Published: June 3, 2014 at 5:13 AMAlright! More fodder for debate!
Published: June 3, 2014 at 7:17 AMWow, some great numbers. A 27% increase in Disney's Tokyo parks is amazing. How long before Tokyo Disneyland is the most attended park on the planet?
Cars Land continues to propel DCA to new heights as it surpassed IOA this year furthering Disney's dominance of the top spots across the board. What a difference a $1.2B investment in attractions makes to a park! (Take that NextGen project!)
Also, the huge jump in Magic Kingdom attendance (huge for a park already pulling in a ton of visitors each year), could be attributed to the much maligned New Fantasyland expansion so many folks on this site (and others) have unjustly panned as being a waste of time and money. Consider the fact that all of these attendance gains were made without the expansion's signature attraction which means even more growth could be coming to the MK next year as well. Could we see Magic Kingdom hit 20M in this decade?? Yikes! Good thing they have expanded and will continue to expand the park, isn't it?
In other park news, Knott's proved that restoring their classic log ride was a good idea, Cedar Point's Gatekeeper brought in some good growth, and two Six Flags parks finally made big positive gains! Sadly, the Busch parks continue to slide, despite being among the most noteworthy "regional" theme parks in the nation. Not sure how they are planning to turn things around, but a gimmicky drop tower and rumored off the shelf coaster may not be the best options. And finally, Seaworld Orlando continues to bear the brunt of Universal's growth. Ouch.
Overall, there is a lot of positive news in the industry, even as the gap between the haves and have nots continues to expand.
Published: June 3, 2014 at 7:18 AMThanks Robert...
I do wish BGT could just pick up the park and move it to Orlando or Buena Vista area... It is a great park but many visitors just do not want to drive to Tampa or do not have a rental car get them there..
But here is the real question Robert: Are You going to the opening of Diagon Alley Media Event?
Published: June 3, 2014 at 7:18 AM2014 brings us the BIG DOG in the Orlando theme park wars and that's Potter 2.0
Could this be the year that a Universal Park actually jumps ahead of either Animal Kingdom or Disney Studios? I ask this because my wife and I are heading to Central Florida from California in October for a cruise out of Port Canaveral and then heading to the Orlando parks. This however will be the first EVER that we spend more days at Universal than at Disney. We will be going to Universal for 2 days and only going to EPCOT and that will be for 1 day.
I can't help to think that I'm not the only one out there that is starting to book Orlando vacations with Universal in mind with Disney as an after thought.
Published: June 3, 2014 at 7:47 AMNext year's reports will truly be interesting. Diagon Alley will no doubt increase attendance at USF, and nobody goes to USF without going to IOA, so that park's attendance will also increase. All the while, DCA will not likely get any further attendance bump from the CarsLand, or perhaps a small one, as we know DLR guests are primarily locals anyway.
Kudos to Tokyo Disneyland!! That park, and DisneySea are definitely on my bucket list.
Published: June 3, 2014 at 8:16 AM@Robert... the numbers seem consistent with the growth Disney has announced in their quarterly conference calls. Why the suspicion and why is it only Disney we think is incorrect? Busch complains every year that their numbers in this report are way off....
Also, if the report is not accurate why is it presented as being accurate? Just to prompt discussion and site hits? Are there other reports we can view that are more accurate?
Funny, TH Creative has been questioning the validity of these reports (for all the Florida parks) for years and only received grief for his comments.... Wonder where he gets his inside info? ;)
Published: June 3, 2014 at 8:24 AMI think in 2015 with Diagon Alley being open and the new rumored King Kong attraction at IOA, Universal might just surpass Animal Kingdom or the Studios. Of course with the speed Universal is going, adding attractions, they may very well add yet another attracion in the next year. Kid Zone make-over? Twister and T2 removed? Jarassic Park coaster? Interesting times for Universal fans...not so much for Disney World fans. Hopefully they bring Mystic Manor or the Ratatuille ride over to Orlando. It would make sense, since the design is paid for. I guess only time will tell.
