Disney parks slip, but remain atop global theme park attendance report
The 2016 TEA/AECOM Theme Index global attendance report
is out, and Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom remains the world's most popular theme park. But Disney's theme parks mostly saw their attendance slip in 2016, as rival Universal continued to see gains at most of its parks.
The top 25 most-attended theme parks worldwide in 2016:
- Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom, 20,395,000, -0.5%
- Disneyland, 17,943,000, -1.8%
- Tokyo Disneyland, 16,540,000, -0.4%
- Universal Studios Japan, 14,500,000, 4.3%
- Tokyo DisneySea, 13,460,000, -1.0%
- Epcot, 11,712,000, -0.7%
- Disney's Animal Kingdom, 10,844,000, -0.7%
- Disney's Hollywood Studios, 10,776,000, -0.5%
- Universal Studios Florida, 9,998,000, 4.3%
- Islands of Adventure, 9,362,000, 6.5%
- Disney California Adventure, 9,295,000, -0.9%
- Chimelong Ocean Kingdom, 8,474,000, 13.2%
- Disneyland Paris, 8,400,000, -14.2%
- Lotte World, 8,150,000, 11.5%
- Universal Studios Hollywood, 8,086,000, 13.9%
- Everland, 7,200,000, -3.0%
- Hong Kong Disneyland, 6,100,000, -10.3%
- Ocean Park, 5,996,000, -18.8%
- Nagashima Spa Land, 5,850,000, -0.3%
- Europa Park, 5,600,000, 1.8%
- Shanghai Disneyland, New 5,600,000 (Opened in June)
- Walt Disney Studios Paris, 4,970,000, -1.6%
- Efteling, 4,764,000, 1.8%
- Tivoli Gardens, 4,640,000, -2.0%
- SeaWorld Orlando, 4,402,000, -7.9%
Also topping the four million mark worldwide were Busch Gardens Tampa (down 2.0%), Universal Studios Singapore (down 2.4%) and Knott's Berry Farm (up 3.8%). Singapore was the only Universal theme park to see an attendance dip last year. Overall attendance globally among the top 25 theme parks was down 1.1 percent, but attendance was up 1.2 percent among the top 20 parks in the United States, according to the report.
The big winner in attendance growth last year was Universal Studios Hollywood, boosted by the opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in April. Shanghai Disneyland also helped turn the year positive for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts by attracting more than five million visitors in half a year of operation. All other Disney theme parks posted attendance declines last year.
The biggest losers were Hong Kong Disneyland and neighboring Ocean Park, which likely saw a loss of visitors to the new Shanghai Disneyland park, amplified by an ongoing tourism slump in Hong Kong. Disneyland Paris continued to disappoint in 2016, too, with its attendance dropping 14 percent. It's likely that many potential DLP guests put off their visit until this year, when the park is celebrating its 25th anniversary with the completion of many attraction renovations.
In the United States, Six Flags and Cedar Fair parks saw increases, while SeaWorld and Busch Gardens parks continued their slide. Busch Gardens Williamsburg fell from the U.S top 20, replaced by Six Flags Great America, north of Chicago.
For more of what happened last year:
Update: Let's visualize this:
The two Universal Orlando parks dipped in 2009 as people put off their trips to the resort in anticipation of the event that roiled the Orlando market in 2010 - the opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Islands of Adventure. That's the year that SeaWorld started its decline and that Hollywood Studios (ST on the map - sorry, reverting to my old cast member days when that was the abbreviation for the park) fell behind Animal Kingdom.
The Magic Kingdom starts its climb in 2012/3, which was when the New Fantasyland debuted. Universal Studios Florida gets a boost in 2013 from Transformers, then a big one the next year with the opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley. And with each Universal Orlando attendance boost, we see a decline at SeaWorld, as Universal claims the clear number two position in the Orlando market, behind Disney World.
Previous theme park attendance reports:
I always wondered if you have a Park hopper type ticket, If you visit MK in the morning, then visit AK in the afternoon - Is that One visit or Two visits?
I can't believe Disney Hollywood Studios numbers....seems like a red flag that the numbers are not accurate.
