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2002 Theme Park Attendance

The theme park attendance numbers for 2002 are in. Disneyland, Universal Hollywood and Islands of Adventure are the big winners, with the two Universal parks posting 10 percent increases.

From Mr. Pheneix
Posted December 21, 2002 at 4:25 PM
Amusement Business has estimated the 2002 attendance for amusement parks across the globe. The final report does not get released until Monday, but here is the top 10 attended parks for North America:

1. Magic Kingdom; 14 million, down 5%
2. Disneyland; 12.7 million, UP 3%
3. Epcot; 8.3 million, down 8%
4. MGM Studios, 8 million, down 4%
5. Animal Kingdom, 7.3 million, down 6%
6. Universal Studios Florida, 6.9 million, down 6%
7. Islands of Adventure, 6.1 million, UP 10%
8. Universal Studios Hollywood, 5.2 million, UP 10%
9. Sea World Orlando, 5 million, down 2%
10. California Adventure, 4.7 million, down 6%

In addition, Tokyo Disneyland recieved 13 million visitors this year, way down from nearly 18 million last year. Tokyo DisneySea recieved 12 million visitors this year.

Credits can be given to the following sources:

http://biz.yahoo.com/rc/021220/leisure_themeparks_1.html
http://www.orlandosentinel.com/business/custom/tourism/orl-bizparks21122102dec21.story

I'll post more estimates as I get them.


Comments in chronological order. Most recent at the bottom. Scroll down to respond.

From Robert Niles
Posted December 21, 2002 at 4:31 PM
A few quick thoughts:

The Sentinel's talk of Universal's attendance being down was either wrong, or attendance at Universal Studios Japan must have tanked far enough to drag down the gains at USF and IOA.

These figures tell you why "Boffo/Socko" and all other new, planned attractions at Universal Orlando are going into Universal Studios Florida instead of Islands of Adventure. If USF had held steady, it would have inched ahead of Animal Kingdom in the rankings. Part of the switch in attendance from USF to IOA is surely due to Halloween Horror Nights. But USF needs help.

Overall, Disney's worldwide attendance was UP almost two percent, if you do the math on the figures in the Yahoo story. Six Flags was down by about 1.3 percent.

From Matthew Woodall
Posted December 21, 2002 at 10:15 PM
Any reason Paramount and Six flags' numbers aren't included, or did they just not make the top ten?

From Robert OGrosky
Posted December 21, 2002 at 10:56 PM
It will be interesting to see how other regional parks have done. I have heard that BGW had a increase in attendance and wonder how the Tomb Raider attraction affected attendance at PKI.

From Kevin Baxter
Posted December 22, 2002 at 3:11 AM
Universal Orlando, as a whole, only increased their attendance by 300K from last year. And they are still down from 2000's high of 14.1 million. In fact, without HHN, IOA wouldn't have beaten that year's attendance total. Still, the 10% increase came in a year where most theme parks were down, and IOA hasn't gotten a new attraction since their record non-HHN year.

So now I also understand why they are focusing so much on USF. They have lost more than a million since 2000. USF has proven that attendance can grow with a new attraction, like in 2000 when they opened MIB. 2001 brought nothing at the attendance sure showed that. 2002 only brought a couple show rehabs and the park still dropped. Next year will bring Shrek and Jimmy Neutron, and hopefully a two-park HHN, and USF should bounce right back. The Mummy coaster in 2004 should cement that park for a while.

WDW is basically in trouble. They dropped 2.1 million from last year, which was a HORRIBLE year for them. They are also 5.6M down from 2000. And it wasn't like 2000 was the BEST year since that was the year AK started its slide. Still, 2000 proved that WDW needs more than half-assed celebrations like this 100 Years of Walt thing and that the celebrations need something BIG, like the Millenium Village. E-Tickets, like RnRC help too. Next year has a major E-Ticket and about a D-Ticket. But neither of these will help AK, which appears to be the day that people are opting for Universal instead.

The strangest thing, about the Orlando area at least, is that Busch Gardens Tampa didn't vault onto the Top Ten list. They must not have had that good a year since they had 4.6M last year. DCA had 4.7M, so an increase should have dumped a Disney park out of the Top Ten. Weird.

BTW, I said for a long time that the Sentinel... and a certain writer... was full of crap in constantly referring to theme park attendance in Vivendi's money problems. Vivendi only owns about half of UO and even less of the foreign parks. Revenue from the parks is only a few percent of Vivendi's total income anyhow. So even if all the parks tanked, it wouldn't have affected Vivendi much at all.