Published: June 3, 2014 at 9:00 AMMr. Niles writes: "Seeing an interesting comment on Twitter from an industry analyst who says that WDW's numbers are inflated in the TEA report, when compared with the more accurate numbers from other chains."
I Respond: Please. TEA is an organization that promotes the themed entertainment industry. I have no doubt that ALL of the statistics in this report are inflated. Perhaps Mr. Niles will identify the Tweeter.
Of course we will never know exactly how accurate the report is -- as its methodology remains shrouded in a vague description: "AECOM obtains the figures used to create the TEA/AECOM Theme Index and Museum Index through a variety of sources, including statistics furnished directly by the operators, historical numbers, financial reports, the investment banking community and local tourism organizations, among others."
Why doesn't TEA/AECOM "show their work." Why don't they discuss the attendance figures related to each park and provide a detailed explanation of how they made their calculations?
After all, there is no charge for obtaining the report -- thus there is no motivation for a competitor to steal their method and produce an alternate (free) product.
One reason that TEA/AECOM might want to keep a lid on its math is because it wants to avoid criticism of its work. Especially poignant criticism that accurately identifies the report's shortcomings.
Published: June 3, 2014 at 8:45 AMDoes anyone else find it a little fascinating that Animal Kingdom with it's shorter hours of operation still is ahead of Hollywood Studios.... and Hollywood Studios is probably the most "Universal like" park..... really the main Disney park to have rides more appealing to a thrill seeker rather than more family friendly attractions.
Published: June 3, 2014 at 8:56 AMBefore TEA/AECOM, there was Amusement Business. http://www.themeparkinsider.com/flume/200612/257/
AB was questioned for its numbers and, at that time, I read from accounts by Disney insiders that the Magic Kingdom attendance was inflated to boaster it's anniversary promotion (remember the pink cake castle?). Afterall, it can't be verified since Disney doesn't release its attendance numbers. I often thought this was strange to withhold data since Disney is clearly number one based on anecdotal evidence (was their theme parks ever uncrowded?) and Disney doesn't do the same with their movie box office receipts (we know how badly The Lone Ranger did).
So maybe the attendance numbers are legacy from Disney's mis-direction. I would love a do-over with all of Disney theme park attendance figures, but it might not matter since they will still be number one.
Published: June 3, 2014 at 9:09 AMOne note: Robert's Twitter insiders are NOT questioning the Magic Kingdom's numbers, just DHS and DAK. They feel the MK numbers are as spot on as anything in this suspect report.
@Brian Provided I can take my lunch breaks IN THE PARK at no cost to me...I'll take that job!
Published: June 3, 2014 at 9:12 AMBTW, here's that Twitter thread referenced above.
Published: June 3, 2014 at 10:27 AMMs. Schroll writes: Diagon Alley will no doubt increase attendance at USF, and nobody goes to USF without going to IOA,"
I Respond: Setting aside the Hogwart's Express factor, how do you explain the alleged 14% increase in attendance at USF and only a 2% increase at IOA.
Published: June 3, 2014 at 10:33 AMIt's easy to lose sight of the numbers, with a lot of attention on what Universal is doing in Orlando. It's incredible that despite the impeccable effort by Universal, all four Orlando Disney parks are higher in attendance. With that in mind, the strategy of the two companies comes more into focus. Building experiences like Harry Potter are really a all-in approach designed to create major jumps in attendance; Disney's parks are already well established with money going into maintenance and smaller new offerings. There really is no dire need for Disney to create something new on a large scale because they are the current undisputed winner of theme park attendance. I wonder how the game will change when Universal does eventually eclipse the attendance of one of the Disney parks!
Published: June 3, 2014 at 11:09 AMTH - I think what Ms. Scroll is trying to say is that with Harry Potter themed lands and attractions in both parks, along with an attractions that can only be experienced by visiting both parks, that you will see even fewer USF-only guests. I would presume that there are currently far more IOA-only guests than there are USF-only guests, and the linking of the HP lands will bring the number of single-park guests down to immeasurable levels.