20,000,000 visitors to Universal Orlando resorts. How many of those guests boost Universal's profits by staying at Universal hotels?
The shocking number to me is that EPCOT dropped as much as any of the WDW parks despite being the only one that added a new attraction (not one, but two in Frozen Ever After and Soarin' Around the World).
It would appear there's many more day passes sold for the Magic Kingdom and Disneyland. People aren't hopping to the minor parks.
Surprised at the negative number for Disneyland, it seems to still be overcrowded.
Remember, the 60th ended and Disneyland closed part of Frontierland, reducing capacity as attendance dipped, cramming people into an even smaller park footprint.
@Brian Disney doesn't provide exact numbers. "Our role is to share what the industry operators say officially or, if that information is not provided, to share our best professional estimate."
Those Hollywood Studios numbers are weird.
The mantra is clearly if you don't invest in your parks the attendance will decline.
Animal Kingdom will see a big increase this year, with Pandora.
None of these numbers are official. I don't think any of the major chains ever release actual attendance numbers. It's just TEA/AECOM folks counting heads and making guesstimates based upon the previous years' numbers. Take them for what they are worth.
I was fortunate enough to have the chance to visit the top 11 parks on this list. I am not at all surprised with number 4 on the list, Universal Studios Japan. On the two days that I visited last year the park was the most crowded easily out of any of the other parks, including the Tokyo Disney ones. That park is supremely awesome though, just remember the Japanese are a lot better at getting to the parks early!
AECOM bases its report from publicly released numbers from the parks, and, when they don't have those, estimated bases on observations and other data that they can collect from the companies. Universal and SeaWorld have cited the numbers in SEC filings, so they're generally considered the best numbers in the business.
Sea World surely have to do something other than building woeful roller coasters.
^Universal and SeaWorld never used to post park by park numbers, just overall attendance increases or decreases as a chain (like Six Flags and Cedar Fair). If they post numbers for each park, it is something new (at least new to me). Do you have links to these SEC filings? And if they are regulatory filings, why wouldn't all the publicly traded companies have to provide them? Including Disney?
Orlando had a terrible weekend last June. Couple that with less global travel and Disney had nowhere to go but down.
Marvel Land won't help Disneyland, since that's reportedly planned for DCA. Though Star Wars Land will be a HUGE gate spinner for DL.
Robert, a couple of times in 2016, you asked readers to predict how the attendance would shake out for Disneyland vs. Universal Studios Hollywood:
Given how bad things seemed to be for Orlando last year, I am a bit surprised that Universal pulled out increases for both parks. Potter continues to draw, and I think the Kong/Hulk twofer helped IOA, as well.
If most of DLR's guests are locals, is there really all that much room for growth in their numbers? The same could be said for the Tokyo parks.
DL Paris is being negatively impacted by the various terrorist attacks that have occurred in France over the past few years as well as the general economic malaise in Europe over the past couple of years.
Also, as a Florida resident that's been to DW and UO each around 7-8 times; this is really such an exciting time down here for the theme parks.
@22.214.171.124 Just so you know, during our trip to Pandora later this summer, the only non Disney park we are visiting is SeaWorld. Why? Mako, Manta, and Kraken. SeaWorld doesn't have the money (or the IPs) to compete with the big boys on cutting edge narrative rides, so I hope they continue building world class, big boy coasters. Doing so will differentiate them from the less thrilling, family attractions offered by rival Universal down the road. Someone in Orlando has to cater to the coaster lovers - especially with non-Dueling Dragons rumored to be on the chopping block. Keep up the good work, SeaWorld, things will get better!
Actually, some major parks outside the US - including Tokyo Disney - do release attendance data. And all major U.S. parks do release relative attendance data in their SEC reports (i.e. year over year change). So the ALL CAPS "fact check" isn't very factual, is it?
I concur on the year over year change as we hear these numbers in quarterly stockholder calls and the like. Of course, the issue is that the basis for the numbers may be incorrect, therefore the year over year change is likely built upon a sandy foundation. But we have nothing else to go by, so it is what it is.
