2006 theme park attendance data released (finally!)

April 3, 2007, 6:26 PM · When Amusement Business magazine folded last year, many theme park fans wondered where we would be able to get a list of annual park attendance, since AB wouldn't be around to publish its annual list anymore. Well, AB's partner in producing that data, Economics Research Associates (ERA), has teamed up with TEA (formerly Themed Entertainment Association), to produce the TEA/ERA Theme Park Attendance Report.

As expected, Disney laid the smack down in 2006, posting strong attendance gains while Six Flags and Universal parks largely declined or remained flat.

Here are the world's top 10, for 2006:

  1. Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom, 16.64 million, up 3 percent
  2. Disneyland, Anaheim 14.73 million, up 1.2 percent
  3. Tokyo Disneyland, 12.90 million
  4. Tokyo DisneySea, 12.10 million
  5. Disneyland Paris, 10.60 million
  6. Epcot, 10.46 million, up 5.5 percent
  7. Disney-MGM Studios, 9.10 million, up 5 percent
  8. Disney's Animal Kingdom, 8.91 million, up 8.6 percent
  9. Universal Studios Japan, 8.50 million
  10. Everland, South Korea, 7.50 million

And the top 10 U.S. theme parks, by attendance:

  1. Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom, 16.64 million, up 3.0 percent
  2. Disneyland, Anaheim, 14.73 million, up 1.2 percent
  3. Epcot, 10.46 million, up 5.5 percent
  4. Disney-MGM Studios, 9.10 million, up 5.0 percent
  5. Disney's Animal Kingdom, 8.91 million, up 8.6 percent
  6. Universal Studios Florida, 6.00 million, up 1.2 percent
  7. Disney's California Adventure, 5.95 million, up 2.1 percent
  8. SeaWorld Orlando, 5.74 million, up 2.5 percent
  9. Universal's Islands of Adventure, 5.30 million, down 4.8 percent
  10. Universal Studios Hollywood, 4.70 million, flat

The next 10 North American parks are (in order):

The largest year-over-year percentage attendance gain in the report was posted by Legoland California, which was up 16.6 percent to 1.66 million.

The full report is available online at http://www.connectingindustry.com/pdfs/TEA-ERAAttendance06.pdf (Yep, it's a PDF file. And a biggie.) For comparison, here is last year's AB report.

[Correction: Reader Travis points out that the reported attendance for Six Flags Great Adventure in the TEA/ERA report is larger than that of Hersheypark, which TEA/ERA lists one slot ahead of SFGAdv. I've flipped them in the rankings on this page as a result.]

Replies (19)

April 3, 2007 at 8:40 PM · Wow - I'm really surprised by this. I was always under the impression Tokyo Disneyland had the highest attendance. I guess I was wrong.
Hersheypark had a higher attendance than Great Adventure? Even when I go to Six Flags in early May, it always seems so packed, whereas the crowds at Hershey never seem that bad. I'm also surprised Busch Gardens Europe wasn't on the list at all.
April 3, 2007 at 8:49 PM · Busch's Williamsburg park hasn't been a top-20 performer for ages, but not having anything from Six Flags above no. 18 for N. American parks is a real stunner for me. Islands of Adventure's slide ought to be scaring the living heck out of NBC Universal, too. I thought it was just the weather when I went there during the Christmas-New Year's week and walked on everything. But their attendance data suggests that's more the norm than the exception these days. Not good. Get thee a new E-ticket, ASAP!
April 3, 2007 at 10:53 PM · Yeah! Go Six Flags Great America!

I am actually really suprised IOA did make it into the top 10 or the other Orlando parks were not higher. Sure, Magic Kingdom is the most popular, but you would think that those people would go to EPCOT, MGM, or Animal Kingdom. Same deal with IOA and USF.

That seems to be saying that people are only going to the Magic Kingdom

April 4, 2007 at 6:58 AM · Most interesting item to me was that Animal Kingdom had such a huge gain.

Do you think this is because:
1. Expedition Everest opened last year
2. Animal Kingdom has finally got it's act together with the changes they've made over the years
3. There are so many people at the other Disney parks that guests are visiting AK to get away from them!

Or some other reason?

April 4, 2007 at 7:36 AM · All the above I would think!