The increase in USF attendance can be explained through the recent additions of Transformers and Springfield. IOA has not added a single attraction since WWoHP opened in 2010 aside from the Spiderman upgrade in 2012.
Published: June 3, 2014 at 11:32 AMMy understanding is that the sampling that AECOM is using is based upon morning observations. But if people park-hop early enough in the day, that could lead to double-counting that might be the source of what some claim to be inflated numbers for WDW parks.
Based on limited personal experience, as well as reports from our readers, I'd certainly consider an argument that Tokyo Disneyland actually draws more visitors than the Magic Kingdom and that DHS and DAK aren't that far ahead of IOA. But unless parks are all going to put their real numbers on the table, this AECOM report is the best data we have.
Published: June 3, 2014 at 11:37 AM"Setting aside the Hogwart's Express factor, how do you explain the alleged 14% increase in attendance at USF and only a 2% increase at IOA."
I think Schroll is stating the fact that attendance between both parks are aligning. ("nobody goes to USF without going to IOA") Seems like you ignored the park attendance and alleged inconsistency with the percentage difference.
Universal Studios Florida 7.1 14.0%
Islands of Adventure 8.1 2.0%
People are going to IOA and a lesser amount is going to USF.
Published: June 3, 2014 at 12:02 PMIt's nice to see that Universal didn't take a big hit again while Potter was being built. There's a reason why attraction development stays secret people. I hope that Hollywood Studios finally falls behind (if what Robert says is true, that may not be long) so that it will finally get all the expansion it needs right now.
Published: June 3, 2014 at 12:08 PMI can't help but look at those figures and think that Islands of Adventure, whilst a little up, is still well behind the attendance levels at Disney's least successful park. And that's AFTER getting the Harry Potter makeover. Clearly Universal Studios Florida will benefit from Diagon Alley but it isn't going to see an increase in attendance of over 60% so we aren't going to see Universal overtaking even the least attractive Disney park any time soon.
I think the person who posted above about Universal seeking the thrill park market got it bang on. The money is in the family market, born out year after year by the attendance figures for Disney's 'boring' or 'under-invested' parks.
Disney knows its market and it is paying handsome dividends. Universal may well have the theme park enthusiasts' vote but that doesn't convert into sufficient volume to threaten Disney. Not for a very long time to come....
Published: June 3, 2014 at 1:04 PM@THC: I would like to know why you suspect they are wrong. What's wrong with the numbers? Are the rankings incorrect?
Perhaps if you provide an educated guess on what you actually think it is, then I'll know what you're coming from. The numbers are already in favor of Disney and you think Universal's numbers are weird. This explain even less of why Disney doesn't release its attendance figures. Perhaps it doesn't want to help the competition or it wants to spike its stock price. Either explanation is inadequate.
Published: June 3, 2014 at 1:07 PMTH, what you are not taking into account is the 29% increase for 2011 at IOA. According to these numbers, the attendance has matched and risen both years since that figure.
It would make sense that Universal Studios attendance has risen as well. I would bet you see 20-30% increases for Universal in 2014 just because of Diagon Alley.
I'm not sure how accurate these figures are, but if they have a 2% margin of error, some parks may have seen no actual increase at all.
Published: June 3, 2014 at 1:24 PM"My understanding is that the sampling that AECOM is using is based upon morning observations. But if people park-hop early enough in the day, that could lead to double-counting that might be the source of what some claim to be inflated numbers for WDW parks."
This would favor Disney since they have more on-site guests. Universal have to rely on outside visitors much more. Park hopping is also in favor of Disney and it will increase the attendance of the lesser parks more than the top parks like the Magic Kingdom.