I'm thrilled to see Universal going up and Disney going down...
DB, as a primary Disney fan, I agree with you simply due to the fact that in Orlando, you can have more fun at Universal than Disney due to overcrowding and using the Express Pass. I have been super critical of the FP+, as all I see that it does it extend the wait on attractions that traditionally were not fast pass attractions, like Haunted Mansion, Pirates, and other omnimovers. But recently, discussions about the failure of the TapuTapu bands are making me think about this further. Of course, it may be too early to call it a failure, but a point was made that a virtual line does not allow for the person standing in the virtual line to exit it, so if every ride at Disney has FP+ and an actual line, that is another way the wait times are extended unnecessarily. What I wish Disney would do is find a way to go back to the traditional system. Only have fast pass for the most popular attractions, and make the reservation day of. You can still use the bands to make the reservation. You just have to do it in person. That way your trip can be spontaneous again. Allow advance reservation for shows, parade seating, and dining. Otherwise, you have things like Spaceship Earth with 45 minute waits, when it never had more than 15 minutes before. The issues with Avatar will pass, but there is no way the current system will work with the popularity that Star Wars is going to have.
And in case I was not clear: stop allowing FP+ on all attractions. Just the ones that were the most popular, like Splash Mountain, Soarin, and the like. The fast loading omnimovers never needed it.
According to the whacky, soothsaying, chicken bone throwing brain trust at TEA/AECOM the Magic Kingdom is down from 20, 500,000 (2015) to 20,395,000 (2016). A difference of 105,000 guests. Divide that 105,000 by 366 days (2016 was a leap year) and the difference is 287 guests per day.
Also, looking at the numbers, I am not sure Universal Hollywood can absorb that percentage of an increase. I will go soon, but that is a pretty big jump for their square footage. Is it all contained in Hogwarts? I can also attest to a recent visit that Disneyland is a great trip, and often overlooked by people around the central US. I usually go only to Orlando, but have been to DL, and it really should not be overlooked (as it clearly isn't based on the numbers). The old fast pass system is still alive and well there and working just fine (but the Haunted Mansion does not need it).
JC -- Tapu Tapu is getting confused with Magic Bands because they look the same. This is an unfortunate consequence of both being wrist worn NFC devices.
It has been reported several times that even with Tapu people are having to wait in a PHYSICAL line up to 30 minutes or more. But this issue could just be a "kink" that needs to be ironed out by the guinea pigs currently paying up to $67 a day to graciously help Universal fix their problems.
James -- hopefully this is growing pains, and it appears to be already improving.
Understood. Just didn't want people to think there was no physical "in line" waiting with Tapu Tapu technology, because currently there is.
The new attendance numbers from TEA/AECOM just reinforce a few simple facts that have been obvious for years:
Dr. Hillman writes: "I'm a huge fan of the Universal parks, but Disney has and will continue to dominate the market for a long, long time."
The people at TEA have tons of connections within the theme park industry. It is relatively easy for them to get real attendance numbers from their contacts. Anyone in Operations, Finance, or Marketing management will know attendance numbers off the top of their head. The numbers aren't as guess-y for many of the attractions as you think.
I understand the TapuTapu and Magicbands are two totally different things. My analogy or poor comparison, rather, was to illustrate the inherent flaws in using virtual lines at all, which is what FP+ does. I think the older system, and the system at DL, works better. Not to stir up Mr. TH, but Disney will always dominate the theme parks. Many people don't even associate Orlando with anything else. Disney is my favorite, and I tear up every time I go, but I would be a blind fan if I failed to acknowledge that the strides in Orlando made by Universal have seriously overtaken Disney in the fun department. I can walk to the parks. I don't have to wait in line. The Harry Potter attractions are great. Now, is it a week long vacation? Of course not. The food is also nowhere near the quality at the Disney parks, and they don't have the World Showcase, but I am here to say that Universal has forced Disney to improve, and I thank them for it. Without the wizrding world, I do not believe we would have Star Wars to look forward to. By the way, I can single rider the Forbidden Journey three to four times in an hour at closing. Wonder if that will ever be possible with the Millennium Falcon?
