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2007 theme park attendance report released

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Published: March 14, 2008 at 8:54 AM

Brady MacDonald at the LA Times alerted me that this year's theme park attendance report is out. Brady offered a summary on the LAT website, but I did some snooping and quickly found the full report online.

Disney remained the top chain, with 116.5 million visitors worldwide last year, followed by Merlin Entertainment with 32.1 million. Universal drew 26.4 million, followed by Six Flags with 24.9 million and Busch with 22.3 million. Cedar Fair came in sixth place, with 22.1 million visitors in 2007.

Here are the world's 20 most popular theme parks, by attendance, in 2007, according to the Themed Entertainment Association Economics Research Associates:

  1. Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom
  2. Disneyland
  3. Tokyo Disneyland
  4. Tokyo DisneySea
  5. Disneyland Paris
  6. Epcot
  7. Disney's Hollywood Studios
  8. Disney's Animal Kingdom
  9. Universal Studios Japan
  10. Everland (South Korea)
  11. Universal Studios Florida
  12. SeaWorld Orlando
  13. Disney's California Adventure
  14. Blackpool Pleasure Beach
  15. Universal's Islands of Adventure
  16. Ocean Park (Hong Kong)
  17. Hakkeijima Sea Paradise (Japan)
  18. Universal Studios Hollywood
  19. Busch Gardens Africa
  20. SeaWorld San Diego

SeaWorld Orlando moved up one spot, passing California Adventure. Otherwise, there were no changes among the U.S. parks in the Top 20.

Rest of North America Top 20:

13. Knott's Berry Farm
14. Canada's Wonderland
15. Busch Gardens Europe
16. Cedar Point
17. Kings Island
18. Hersheypark
19. Six Flags Great Adventure
20. Six Flags Great America

Busch Gardens Europe showed the strongest attendance gain in the country last year, 12.5 percent, placing it in the Top 20, and knocking out Six Flags Magic Mountain. In addition to Magic Mountain, California Adventure and Knott's Berry Farm showed attendance declines. Those parks, along with Six Flags Great Adventure, were the only top U.S. parks to show attendance declines in 2007.

Readers' Opinions

From Deidre Dennis on March 14, 2008 at 9:26 AM
Maybe it's because we come from an area where we have to travel 17-plus hours to get to a decent theme park, but I continue to be surprised at all the negative remarks about Magic Mountain, and was surprised about their decline in attendance. Our first (and so far only) visit there was June 2007 and it was an absolute blast. The wait times were not bad, even for the most popular rides, lots of staff making sure people weren't cutting lines and getting rowdy, the park was clean and our experience was a good one. So much so that we're planning to go back, perhaps in the Fall. At any rate, I've read a lot of negative comments about that park about how it's not family friendly, it's unclean and the teenagers really act up there. Maybe we hit it on a good day or something but I have no reservations about going back. Or maybe our opinion of the park is so high because like I said earlier, we don't have much access to theme/amusement parks.
From Robert Niles on March 14, 2008 at 9:36 AM
I'm planning to get out to Magic Mounatain soon for a status report. But I'll say this. If you know anything about physics (or higher math), or just stop to think about it logically for a minute...

If you're going 60mph in the wrong direction, you have to spend a lot of energy to slow and turn the car around before you can starting driving the right way. But once you make the turn, all your energy can go toward progress.

That's where I think some of the Six Flags parks are right now. They're reversing the slide, but haven't gotten far enough down the road in the opposite direction for a huge number of people to notice the progress.

From James Rao on March 14, 2008 at 9:38 AM
It is nice to see that the list is dominated by actual Theme parks and not a bunch of Iron Ride parks. Go Disney, Universal, and Busch!
From Robert Niles on March 14, 2008 at 11:03 AM
I also want to note that the attendance figures validate TPI readers' selection of Busch Gardens Europe as the world's top park last year. Obviously, something's working very well at BGE.

That... or the attendance figures validate the awesome promotional power of having your park named the winner of a Theme Park Insider Award! ;-)

From Robert OGrosky on March 14, 2008 at 11:13 AM
I agree that it is nice to see real theme parks like those you find at Disney/Universal etc are doing great, these are parks that SF should try to copy if they want to get out of the hole they are in. Families enjoy parks that arent concrete jungles with coasters scattered about.