Disney's power of mass accumulation helps maintain its momentum. Universal can push its way in with Diagon Alley, but there is still its missing link of a true children's section. It needs a family area similar to Fantasyland that caters to Prince and Princesses. Let's hope they have something like this planned for the future, but perhaps they can do with with another iteration of Harry Potter or break in a new direction from Kings Cross. How about Prince Harry and Kate? Create a mock up of London's Buckingham Palace. Meet the Queen of England. Meet up with the Knights of the Round Table (the fantasy side).
Published: June 3, 2014 at 1:19 PMAnon Mouse asks: "I would like to know why you suspect they are wrong."
I respond: Because TEA is an organization that promotes the themed entertainment industry and because they don't present a detailed finding. If the Magic Kingdom actually welcomed 18 million-plus guests, show the math that proves it. I mean what do they have to hide?
Published: June 3, 2014 at 1:23 PMMr. Niles writes: "if people park-hop early enough in the day, that could lead to double-counting that might be the source of what some claim to be inflated numbers for WDW parks."
I Respond (with a shrug): So what? If I visit two or even three parks during a single day, why shouldn't all three parks be credited for an admission?
Published: June 3, 2014 at 1:29 PM"I mean what do they have to hide?"
What does Disney have to hide? Most parks release their actual attendance figures.
So it promotes themed entertainment and Disney does themed entertainment. So business is good for Disney and to TEA by association. If the numbers are phony, it will be self-serving, but it can backfire too.
Published: June 3, 2014 at 1:34 PMAnon Mouse: "What does Disney have to hide? Most parks release their actual attendance figures."
I Respond: I don't believe that any of the Sea World, Busch Gardens or Universal parks release attendance figures. So I am not sure what you mean by "most."
Anon Mouse: "If the numbers are phony, it will be self-serving, but it can backfire too."
I Respond: And by withholding their methods for calculating their findings they reduce the the risk of being criticized (called "phony").
Published: June 3, 2014 at 1:36 PMHave to agree with TH. If someone visits more than one park a day, why shouldn't they get credited for? If the estimate did account for park-hopping, I'd expect Disneyland and Universal Orlando would see major boons for the accessibility of their parks. Same could be said for Disney World, but it probably wouldn't be as significant.
Published: June 3, 2014 at 1:51 PMHere's SeaWorld actual attendance figures for the first quarter of 2014. At the bottom of the page, 3,045,000. It appears to be across all the parks. Still useful information.
Published: June 3, 2014 at 2:02 PMI did read on Niles' twitter feed that if a park is publicly owned and in debt (isn't SeaWorld carrying some debt?), then they must provide detailed attendance figures. Parks like Disney and Universal (since Comcast bought 'em) are not in debt and have no such requirement.
Don't know if this statement is true or not, but Niles' experts seem to think it is.
Published: June 3, 2014 at 2:14 PMAnd I agree with TH and Trexen.... park hopping should be included in the count. While I personally don't park hop, there is no doubt the service is a definite money maker and something that differentiates themed, multi park resorts like Disney and Universal Orlando from the rest of the pack.
Published: June 3, 2014 at 2:27 PMIf park hopping counts... our family would count as 16 people on any given day since we routinely hit both parks at least twice a day. I walked all the way to Hogwarts and back to the Hard Rock pool just for Butterbeers. This was after a long day of park hopping. Does that count as a "visitor"?
I think these numbers may pure fiction and off by quite a huge margin. USF and Disney know exactly how many unique visitors come and go on a given day, seeing that they scan your ticket and fingerprint you every time.
Parks like Busch Gardens and Sea World probably don't see many people visit twice on the same day unless they are staying extremely close by.
A lot of people come back to MK / Epcot for fireworks and night time shows, but I think USF sees more park hopping than any other resort due to the fact they were practically connected via CityWalk and a 5 minute saunter.
Now they are truly connected via Hogwarts Express. Have fun trying to account for all of that in the coming year.
Published: June 3, 2014 at 2:39 PMAttendance is a distant second to guest spending per day. Profit is the bottom line & both Disney & Universal are doing quite well with their theme parks (parks, hotels, merchandise, food etc.). Profit figures are available through the company's financial filings.
