Walt Disney theme parks dominate theme park attendance in 2009
The Themed Entertainment Association, along with AECOM Economics, has issued the 2009 theme park attendance report
. [PDF file]
Here are the Top 20 United States theme parks for 2009:
1. Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom: 17.2 million +1.0%
2. Disneyland: 15.9 million +8.0%
3. Epcot: 11.0 million +0.5%
4. Disney's Hollywood Studios: 9.7 million +1.0%
5. Disney's Animal Kingdom: 9.6 million +0.5%
6. Disney's California Adventure: 6.1 million +9.5%
7. SeaWorld Orlando: 5.8 million -6.8%
8. Universal Studios Florida: 5.4 million -12.0%
9. Islands of Adventure: 4.5 million -13.8%
10. Universal Studios Hollywood: 4.3 million -6.0%
11. SeaWorld San Diego: 4.2 million -12.6%
12. Busch Gardens Tampa: 4.1 million -12.3%
13. Knott's Berry Farm: 3.3 million -6.5%
14. Canada's Wonderland: 3.2 million -6.5%
15. Kings Island: 3.0 million -4.0%
16. Cedar Point : 2.9 million -8.0%
17. Busch Gardens Williamsburg: 2.9 million +3.7%
18. Hersheypark: 2.8 million -1.2%
19. Six Flags Great Adventure: 2.6 million -4.6%
20. Six Flags Magic Mountain: 2.5 million -2.5%
(tie) Six Flags Great America: 2.5 million -6.3%
And the Top 20 theme park worldwide:
1. Magic Kingdom
3. Tokyo Disneyland: 13.6 million -4.5%
4. Disneyland Paris: 12.7 million +0.4%
5. Tokyo DisneySea: 12 million -4.0%
7. Disney's Hollywood Studios
8. Disney's Animal Kingdom
9. Universal Studios Japan: 8.0 million -3.6%
10. Everland (South Korea): 6.2 million -6.5%
11. Disney's California Adventure
12. SeaWorld Orlando
13. Universal Studios Florida
14. Ocean Park (Hong Kong): 4.8 million -4.6%
15. Nagashima Spa Land (Japan): 4.7 million +1.1%
16. Hong Kong Disneyland: 4.6 million +2.0%
17. Islands of Adventure
(tie) Yokohama Hakkeijima Spa Paradise: 4.5 million -0.7%
19. Universal Studios Hollywood
20. Lotte World (South Korea): 4.3 million +0.6%
Analysis? The global economic recession battered everyone in 2009 - except Disney, which rode a brilliant get-in-free-on-your-birthday promotion to attendance gains at all six of its U.S. theme parks last year. Only one non-Disney park in the U.S. Top 20 managed to increase its attendance in 2009: Hats off to Busch Gardens Williamsburg for pulling off that impossible-for-everyone-else feat.
The worst attendance losses were at the non-Disney theme parks in Orlando, especially at the Universal parks. Islands of Adventure suffered the worst drop-off among the top 20 in 2009, which I will attribute to IOA fans holding off last year, waiting instead to visit in 2010, when The Wizarding World of Harry Potter debuts. Throw in the delayed opening of Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rockit at Universal Studios Florida, and many Universal Orlando fans clearly chose to sit out 2009.
Finally, should we quit calling Cedar Point the flagship of the Cedar Fair chain, now that the Sandusky, Ohio theme park is fourth in that chain for annual attendance? Heck, Cedar Point's no longer the most popular Cedar Fair park in the state of Ohio, as Kings Island rode the debut of its Diamondback coaster to pass its northern neighbor last year. (Actually, a better way to describe that would be to say that, thanks to Diamondback, Kings Island lost fewer visitors than Cedar Point did in 2009.)
Thanks for posting these numbers. I'm always amazed at the Magic Kingdom. I've been to both Disneyland and MK in the summer and Disneyland always feels like it has more people. Maybe I've been lucky when visiting MK and seeing short waiting times. IOA and USF will obviously benefit from Harry Potter this year and Sea World Orlando will hurt the most from this.
Thanks for posting! Always interesting to look at!
Wow. The gap between the haves (Disney) and the have-nots (everyone else) continues to expand.
Busch Gardens Williamsburg debuted Christmas Town last year as well. And the park was packed almost every night. This may have had a lot to do with the jump in attendance.
Assuming that Universal's numbers fell as folks have put-off a trip until the Wizarding World of Harry Potter opens.
Disney attendance is also a result of the heavy promotion and hotel discounting that they did last year. They accomplished the mission of maintaining attendance, albeit likely at a cost financially. The rest of the parks (Universal, Busch, Cedar Fair, Six Flags) for the most part maintained their price structures, and suffered in the attendance column.
That is not good for the Six Flags Parks, especially by SFGA which seemed like they held way more than 2.5 million in 2009. That number seems way too low based upon what I saw and the hype, pricing, and specials they ran all season long. As for SFGA making it in the top 20 along with SFGAdv and SFMM, I guess they are the top SF parks.
Robert, like Derek mentioned about Disney's promotions, I wonder what attendance would have been like without them? I know the resort discount drew Zachary and I there last year.