Ive only been to SFMM once, but I wasnt impressed with the park, other than some good coasters. And the behavior of the guests was AWFUL!! The park needs major work in getting control of line jumpers/rowdy kids and much better trained employee's with a good attitude about there job. Which was quite different from I experienced at Knotts on the same visit.

It also would be good to see parks like Dollywood/Silver Dollar City that do a great job of theming move up in the ranks, though due to location it isnt likely.

From Jake Rivers on March 14, 2008 at 11:24 AM
CP and KI would have owned BGE if they opened in March like BGE does. It's not rocket science people!!! And by the way, CP still has the golden ticket award!
From David Kirby on March 14, 2008 at 11:46 AM
I can't believe BGE's attendence rose that much! If I remember correctly, they weren't even in the top 20 last year. That's really great for the park.

And of course it wouldn't be TPI without the Cedar Point fanboys bashing Busch Gardens...

From Deidre Dennis on March 14, 2008 at 11:43 AM
I forgot to add a sarcastic but kinda truthful "uh oh" to my original posting. We're scheduled to go to Busch Gardens Europe in June and with their attendance jump, it's quite possible that it'll be packed! If they had that large of a jump in attendance, hopefully that means they are doing a lot of good things out there. This makes me even more excited to go and even happier that we chose this park as our next destination.
From David Kirby on March 14, 2008 at 11:45 AM
After looking at the full report, I have a few more comments. Hershey posted an impressive gain this year too but I'm guessing that's mostly due to the waterpark. It's good to see that IOA had an increased attendence last year considering the poorer results from the previous year. I'm sure Disney's not loving that -4.5% for DCA and that 20% decline for HKDL is really embarassing. I'm really surprised by DLP's 13% climb. I guess their 15th anniversary celebration must be drawing a lot more people to the park. Animal Kingdom is also inching closer to passing DHS. Next year perhaps?
From James Rao on March 14, 2008 at 12:37 PM
I agree with Mr. OGrosky that parks like Silver Dollar City and Dollywood do a great job of theming on a much smaller scale. And while the attendence of those parks doesn't rank with the "Big Boys", people do notice: Dollywood was picked as the "Best Park of 2007" by the Publishers of the Golden Ticket Award (link).

I am not personally a fan of the Golden Tickets because they are geared towards rewarding iron ride parks and not true theme parks. But in this case, I think the publishers may have showed more sense than the voters!!

At any rate, attendance is what really matters, and for their size and scope, I believe both Dollywood and Silver Dollar City are doing pretty well.

From Greg Bark on March 14, 2008 at 12:48 PM
Jake, I have some info for you. If a park wins a Golden Ticket, it seems like a big honor, but the truth is, it's highly overated. The whole comitee handing out the awards is totally biased, especially for Cedar Point. Take the 2007 Golden Tickets for example. Maverick won the best new ride of 2007 award. However, on this website, Mystery Mine at Dollywood won best new attraction, and Griffon is constantly rated as the world's best roller coster. Maverick got O.K reviews, but quite a few said the ride is not worth the 21 million and is a headbanger. I also think that 10 years is far to many for Cedar Point to have won the Best Park award. There are so many parks out there with better rides and theming. Cedar Point keeps winning because they have 17 coasters. But are they all quality rides? Reflect on this. I'm not trying to be rude because your free to go to any park you want; this is just my 2 cents.
From Jake Rivers on March 14, 2008 at 1:10 PM
I am on my back laughing out of control because of Greg! This guy obviously knows nothing about roller coasters and obviously only visits this site! He actually said that Griffon is the #1 coaster in the world LMAO!!!!!! Griffon is a one trick pony and it's only 205 ft high! It was lame at best and worth at most, a 15 minute wait for front row! And he actually put down Maverick, even funnier! The poor guy only gets to visit BGE apparently so he only gets to ride 5 steel coasters.
From Tyler W. on March 14, 2008 at 2:22 PM
Guys, just ignore Jake and all of the other biased fanboys.
From Robert OGrosky on March 14, 2008 at 7:47 PM
While Cedar Point is a decent park with some very good roller coasters, as a THEME PARK it is medicore at best and with all the the Golden Ticket awards it wins just shows the Golden Ticket is VERY biased against the major parks in FLA/CA.
If you would give a true best park award, there is no way Cedar Fiar would best a Disney/Universal Park when it comes to rides/theming/customer service etc.
And while a park like BGW doesnt have as many coasters as Cedar Point, I find a day much more enjoyable in that park then the concrete jungle that Cedar point is.
From James Rao on March 14, 2008 at 9:22 PM
There is a huge difference between a Theme park (Magic Kingdom) and an Iron Ride Park (Cedar Point). One is designed to make you lose yourself in fantasy. The other is designed to make you lose your lunch.