Animal Kingdom always had a place in my heart for some reason! I always thought it was a potentally solid park. The first time we went there it was so so. I think their big and smart move (besides Everest) was the opening of Asia. That added much more to the park. I truly believe that Animal Kingdom tops the other parks in theming and counter service (Flame Tree BBQ? Tuskers? mmmmmmm).

So again, all the above would be my guess. Please bring on Beastly Kingdom or something to that affect! I can't believe they passed on a Dueling Dragons-esque ride!

April 4, 2007 at 7:41 AM · I best guess with why MK's attendance is so much higher than the other parks is because people spend more time there. You easily need at least 2 days there, possibly 3, whereas AK and MGM are generally regarded as 1 day parks. Why Epcot is so far behind MK is anyone's guess though since you need at least 2 days to cover that park as well. Maybe since it doesn't have as many rides and is more education based, people decided not to spend as much time there.
April 4, 2007 at 8:52 AM · IOA's slip is not shocking at all. When was the last time they got a first class attraction? What is shocking is that USF actually increased in attendance. I really think that has to do with HHN more than anything.
Disney is just a juggernaut, they have such a hold on the theme park industry that its attendance really doesnt surprise me at all. AK, yeah, its all because of Everest and Nemo. They dont have a really good resturant yet, which is changing, and the animal exhibits really arent that good, in my opinion. Serengeti Safaris is amazing, but the rest...ehhhh...I like BGA better.
April 4, 2007 at 10:07 AM · I guess what is most stunning to me about IOA's slip is that people have been talking about this for years, and Universal's done zip to address it. Disney's awake now, and has been since Eisner left. SeaWorld's taking steps to compete. Universal better wake up and start building, or it will suffer more in attendance in 2007 and beyond.
April 4, 2007 at 3:00 PM · I agree with Robert...Universal needs to get it's A-game on. Although I dont think cutting BTTF was the right way to go, they do need something new i think at IOA itself. USF has added like what 3 new rides in the past 2-6 years(mummy, neutron and shrek). If my memory is correct IOA hasnt added anything new for like 5 -6years, right??? How old is the flying unicorn and storm force accelatron?
April 4, 2007 at 4:28 PM · Very good points!

I was actually very impressed with Seaworld the last time I went there. I think they are getting ready for an explosion soon.

Yes, I like Disney, but I like IOA too since the theming there and the rides have been top notch. It saddens me that they haven't done anything big lately. This so called dino coaster will be a great addition. I also just realized how small toon lagoon was! They should have made that land better and placed more family rides there as well as thrills!

Nobody does animals like BGA. I will admit they are the best.

Not a fan of AK food? I think comparativly, they have the best counter service. Of course thats also true because they do not have too many places to eat. Think about it, what is Disney's most thrilling park? AK? All the rides (except Tricer Tops) are rough and could be considered thrill rides. Again, not too many rides as well!

