Disney remained the top chain, with 116.5 million visitors worldwide last year, followed by Merlin Entertainment with 32.1 million. Universal drew 26.4 million, followed by Six Flags with 24.9 million and Busch with 22.3 million. Cedar Fair came in sixth place, with 22.1 million visitors in 2007.
Here are the world's 20 most popular theme parks, by attendance, in 2007, according to the Themed Entertainment Association Economics Research Associates:
SeaWorld Orlando moved up one spot, passing California Adventure. Otherwise, there were no changes among the U.S. parks in the Top 20.
Rest of North America Top 20:
13. Knott's Berry Farm
14. Canada's Wonderland
15. Busch Gardens Europe
16. Cedar Point
17. Kings Island
19. Six Flags Great Adventure
20. Six Flags Great America
Busch Gardens Europe showed the strongest attendance gain in the country last year, 12.5 percent, placing it in the Top 20, and knocking out Six Flags Magic Mountain. In addition to Magic Mountain, California Adventure and Knott's Berry Farm showed attendance declines. Those parks, along with Six Flags Great Adventure, were the only top U.S. parks to show attendance declines in 2007.
If you're going 60mph in the wrong direction, you have to spend a lot of energy to slow and turn the car around before you can starting driving the right way. But once you make the turn, all your energy can go toward progress.
That's where I think some of the Six Flags parks are right now. They're reversing the slide, but haven't gotten far enough down the road in the opposite direction for a huge number of people to notice the progress.
That... or the attendance figures validate the awesome promotional power of having your park named the winner of a Theme Park Insider Award! ;-)
Ive only been to SFMM once, but I wasnt impressed with the park, other than some good coasters. And the behavior of the guests was AWFUL!! The park needs major work in getting control of line jumpers/rowdy kids and much better trained employee's with a good attitude about there job. Which was quite different from I experienced at Knotts on the same visit.
It also would be good to see parks like Dollywood/Silver Dollar City that do a great job of theming move up in the ranks, though due to location it isnt likely.
And of course it wouldn't be TPI without the Cedar Point fanboys bashing Busch Gardens...
I am not personally a fan of the Golden Tickets because they are geared towards rewarding iron ride parks and not true theme parks. But in this case, I think the publishers may have showed more sense than the voters!!
At any rate, attendance is what really matters, and for their size and scope, I believe both Dollywood and Silver Dollar City are doing pretty well.
Marty Sklar, a Disney employee since the 1950's and now the international ambassador for Walt Disney Imagineering, once said, "We're in the business of telling great stories, and great stories never grow old. In the end, a roller coaster is just a roller coaster."
There is room in this world for both types of parks. And the competition they bring to the table rewards us all as park designers scramble to make better and better attractions.
However, attendance figures don't lie, and the Cedar Fairs and Six Flags of the world are learning the hard way that strongly themed parks are destinations for families (who spend lots of money), and that iron ride parks cater more to teens (who have no money).
Don't get me wrong....I love a good coaster as much as the next amusement park addict, but a properly themed attraction can beat a good coaster any day, hands down. Furthermore, a well themed coaster like Expedition Everest is often more exciting than an over-the-top thriller like the Maverick just because the theme adds an extra layer of immersion that helps the rider lose him/herself in fantasy.
Again, it is good the amusement park industry is doing so well, and great that we have a wide variety of choices in our amusements. But let's face it: a coaster is just a coaster. It is the theme that sells the park.
Attendance numbers don't lie.
I was looking at the entire list of attendance winners and pointing out that the most successful parks on the list are the true theme parks. Cedar Point is not a theme park, it is a coaster park. In fact, it is a very good coaster park. Maybe the best of the bunch. Furthermore, there is nothing inherently wrong with being a coaster park.
It is a good thing that we, as consumers, have such a variety of choices, and it is also good that so many amusement parks are experiencing good attendance. In industry terms, we call that a "win-win."
However there is some good news for Cedar Point in your personal war with BGE: as reported a few weeks back on this very web site, the local Sandusky school districts are pushing their class start dates past Labor Day (at the request of Cedar Fair) to boost late season attendance at the park. This move might help Cedar Point get the bump it needs to move back up in the attendance list.
I am keeping my fingers crossed, Jake!
Believe it or not, some people go to amusement parks for more than coasters, and the theme parks seem to do a better job of providing that "something for everyone" than do the so-called "iron parks."
I, for one, love both, and will continue to enjoy whatever park I'm in at the time for whatever rides and attractions it offers.
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