Marty Sklar, a Disney employee since the 1950's and now the international ambassador for Walt Disney Imagineering, once said, "We're in the business of telling great stories, and great stories never grow old. In the end, a roller coaster is just a roller coaster."

There is room in this world for both types of parks. And the competition they bring to the table rewards us all as park designers scramble to make better and better attractions.

However, attendance figures don't lie, and the Cedar Fairs and Six Flags of the world are learning the hard way that strongly themed parks are destinations for families (who spend lots of money), and that iron ride parks cater more to teens (who have no money).

Don't get me wrong....I love a good coaster as much as the next amusement park addict, but a properly themed attraction can beat a good coaster any day, hands down. Furthermore, a well themed coaster like Expedition Everest is often more exciting than an over-the-top thriller like the Maverick just because the theme adds an extra layer of immersion that helps the rider lose him/herself in fantasy.

Again, it is good the amusement park industry is doing so well, and great that we have a wide variety of choices in our amusements. But let's face it: a coaster is just a coaster. It is the theme that sells the park.

Attendance numbers don't lie.

From Jake Rivers on March 14, 2008 at 9:51 PM
Robert you're obviously an old man and you belong at a place like BGE! Next stop for you my friend is the retirement home. Enjoy! Me and my friends find BGE very boring just like most of America does! 2 hours and your done and never wanting to go back! Enjoy walking around there cause you're one less in line!!!!!!
From Jake Rivers on March 14, 2008 at 9:54 PM
James obviously doesn't realize that BGE is open for 2 months longer than the Heaven CP is!!!!!!! He isn't very bright. BGE barely beat out CP and it's the first time ever!
From James Rao on March 15, 2008 at 12:55 AM
Hi Jake, I appreciate the kind, thoughtful, and intelligent feedback, however, I did not once mention BGE in my comment.

I was looking at the entire list of attendance winners and pointing out that the most successful parks on the list are the true theme parks. Cedar Point is not a theme park, it is a coaster park. In fact, it is a very good coaster park. Maybe the best of the bunch. Furthermore, there is nothing inherently wrong with being a coaster park.

It is a good thing that we, as consumers, have such a variety of choices, and it is also good that so many amusement parks are experiencing good attendance. In industry terms, we call that a "win-win."

However there is some good news for Cedar Point in your personal war with BGE: as reported a few weeks back on this very web site, the local Sandusky school districts are pushing their class start dates past Labor Day (at the request of Cedar Fair) to boost late season attendance at the park. This move might help Cedar Point get the bump it needs to move back up in the attendance list.

I am keeping my fingers crossed, Jake!

From David Sutter on March 15, 2008 at 6:32 AM
Im glad to see the winners! All are great parks...been to everyone of them. Disney, Universal, Busch..all do great things with there parks...and the promotion is top of the line. Six Flags has taken many many great and wonderful theme parks and destroyed them. Two come to mind Magic Mountain in Calif. ANd Great Adventure in New Jersey. And its a shame really both were well thought out and planned back in the 70's. ANd featured in many movies, TV shows, and product comercials. A little know fact about Great Adventure when it was built it was done so by removing only what was needed to install a ride or attraction. ANd as much of the natural gowth was left in place ..And heres a kicker Six Flags is removing 6-9 300 year old tress for a parade? Go figure!
From Larry Zimmerman on March 15, 2008 at 11:51 AM
I think it's possible to consider CP a theme park, if your theme is "roller coasters." :roll eyes: But whether or not you believe it should be highly rated as a theme park, it's undeniably roller coaster heaven...we can agree to disagree and remain civil.

Believe it or not, some people go to amusement parks for more than coasters, and the theme parks seem to do a better job of providing that "something for everyone" than do the so-called "iron parks."

I, for one, love both, and will continue to enjoy whatever park I'm in at the time for whatever rides and attractions it offers.

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