JC, it sounds like you need to visit the Disneyland Resort - it is very similar the Universal Orlando in terms of park proximity and intimacy of the experience. However, you'll still have to battle the crowds most of the time - it just is what it is. Although, a good touring plan and realistic expectations will always mitigate some of those headaches.
I'm going to agree with JC VanHouten on this...
JC writes: "Not to stir up Mr. TH, but Disney will always dominate the theme parks."
It's clear that Universal Parks and Resorts are making the right choices for every destination. Very exciting to see this company grow and really challenge the industry.
So WDW welcomed 52 million people and Universal welcomed 19 million people.
Walmart welcomed more customers than Target as well.
I wonder what Disney Springs and CityWalk pull in yearly. Those are the real money printers.
That graphic on the TPI twitter account says it all:
There should be two stats/graphs to get a truer picture - attendance and average spend per guest. This would tell a different picture as the attendance stat would be completely secondary to average guest spend and with increased resort accommodation, dining and retail most/all of visitors actually spend a lot more per visit. Factor in the huge increases in gate prices and continual hiking of prices to park the real stat for me is not an attendance graph over the last 10 years but an average spend per guest graph. This is the real business investment driver. A 2% attendance drop may be a 10% increase in actual turnover.
JT is correct about Disney Springs (free parking) and CityWalk. The only reason these are not considered theme parks is because they don't charge admission to enter.
James, I have visited DL a few years ago and about three weeks ago, and I agree. I am driving distance to Orlando (a long drive, to be sure). You are absoluately correct. DL was packed, but with a plan, I never waited more than 30 minutes, and some lines were two hours long. I was there on business, and I got to the park at two. With a touring plan and fast pass, it is totally manageable. That is not the case in Orlando. I rode my favorite ride in the entire world several times which is the Haunted Mansion, and it stopped in front of the Hatbox Ghost temporarily. People on my side of the US forget about DL, and I think that is a mistake. With planning, you could get an awful lot out of a SoCal vacation. Just prepare for that amazingly, mind boggling, terrible traffic.
The point that I was trying to make is that Disney has a formula for success and nobody can touch them - not now or for a very long time.
As a Disney fan, I will argue a counter point, at least in Orlando. Universal is playing to its strengths. It is perfect for the 10-45 year old range. My teenage boys would much rather go there than Disney, and, at least to that demographic, they are entertaining well. To quote the Horror Movie Makeup Show, "We don't have to be nice to kids." The Hulk is awesome, and Unlimited Express Pass deserves the Nobel Prize. They have some stinkers. The Sinbad show can't get taken out fast enough, and I am not sure what the shops in Toon land are for, but UO is perfect for what it is setting out to do. But I have no desire at all to go to the water park.
Tim Hillman said: Back in the 60's and 70's guys like me and Robert Niles and TH Creative sat in darkened movie theaters a couple of times a year on Saturday afternoons with our siblings and watched Disney cartoons
Unfortunately, DB, I think the party may be coming to an end for Universal.
It's not as simple as looking at the numbers. Wal Mart gets more visitors than Target, but guess which has a better customer experience?
If anybody made a Middle-earth theme park, I would flip, but I don't think that will ever happen. The Tolkien Estate is not happy with things as they are now. A mass market theme park would never happen with the current leadership. And Universal can be more profitable as the food services are not anywhere close to Disney, and quality food has a very low profit margin. The upkeep on the grounds is much higher as well. Neither Disney nor Universal are going anywhere in Orlando. They are both firmly here to stay. Harry Potter was a brilliant investment that changed the game forever. Let's hope Star Wars can be as good.
^DBCooper: "I have always said that Disney is perfect for little kids and old people. No argument there."
@126.96.36.199 - Thanks for the numbers and the analysis. I had no idea that the Universal parks were that profitable. I always thought that Disney was the best at prying every dollar possible out of our pockets.
And I make quite a good living doing exactly that! :o).
@Tim Hillman - I'll take that under advisement; I've lurked this site for many years because the information here is of such high value to anyone who likes to be informed about the major parks, but I don't participate in the commentary that much.
This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.