From Mr. Pheneix
Posted December 22, 2002 at 10:48 AM
>>>In fact, without HHN, IOA wouldn't have beaten that year's attendance total.<<<

Yes, they would, but it would not have been by as much.

>>>But neither of these will help AK, which appears to be the day that people are opting for Universal instead.<<<

I really thought that USF would have beat AK this year, and from what I have seen personally I think that AK's attendance estimates from AB are a little too high, but only by couple of hundred thousand or so.

>>>Busch Gardens Tampa didn't vault onto the Top Ten list.<<<

I still haven't gotten BGT's attendance estimate yet. There is a slight chance that AB has estimated a higher attendance for them than DCA, but I highly doubt it.

I should also state that I am 100% certain that DCA's attendance is way too bloating according to AB. I would put an estimate in the 4.2 million range, and not 4.7 million.

>>>I said for a long time that the Sentinel... and a certain writer... was full of crap in constantly referring to theme park attendance in Vivendi's money problems.<<<

Amen.

From Ben Mills
Posted December 22, 2002 at 12:40 PM
Hey Kevin, what's the E-ticket you talked about for Disney? And when's that Forbidden Mountain/Yeti thing opening?

From Robert Niles
Posted December 22, 2002 at 12:37 PM
Busch Gardens Tampa did 4.5 million in 2002, according to the Amusement Business figures. Busch's total attendance was 20.07 million.

At Six Flags, New Jersey's Great Adventure beat out Magic Mountain for top attendance: 3.25 million to 3.1 million.

From Mr. Pheneix
Posted December 22, 2002 at 2:49 PM
>>>Busch Gardens Tampa did 4.5 million in 2002, according to the Amusement Business figures<<<

They pretty much held steady then, as BGT pulled in 4.6 million last year.

Do you happen to have Busch Gardens Williamsburg's numbers?

From Anonymous
Posted December 23, 2002 at 12:51 AM
Hmmmmm.....IOA up in attendance.......yet it sill doesnt beat Disney. Something is just wrong with that.

From Kevin Baxter
Posted December 23, 2002 at 2:37 AM
As for IOA not beating 1999's total without HHN... Sorry, but it is true. 6M in 1999 and 6.1M this year. HHN EASILY brought in more than 100K, which is how much it beat 1999 by.

AK's numbers really make me wonder how they figure all this out. AK has less to do than IOA, yet it never has lines. IOA at least gets lines during the summer.

BTW, Robert, I see your colleague at the Times enjoys the Verrier style of writing. Why point out how poorly WDW and Universal Studios Florida are doing while conveniently ignoring how well IOA did? Because it would ruin the flow of the "Florida's theme park industry, which is much more dependent on out-of-area visitors, had another grim year" stuff? Ummmmm, no matter what USF did, Universal ORLANDO was UP. Nice skew!

From Mr. Pheneix
Posted December 23, 2002 at 7:37 AM
>>>6M in 1999 and 6.1M this year. HHN EASILY brought in more than 100K, which is how much it beat 1999 by.<<<

I'm pretty certain that AB does not figure in Horror Nights attendance with IOA's regular numbers.

>>>AK has less to do than IOA, yet it never has lines. IOA at least gets lines during the summer.<<<

IOA had a MUCH higher daily attendance over the summer than AK thanks to strong local support and lots of out-of-towners giving the park a shot. However, AK's attendance in the off-season is higher because of being part of Disney's multi-day hoppers. Many people go to AK solely because it is there and is part of their vacation package. However, more and more people are not staying at Disney's resorts, and it would not surprise me to see AK's attendance drop again in 2003.

Another sign that has been very telling is that Universal gained a lot of market share on Disney in North America this year. The only parks that Disney have that truly have much higher attendance than the competition are the two Magic Kingdoms. Once you take those out the playing field becomes much more level. For example, the attendance difference between Epcot (Disney's highest non-MK park) and Islands of Adventure (Universal's lowest park) last year was 3.5 million. This year that difference was only 2.2 million.

>>>Because it would ruin the flow of the "Florida's theme park industry, which is much more dependent on out-of-area visitors, had another grim year" stuff?<<<

They also ignored the fact that the LA market is MUCH, MUCH weaker than Orlando's market.

From Robert Niles
Posted December 23, 2002 at 11:46 AM
AB explicitly mentioned HHN in its report on IOA, and attributes that for much of IOA's gain and USF's loss.