Published: June 3, 2014 at 2:58 PMI can't fathom how many $30 wands USF has sold since 2010, let alone all of the other Potter merchandise. I still say the smartest IP move in theme park history.
Looking forward to the helicopter photos of Universal's entrance the day the gate crasher known as Diagon Alley opens to the public. Also looking forward to waiting at least a month to visit. Early entry is the only way we will get to ride, but there will be people lined up three hours early every day, I'm sure.
I am hoping the seldom used side entrance near the Blue Man Theater let's people in early as well....
Published: June 3, 2014 at 3:31 PMNB: Shush about the side entrance. Hardly anyone knows it exists. Yes there will be maddening crowds. As nearly every employee that we spoke to said, "when Diagon opens, all hell will break loose". Enjoy your trip.
Published: June 3, 2014 at 3:49 PMThere is a flaw in people's thinking here. It is suggested that in the way they do their figures that people park hopping before midday will record their 2 visits separately and that this favours WDW. This is BS.
Attending 2 parks in WDW in the morning is not easy, and due to the time wastage involved I would guess rarely done. In Universal Orlando and DLR this is almost the norm due to their proximity.
If anything, USF and DCA are likely overrepresented because these are the parks that would benefit most from this park hopping.
I personally believe that only 1 park visit per person per day be recorded, because this would most accurately reflect true numbers. If 10 people attend a Epcot then go to DHS counting them twice is the same as 20 people attending a single park for the whole day - its misleading. Unfortunately it can be pretty hard to differentiate.
Published: June 3, 2014 at 4:42 PMRobert, you were saying "But if people park-hop early enough in the day, that could lead to double-counting that might be the source of what some claim to be inflated numbers for WDW parks"...... could this also cause double counting or attendance accuracy issues with IOW or Universal though? They also have a park hopping feature and now they will be encouraging that feature even more with Potterlands in both parks and a train attraction connecting them. Not to mention the fairly often mentioned fact that those park gates are so close to each other.
Published: June 3, 2014 at 5:08 PMCould, but my understanding is that AECOM is getting the Universal numbers from public documents, rather than on-site crowd estimates. So it's more a question of the accuracy of the breakdown between the parks than the overall number of the two UO parks added together.
Published: June 3, 2014 at 5:51 PMSomething just does not add up for Disney with the TEA numbers.
Reviewing the numbers provided in the TEA report:
Disney USA Theme and Water Parks drew a combined 78.851 Million visitors in 2013 vs. 76.276M visitors. That is a combined increase of 3.51%. The Disney annual report noted an increase of 4% for theme park attendance. This adds up even if different park hopping counting methods are used.
More interesting is the international parks. The 2013 total was 53.958M visitors vs. 50.203M in 2012.
That is a combined increase of 6.76%. The Disney annual report reports a reduction of 2% in attendance. That's a difference of about 4.1-4.6M guests. Something is wrong in the world somewhere.
Also of interest, if you use Disney's reported admission revenue total of $4.704B with the TEA attendance total of 132.55M this gives a net admission price of about $35.49/entry. That is about the price of a 10 day ticket to WDW with no options or discounts ($35.40). If park hoppers and/or re-entries were counted separately, My gut instinct would expect the number to be far lower.
(FY 2013 Disney Annual Report pages 33 and 71)
Published: June 3, 2014 at 6:14 PM"my understanding is that AECOM is getting the Universal numbers from public documents"
So we have two parks with attendance numbers from public documents. "Mostly" might just mean mostly everyone except for Disney. Goodness THC, you're just spouting off. Please offer me something to prove YOUR point.
Published: June 3, 2014 at 6:55 PMPeople keep talking about public documents for all these parks but other than some vague numbers for the entire SeaWorld chain I have yet to see a link to anything more concrete than the TEA Report. I think we have no choice but to accept these numbers just as we have for the last decade or so.
It is what it is.