I believe your comment on Cedar Pint not being the flagship park of Cedar Fair was a little short sighted. It had a few things working against it last year. First and foremost is that Cedar Point is located in the most economically depressed region of the country. Double digit unemployment in all the major markets from which it draws (Southeastern Michigan, Northern Ohio, & Western Pennsylvania). Secondly, there were no major new ride openings last year. With Kings Island being so close it drew many of Cedar Point's guests to Diamondback for the one-time visit of the season. Lastly, and probably the most significant, that region of the Midwest (Michigan & Northern Ohio) did not have a summer last year. The weather was rainy and cold for most of the summer causing many casual visitors to cancel their day trips. I believe many of these things will be remedied over the next few years. The economy is bouncing back. The weather cannot be THAT bad every year (it was awful). Finally, I strongly believe Cedar Point due for a big new ride introduction next year encompassing the spot where Demon Drop once stood. All together I believe Cedar Point will be back at the top of Cedar Fair in terms of attendance.
Obviously other parks would have higher attendance numbers if they were in warmer climates but they aren't and Disney is still Disney. Disney is always running promotional things, but that doesn't change the fact that nobody does it like Disney.
Are you kidding, other parks didn't run promotions???
I wish that the report drilled down to the Top 50 parks, as it did when Amusement Business and ERA were running it. It'd be nice to see what other parks managed to increase attendance in 2009. Anecdotally, I hear that Legoland California and Holiday World increased attendance, along with Busch Gardens Williamsburg, in 2009.
Thomas, I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss the power of the Disney resort promotion. Universal's promotions weren't small potatoes, but Disney's hotels and 4 on property parks make their operation quite the racket. Again, let's scratch below the surface.
So I'm hearing talk that these numbers are not so accurate. I've heard that TEA is not even contacting many of the parks that are in the top 20 or near the top 20. I understand that Disney mostly doesn't release figures but it's other parks as well that have not been contacted. I've heard talk that the Busch Garden parks are not even being contacted for numbers that TEA is completely generating the numbers themselves for these reports.
Oh yeah I was surprised to see numbers released. Having worked for the mouse, I know park attendnce (even park capacities) are industry secrets. As for WDW guest count there are several counts Disney does.One is the number of guest in a park at a time. Another is the number of park hoppers being used in a day (so really Disney knows not to count every single admission , and thanks to the biometrics, it keeps a pretty good tab, there's a count of hotel guest and park hopper tickets sold (which is used to estimate for operations of the parks) and then a seperate hotel count (big convention business where a lot of folks don't go to the parks) and one of the last counts they do is of parked vehicles and transportation count. I'm pretty sure Disney does not release numbers, and if they do, they do not double count their guest...if they did, they everything they did based off of attendance numbers would be inflated and they're much smarter than that.
I wasn't criticizing anybody and I never said that no other parks did any promotions. I was just stating the fact that Disney has been running different promotions for along time. It is something that they do.
Oh yeah I was surprised to see numbers released. Having worked for the mouse, I know park attendance (even park capacities) are industry secrets. As for WDW guest count there are several counts Disney does.One is the number of guest in a park at a time. Another is the number of park hoppers being used in a day (so really Disney knows not to count every single admission , and thanks to the biometrics, it keeps a pretty good tab) there's a count of hotel guest and park hopper tickets sold (which is used to estimate for operations of the parks) and then a separate hotel count (big convention business where a lot of folks don't go to the parks) and one of the last counts they do is of parked vehicles and transportation count. I'm pretty sure Disney does not release numbers, and if they do, they do not double count their guest...if they did, they everything they did based off of attendance numbers that would be inflated and they're much smarter than that.
There's no doubt that the Disney Company has the greatest marketing and promotion team of any Fortune 500 company. Between Disney, ABC, and ESPN, not to mention the other "arms" of the company, they understand how to generate revenue.
It's interesting to see that DCA as seen such increases whilst IOA has seen a decline in annual attendance as both parks are conducting considerable expansions, even if the DCA expansion is more of a long-term project.
One qualifier to the Busch Gardens Williamsburg increase in attendence could be the addition of being open weekends Thanksgiving-to-Christmas with a holiday overlay in portions of the park. They caught a break on the weather most of those weekends, and it was very popular with the locals...although it was a let down that the Griffon was the only major ride open throughout the entire park.
Strong point about BGW adding events to increase its attendance. That's exactly the thing that seasonal parks need to be doing. Everyone's figured out how to use Halloween to extend the season. Now parks need to look elsewhere on the calendar for additional opportunities to bring in people.
It does get tough to do some of those special events at seasonal parks. Years ago Kings Island had Winterfest. It was pretty successful, but discontinued when Paramount bought the park in the early '90s. They tried to bring it back a few years ago, but it wasn't much of a success. It could have been a management/design thing, but the unpredictable and often nasty Ohio winter makes it tough to guarantee a pleasant experience. A Cedar Point winter event would be absolutely freezing.
I'm not surprised that the Disney Parks hold the highest attendance in 2009! As a Disneyphile who live an hour from WDW myself, I can blame it on the birthday freebies, the out-of-towners, and the turismos (including the irksome Brazilian tour groups).
This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.