I don't see how SoCal is weaker than Orlando. Disneyland was up 3 percent, in spite of not adding a major attraction since 1995. In addition, Universal Hollywood posted a 10 percent gain. True, that was due to discounting, but parks in other markets discounted aggressively this year as well, and didn't see USH's gains.

In fact, the 15 million residents in the SoCal market help protect it in lean times, as they stay at home, making up for the loss in national and international visitors. The Orlando area has fewer than two million residents, making that market more susceptible to a travel downturn.

That said, Universal Orlando still found a way to increase its overall attendance, and Disney World didn't. Which validates what the people on this site have been saying colectively about the relative quality of Universal Orlando and Walt Disney World in recent years.

From Robert Niles
Posted December 23, 2002 at 11:55 AM
The story here, the more that I look at it, is that Universal is aggressively attacking the market during an economic slowdown, while Disney, the traditional market leader, is laying back, content to let the general economy steer the theme park market.

This isn't a Florida vs. California thing. Or even a international tourism is down thing. Yes, those are both elements of the larger story. But I think the most newsworthy thing here is the fact that Universal has refused to accept that attendance must go down in lean times, and that it is trying to do something about it.

Part of that story is Halloween. Halloween events saved several parks' bacon this year -- including Universal Orlando's. Knott's was packed for its event on the west coast, and could have added more dates. Look for Universal to expand HHN in Orlando next year. Strong Halloween events help bring out the locals, shoring up attendance when out-of-town visitors aren't coming.

From Russell Meyer
Posted December 23, 2002 at 12:26 PM
I also think that Universal has done a good job of advertising their parks and making them more attractive to tourists as an augmentation to a Disney vacation. In addition, both Universal and Sea World offer transportation to Disney, but Disney wouldn't be caught dead transporting any guests to another park. The Orlando Flex ticket is a great idea, and benefits all of the parks. Disney hasn't really pursued anything, and maintained the status quo. Their marketing ploy is to extend the 100 years of magic another year, and not to advertise what's new. If you see a Disney ad outside of Florida, it's always about the 100 years of magic, not about the new attractions and things that have changed in the past few years. I am sure that if you asked an average person if they knew what Disney's Animal Kingdom was, they wouldn't have a clue. That all goes back to advertising, and getting the word out to say if you haven't been to Orlando in a few years come see what's new. Disney always markets to people who want to relive their childhood. Well, you can only relive it so many times before you get bored, and I know I'm not going to spend all of that money unless there's something new and different to enjoy. They've added a lot of new and cool stuff, including a completely new park that's less than 5 years old, and they should take advantage of that.
It all goes back to advertising and marketing, and Universal is capitalizing on their "new" theme park and advertising "new" rides and attractions while Disney is asuming people know what's going on in Mickey-Town. If a local theme park adds a new attraction, you have to be deaf to not know that the park has something new. When Disney changes something or adds something new, you never hear about it outside of Florida, and they keep running the same 100 years of magic ads. For example, if a guest didn't frequent this site or other theme park websites, they wouldn't know that there's a new drop sequence for TOT that is in operation and will officially open next year. MGM could pull another 100,000 people in with one simple nationwide ad.
The bottom line, Disney is living in the past, but has the rides of the future, and noone knows about it.

From Ben Mills
Posted December 23, 2002 at 4:07 PM
When you said 'nationwide', this got me thinking. If you think you're advertising is bad, guess what those parks are advertising like over here (United Kingdom). Well, Disney does quite well. Every six months or so we have an advert asking us if we'd like to order a vacation planning video for WDW. Recently Universal have started as well. But the key thing with us Brits is: they dont actually advertise the park! We all get told about the magic and wonder of it all, but we are told nothing.

But this wasn't concrete enough for me.

So I set out to perform a little survey. I spent half an hour today walking round my local shopping centre, getting some strange looks, and asking people questions. Things like:

'Could you tell me where Islands of Adventure is?'

'Which company is celebrating 100 years of Magic?'

'What is an animatronic?'

'Can you lend me some change for a bus fare?'

I got some very interesting results.

2/14 people knew what Islands of Adventure was, but one thought it was in Kentucky.

3/11 people knew that Disney was celebrating 100 years of magic.

No-one knew what an animatronic was!

1/18 people knew there was a Disneyland in California. Everyone else related the word JUST to Paris.

No-one knew which park in the world had the most roller coasters, and 7 of those people thought it was Alton Towers.

And finally, no-one gave me any change.