April 4, 2007 at 4:44 PM · Sea WOrlds attendance is going to skyrocket next year when aquatica finally opens!!! And i dont mean just the water park either, the theme park itself is gonna have some serious attendace boosts. I cant wait!!
April 4, 2007 at 4:55 PM · Sea World has been listening to what people want. And they've been adding accordingly. They added a whole slew of shopping and resturants with their "Waterfront" area, kept the shows fresh with the new dolphin show, the Shamu show, and the Ski show. They added a whole bunch of kids rides. Now the only thing left is to rehab JTA to its former self, and add a new thrill ride, and it will absolutely kill IOA in attendance.
If you look at MK, however, its amazing it does as well as it does because of the sheer fact that they dont get many new orginal attractions. They also dont get the rehabs and updates that DL does, and the park is in disrepair in comparison to DL. Yet they still manage to pull in millions of visitors every single year. They rip out good attractions and shops in favor for cost effective and trendy ones, they parade you to death....I just dont see the appeal that the millions of others do.
Universal has the attendance to justify a new ride or two in each park. They could even leave say USF alone and just update the living snot out of the other attractions to make them better. We are getting a new Shrek Film....how about a new Shrek film in the park? ET needs a good rehab, they could also get T2 some new threads. Many things can be done without pouring oodles of cash into it and new rides. Here's a novel idea, lets fill some of those empty buildings where rides USE to be with new shows or attractions. Lets get a normal fireworks display going every night, and how about a daily parade back in the park? Little things make all the difference.
April 5, 2007 at 3:48 AM · As for Universal, true they need new attractions, but as I've mentioned many times before, the main reason for their fall off in attendance is their poor customer service and the overall increased cost of attending their parks. The admission price is about the same as all major parks in the area, but they have gotten money hungry in all other areas. Parking costs more than Disney, lockers cost more, most counter service food vendors cost more and the real villian...doing away completely with the "free fast pass system" and now charging a fortune for the same thing that Disney has for free. Lines have gotten much worse than they previously were when everyone was entitled to the fast pass system (dispute this all you want, I know from attending over several years that it's true), you either pay up to $40 per person per day for "the privilege" of getting something that used to be free (and still is at Disney) or you stay in a very overpriced on site hotel to get same so you don't have to wait 1+ hours in line to get on any and all attractions in the park that you've already paid a hefty entrance fee to "enjoy". And sorry folks, but their hotels are not worth the price. These are not 4-5 star hotels we are talking about here, but they are charging rates as if they were (and if your a family and need 2 rooms, you do the math of what it costs compared to similar accomodations in the area). From what I've seen of most comments on this site, I am led to believe that most contributors are either young (teenagers possibly) or do not foot the bill to pay for "their" families of 4-5 or more people to travel and attend these places. If you did, you wouldn't talk about what a great deal it is to get a $40 fast pass, you would be outraged that it's costing you $160 to $200 dollars a day extra to enjoy the same "privilege" that you get for free at Disney...I said it 3-5 years ago when this started and I'll say it again (although no one in managment seems to care), the short term profit gain will back fire in the long run and the past 2 years it's starting doing exactly that. Set up a "class system" anywhere and you just may lose the "same middle class" that was supporting you in the 1st place. Comments welcome....Improvements needed, or this middle class family won't be back!
April 5, 2007 at 5:29 AM · We live in Jacksonville and make frequent trips to Orlando (about twice a month) to visit family and go to the theme parks. We have never stayed in an Universal hotel, although we may at some point. We feel Universal is a park to go to when Disney is too crowded. We are DVC (Disney Vaction Club) owners, so it is usually "free" for us to stay at Disney when we want.

Anyway, we don't go to Universal as much. Losing the fast pass at Universal was not a huge deal to us, because it was always sold about around noon to one for the rides we would have used it for (Spider-Man being one). In addition, I have noticed the lines are worse at Universal, so I was a little surprised to see attendance is down. I don't know if that is from lack of free fast passes or not.

Universal has too big of rides for my family, although my wife likes big rides but too much of a good thing is not always good. They don't have a lot of medium rides, which we enjoy together at Disney.

I don't know if this helps the conversation or not. As frequent theme park attenders (word?), we normally hit Disney because there is just so much more to do and more "family" rides to us. Universal never seems to change and the workers are not exactly friendly. A different crowd of people go to Universal (I won't expand on this).

I hope this adds to the conversation and does not detract.

April 5, 2007 at 6:59 AM · Somehow or another I knew this was going to turn into a disney vs. Universal thread. I love Universal, more so than disney, but they do have a lot of problems. Amount of items to do and Customer Service is not one of them. Neither is general cleanliness nor cost of additional services. Parking costs a dollar more at Universal than it does at disney, but the cost of an annual pass is more than half the initial cost of a disney annual pass, and the renewal cost is just about 3/4's less at Universal than it is at disney. General items and food costs are also a lot less. So where they are more expensive on some things, they do even out on others. The simple fact remains that as a whole Universal Orlando is indeed increasing or staying the same in attendance as it is drawing in more crowds at the studios, and drawing in people for events at Citywalk. IOA is the problem, not Universal as a whole...if it were then both parks would be down in attendance. It really just seems that the suits dont want to invest anything into IOA which is visible because of the amount of new attractions, shows and rehabs done to the studios. Add the fact that you have major events such as Rock The Universe, Halloween Horror Nights, Macy's Day parade, and Mardi Gras strictly at Universal and you can see why the attendance is slipping at IOA.
As far as everything else that was commented on, thats nothing more than simple prefrence and loyalty to a park that has nabbed people since childhood. Type of people? Really....please expand on that. I'd love to hear that point of view.
And before I get jumped by the disney squad, let me back up my opinion of disney grabbing people. From the time you are in the womb you have disney draped around you. Every single store whether it be Toys-R-Us, Wal-Mart of the Disney store has disney baby items. We are given the impression that disney is strictly a family outlet, and you would be better off taking a family vacation to disney than any other place in the world. Disney comes out with direct to video movie releases that saturate a market that seems weary of anything else that may be released. Toys go along with those releases as well as soundtracks, clothing and cereal. And it all comes to a an enourmous head at the Mecca of all things disney Disney World. They make it so that you do not have to leave disney property for anything at all, and everything outside of that property is bad or unneccesarry. Its really quite the empire.
And really quite a shame....because with as many choices as there are out there, when people do venture outside of disney they are not taking an experience for what it is, something new and adventurous, but constantly comparing it to what it isnt...disney.
Sorry for the rant.....but its too big a world out there to be brand loyal.
April 5, 2007 at 7:43 AM · Erik,