On a side note, after reading through many of the comments in the links Robert provided for previous reports, we've all been arguing about the same things for over 12 years. The commenters have changed (some of them anyway) but the comments are all still the same. And who is that Kevin Baxter fella? I thought I was negative, but man, he HATES theme parks of every kind! Whatever happened to him, Robert? Some of the battles between him and Derek Potter were epic. Interesting stuff...
Published: June 3, 2014 at 7:19 PMIt might help to do a modicum of research before you criticize the report, and I have yet to see anyone dispute the figures based on any theory or formula of their own. The actual dispute is not of the other parks since NO ONE CARES. We are actually having a debate on how big Disney's attendance is. While I can appreciate the argument, I just don't know if the argument is that it is too high or too low.
In any case, Universal might be catching up based on anecdotal evidence and the next closest rival is SeaWorld, which by their own report, hasn't done too well. So I would rather put it on them (the critics) first before raising it to TEA or AB previously. You would think the AB should give up their methods since they went out of business. Well, maybe someone should pay them something for their secrets, you know...
Published: June 3, 2014 at 8:43 PMAs expected, all the parks listed are year-around parks in CaliFlorida. Are there similar figures- biased, inflated, questionable, unreliable, whatever- available for seasonal parks in the parts of the country that actually have four seasons per year (or like in Ohio where we can have four seasons in a single day)? How do the seasonal parks compare to each other?
Published: June 3, 2014 at 9:10 PMJames, if you click on the PDF link to the full report your precious Cedar Point and Kings Island are both in the North American Top 20 somewhere down towards the bottom of the list... ;)
...by the way, can't wait to meet you in person at Cedar Point in August, bro! Concrete/Steel/Iron Jungle, here I come!
Published: June 3, 2014 at 9:27 PMTEA: Trexen Estimation Association: The number one park in the world is whichever one hosts the battles between Anon and TH. ; )
It's interesting that we've been accepting the TEA numbers for years, but it seems this year is the point where we all cast our doubts as to where these estimations are coming from. I guess some people have pent-up curiosity or this is an indictment of some fans' desires to see the Disney parks fall in attendance.
James Koehl: I was looking back at the other years and Robert had an interesting idea in which an estimation of the attendance for the months all parks are open (April through October) as an indication of who has a better daily average.
James Rao: You should do some digging on the battles between Kevin Baxter and TH. Someone here mentioned it a few times, so I checked and found some truly great stuff!
Published: June 4, 2014 at 5:18 AMMy question is for Universal Studios Florida and Hollywood if the methodology is in fact based on first park visited during the day and focused on the morning.
How many guest are not accounted for via HHN. Obviously Magic Kingdom would obviously also have a boost via their separate ticketed events also.
Published: June 4, 2014 at 5:53 AMTo the anonymous poster discussing Disney's annual report: I believe those numbers are for Disney's fiscal year, which is not the same as a calendar year. It runs from October - September. Perhaps that accounts for the discrepancy in international attendance?
It is pretty interesting that other entertainment businesses freely share their results: movie box office is widely reported; Broadway shows list a plethora of data that anyone can see, not just box office, but even percentage of seats filled. Yet theme parks keep this information proprietary. I don't blame them, but it makes things a bit more interesting, doesn't it?
Published: June 4, 2014 at 8:00 AMRegarding international parks, Disney's anual report don't count the one's belong to Oriental Land (tokio Resort). That is the difference between the TEA and the Disney's report.
Published: June 4, 2014 at 10:40 AMWhy has nobody mentioned the dip in attendance at Disneyland Paris? Is its bad customer service, high prices, WDS causing people to go elsewhere?
Published: June 8, 2014 at 5:34 AMThe Orlando Sentinel, June 3, 2014: "Universal officials would not comment on the report."
Wait, if TEA/AECOM got its data from "public documents" why won't Universal comment?
And then there is this from the same article:
"Although the AECOM numbers are unofficial estimates — none of the major theme-park operators publicly discloses attendance figures — they are widely used across the industry."
Once again that word is "none" ... Which would be different than the word "most."
Game, set and match.