But underlying issues remain unresolved.
- 1-2 Years – For deeper legislative and cultural rifts to mend, patience is required. Compromises extending through election cycles take time.
- 5+ Years – Rebuilding broken trust and goodwill on fundamental social issues and values may take Disney and leaders turning over. But progress occurs.
Much depends on the willingness of both parties to aim for de-escalation. With concentrated effort, the most negative tensions likely fade within 2 years. But some cultural divisions could linger longer term. Regardless, Orlando remains Disney World’s home.
Projected Political Shifts in Florida
Florida’s political environment is ever-evolving. Assessing projected trends can help Disney strategize:
- 2024 Elections – The presidential race could tip Florida toward either party. Gov. DeSantis also faces re-election, leading to continuity or change.
- Demographic Shifts – Younger, more socially progressive transplants to Florida gradually offset the aging conservative base over the next decade+.
- Mid-Term Swings – Florida’s bellwether status leads to power shifts between Republican and Democratic rule each 4-8 years.
- Above-Average Polarization – As a swing state, expect Florida politics to remain fractious and divided on inflammatory cultural issues longer than more politically unified states.
No mono direction exists. While demographics lean progressive, the pendulum swinging between parties prevents durable dominance. This environment demands Disney build influence across factions.
Though flashpoints will continue arising, cooling tensions remains achievable through open communications and political diversification. Patience and perspective are invaluable. For Disney World, The City Beautiful remains home.