I think what this proves, is that companies like Disney shouldnt even bother talking to the public about new rides and such, or at least not in Europe, because half (or more) of the time, the public don't know what they're talking about anyway!

And it also proves the people of Basingstoke are stingy when it comes to handing out money.

DAMN THEM!

From Kevin Baxter
Posted December 24, 2002 at 4:32 AM
Please! Half the people in this country - at least - have no clue what Walt Disney World is. West of the Rockies, everyone thinks it is just the Florida version of Disneyland, so no one goes. And the ones that DO know that there are several parks, think Disney WORLD is the WDW version of DisneyLAND. Say Magic Kingdom to them, and they think you are talking about Disneyland again.

Don't even get me started on IOA. Though, I did note in my last Orlando trip report that people seemed like they were discovering IOA, at least on the East Coast. It seemed many Brits had discovered it also. But mention IOA anywhere in WDW in 2000 and NO ONE - outside of CMs - had any clue what you were talking about. These numbers are proving something that I must have seen just starting.

Maybe instead of focusing on the damn train, WDW should be focusing on becoming better parks!

From Russell Meyer
Posted December 24, 2002 at 8:15 AM
I don't think there's a severe lack of quality in the Disney parks. They could use a number of improvements, but what park doesn't need to improve somewhere. IOA has the advantage of being very new with a hybrid design of theme/thrill park that appeals to a large number of people. The only way Disney can compete with that is to build yet another park, and that's at least 10 years down the road. IOA has become popular because of well placed marketing and word of mouth. Never underestimate the power of word of mouth advertising. Disney also has word of mouth, but it needs to improve it's image more than its parks. I've been telling my friends what a great time I had last month in Orlando, and their curiosity was geared towards what was new, because they hadn't been there for 10 years or more. If Disney is going to compete with a park that is advertising itself as the "newest and best thing to hit Orlando," then they need to hit back talking about what is new and what is comming soon. Aside from a couple of signs, a small corner in Innoventions, and a website that is not very well linked to other Disney sites, Mission: Space is not being advertised like it should be. If it's going to be this awesome one-of-a-kind experience like they say it's going to be, they should let people know about it, unless they don't think it's going to be that good(I sure hope not). They don't have to set a firm opening date, but just a "Comming in 2003" ad or even something on the park map to get people excited. DCA has had a similar failure in peaking interest, not just that there's nothing there, but that no one knows it's there. I've never seen an ad for it, only for Disney World.
It all goes back to making your park look apealing, and to let a large portion of the population know that you exist. Also, Disney's refusal to create discounts and multi-day value priced passes(aside from DCA) is playing a large role in their declining attendance. USF and IOA have discounted heavily and are reaping the benefits with attendance gains.

From Marty Bartholomew
Posted December 28, 2002 at 7:31 PM
Does anyone have the whole list? I'd like to see beyond the top ten.

From Stephen Halpin
Posted December 28, 2002 at 8:06 PM
Walt used to know how to get people excited about upcoming projects. He would take time during the his show and say...we are so excited about whats happening. You would think with all the television stations Disney owns someone would have thought about this some.

From Kevin Baxter
Posted December 28, 2002 at 8:21 PM
They do this all the time! Problem is, people are starting to figure out that Disney isn't offering all that much anymore. When people hear all over the place about Dino-Rama or "100 Years of Walt" or Flik's Fun Fair and they visit and figure out they've been had, they aren't likely to listen to the next thing being advertised.

From Carey Lynn Holtsclaw
Posted December 28, 2002 at 9:16 PM
>>>Does anyone have the whole list? I'd like to see beyond the top ten.<<<

I would also like to see the list. Can somebody who has it type it up?

From Robert OGrosky
Posted December 28, 2002 at 10:26 PM
I agree that Fliks Fare was a big disappointment!!!! It sounds alot better than when you see it in person. The theming is nice but the rides are a joke!!!
And does anybody know what Six Flags Great America's attendance was for 2002??? And how that compared to 2001??

From Kevin Baxter
Posted January 1, 2003 at 4:59 AM
We can't find the list anymore. It isn't online, so AB must not like people copying it.

From Mr. Pheneix
Posted January 1, 2003 at 8:21 AM
Someone will copy it sooner or later. I found the 2001 worldwide top 50 list on Usenet earlier this year.

From Kevin Baxter
Posted January 1, 2003 at 5:40 PM
I've been waiting. Someone online must get the tactile version! Finish taking back all your gifts and print it!!!!

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