I didn't mean to make this a Disney v. Universal thread. I didn't grow up with either really. When I first moved to Jacksonville, I could only afford Universal tickets so that is where we went (100 bucks compared to 400+ for Disney). We spent a very nice year at Universal and we still love Universal.

The problem was we just got bored with not a lot to do. We spend the extra money because with Disney we get 4 parks, which just shakes things up. Sometimes we are in EPCOT mood, sometimes AK. Sometimes IOA.

With Disney, we also get all the hotels, resturants, boating, fishing; all with good customer service. Disney wins for us based (if nothing else) solely on size and amount of things to do.

We do love Universal and it has a special place in our heart during our first year of marriage.

April 5, 2007 at 12:03 PM · Disagree Mr Yates, the only one who seems to be turning this into "Disney -vs- Universal" is you. I am simply commenting on why I believe Universals attendance has dropped significantly the last 2 years (not just this year) and why myself and my family are a part of that statistic. In order to succeed, you must have the attractions...yes, but in order to suceed in the long term you must also have good service, treat your customers fairly and equally and be a "reasonable value". I believe Universal is lacking in all of these catagories from their earlier days.
Fact: there are less attractions at the 2 Universal Parks now than there were 5 years ago, conclusion, Disney and Seaworld are both a better value or "bang for your buck". Fact: attendance has declined, but profits have risen slightly. Conclusion, they are spending less, charging more or both.
Fact: attendance is down but lines and wait times are longer. Conclusion, there are less attractions and/or the new fast pass system isn't working to alieviate wait times, but rather makes them worse.
Fact: Disneys parks have 2-3 times as many visitors per year as Universals parks (depending on the park) and yet their parks "seem" less crowded than Universals and have shorter wait times and lines for rides. Conclusion, fast pass works when it's fair and equitable for all and/or there are more attractions at the Disney Parks.
And you can't compare "annual pass" or "renewal" prices between the two as they are apples and oranges in terms of size, number of parks you get access to, etc. And I noticed you also didn't factor in the $40 a day cost for the fast pass "per person"?
Universal will build a new ride or 2 with $100M they plan to spend (less than the price of the Everest Ride alone by the way), but long term it still won't fix the overall problems they face or improve attendance for more than a year or two while the new attractions are still novel (how long did the Mummy ride truly affect attendance figures?). They need to remember that they are first and foremost in the "service" industry and go back to making same their number one priority...that is where Disney really shines and it does breed success and return customers.
April 5, 2007 at 1:28 PM · I'd like to comment on the pricing (for a FL resident).

Personally, I get the preferred Annual Pass to Universal (free parking and 20% of everything). It is 169.99 and 99.99 for every year after.

Disney, I go with the seasonal pass. 230.00 (I think) and 207.00 to renew. I think these numbers are right, or pretty darn close.

I find this is the best value. It is not Disney vs Universal, but Disney AND Universal. I like both parks. I like Disney off season, Universal when Disney is busy. Does that make Universal number 2? Yes and no. Disney is too busy for me in certain months, so I don't "buy" those months (i.e. I get seasonal pass). This saves me 100-200 bucks a year, which I buy Universal and Seaworld passes with the extra money.

I love both and don't want either to change!

April 6, 2007 at 11:53 AM · I'm not going to get involved in the whole Universal vs Disney debate, if for no other reason than I live in Calif.
But I was REALLY surprised by HOW BIG Disney is. Together Disney is almost FOUR TIMES their closet competitor. WOW!
I was also surprised with how POOR a showing Six Flags has.
If you average all the parks than, Disney is 10 mil per park, Universal is 5 mil, Busch is 2 mil+, and Six Flags is less than 1 mil.
Just an observation.

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