Disney claims top 8 spots in 2011 global theme park industry attendance report

May 30, 2012, 6:43 PM · Walt Disney theme parks claimed the top eight spots worldwide in the 2011 TEA/AECOM theme park industry attendance report, released today. In North America, Universal's Islands of Adventure led the attendance gains by percentage, with an immense 29% jump in attendance from 2010 to 2011, which was the first full year of operation for the park's award-winning Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

SeaWorld San Diego jumped in attendance in 2011

SeaWorld San Diego was the only other North American park to score a double-digit percentage attendance increase, with a 13 percent jump that pushed the Southern California theme park to 11th place on the North American list and 22nd in the world.

Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom continued to land in the top spot on both the North American and world lists, with 17.1 million visitors last year, up 1 percent from 2010.

Here are the North American Top 20, according to TEA/AECOM, with 2011 attendance and change from 2010:

  1. Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom 17.1 million +1.0%
  2. Disneyland 16.1 million +1.0%
  3. Epcot 10.8 million, Flat
  4. Disney's Animal Kingdom 9.8 million +1.0%
  5. Disney's Hollywood Studios 9.7 million +1.0%
  6. Universal's Islands of Adventure (+1 position) 7.7 million +29.0%
  7. Disney California Adventure (-1 position) 6.3 million +1.0%
  8. Universal Studios Florida 6.0 million +2.0%
  9. SeaWorld Orlando 5.2 million +2.0%
  10. Universal Studios Hollywood 5.1 million +2.0%
  11. SeaWorld San Diego (+1 position) 4.3 million +13.0%
  12. Busch Gardens Tampa (-1 position) 4.3 million +2.0%
  13. Knott's Berry Farm 3.7 million +1.5%
  14. Canada's Wonderland 3.5 million +3.0%
  15. Kings Island 3.1 million +1.0%
  16. Cedar Point 3.1 million +3.0%
  17. Hersheypark 2.9 million +2.0%
  18. Busch Gardens Williamsburg 2.7 million -2.0%
  19. Six Flags Magic Mountain (New) 2.7 million +3.8%
  20. SeaWorld San Antonio (New) 2.6 million, Flat
Dropped out:
Six Flags Great Adventure
Six Flags Great America

And the World Top 25:

  1. Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom
  2. Disneyland
  3. Tokyo Disneyland
  4. Tokyo DisneySea
  5. Disneyland Paris (+1 position)
  6. Epcot (-1 position)
  7. Disney's Animal Kingdom
  8. Disney's Hollywood Studios
  9. Universal Studios Japan
  10. Universal's Islands of Adventure (+2 positions)
  11. Lotte World, Seoul, South Korea (+2 positions)
  12. Ocean Park, Hong Kong (+5 positions)
  13. Everland, Gyeonggi-Do, South Korea (-3 positions)
  14. Disney California Adventure (-3 positions)
  15. Universal Studios Florida (-2 positions)
  16. Hong Kong Disneyland (-1 position)
  17. Nagashima Spa Land, Kuwana, Japan (+3 positions)
  18. SeaWorld Orlando (-2 positions)
  19. Universal Studios Hollywood (-1 position)
  20. Walt Disney Studios Paris (-1 position)
  21. Europa Park
  22. SeaWorld San Diego (+3 positions)
  23. Busch Gardens Tampa (-1 position)
  24. De Efteling
  25. Tivoli Gardens (New)
Dropped out:
Yokohama Hakkeijima Sea Paradise, Yokohama, Japan

As we mentioned last week, the top 25 parks in the world drew 198.1 million visitors in 2011, up 4.8 percent from 2010. The top 20 theme parks in the United States last year drew 127 million visitors, combined, up 2.8% from 2010.

Replies (33)

May 31, 2012 at 5:18 AM · Finding it REALLY, REALLY, REALLY, REALLY, REALLY difficult to believe the accuracy of the claim that IOA jumped +29.0% the year after the gate crasher opened. Especially when its sister park (located about 50 feet away) rose only 2%.

In 2010, when Potter hit, the attendance (predictably) popped by 30%. The assertion that it experienced an increase of 29% during the year after is ... questionable.

This claim is especially dubious when one considers that all of the Orlando parks did not see a decrease in attendance. In 2010, when Potter made IOA jump, it affected the clicks at Sea World -- which experienced (allegedly) a dramatic drop of more than 12%.

This year all of the Orlando parks jumped or maintained -- including Sea World (+2%). And now we are to believe that IOA rocketed by 29% after a 30% increase the year before?

Of course I may be wrong

May 30, 2012 at 7:44 PM · And by the way, how AMAZING is it that Walt Disney World welcomes more than 129,000 guests to its property every day of the year?

The Magic Kingdom greets an average of more than 46,000 a day.

That's ... incredible!

May 30, 2012 at 7:44 PM · Trying to figure this out. Under Water Parks:

BLIZZARD BEACH AT DISNEY WORLD is listed as SECOND and the attendance is 1,891,000

CHIMELONG WATER PARK is listed as THIRD and the attendance is 1,900,000

What the what?

May 30, 2012 at 7:49 PM · makes you really appreciate what IOA did and specifically WWOHP in 2010 because it had a 30% spike in attendance in 6 months ...2011 = same attendance jump but did it in an entire year
May 30, 2012 at 7:55 PM · These numbers look very suspect to me. What are the chances in a given year that 18 out of 20 parks experience a perfectly round percentage point change in attendance? And for IOA to experience such a massive increase while its sister park grows at a measly 2 percent? That just doesn't ring true to me.
May 30, 2012 at 8:39 PM · I can believe the Islands of Adventure numbers. I spent parts of 12 days there in May 2012 while on vacation and the park was absolutely packed every time we were there. Conversely, Universal Studios' crowds were sporadic, but they improved when the new 5:00 parade ran. The crowds at Islands were even denser than we experienced in May 2011, so my guess is 2012 will show another large increase. Additionally, the Portofino Hotel Resort was also much more crowded than when we were there the same month in 2011. Both Universal parks increased their hours this May which also is indicative of increased attendance. Islands crowds were comparable to the ones we saw at Disney Hollywood Studios the week before, so my guess is that Islands will move even closer to Hollywood Studios attendance in 2012.The Disney parks also seemed more crowded than in 2011 and the ride wait times were longer. It's probably going to be a banner year for Orlando tourism, which is a win win for everyone. This is, of course, not a scientific study, but it is a credible observation over a large number of days (we were onsite at Disney & Universal for 24 days vacation).
May 30, 2012 at 8:44 PM · Pretty good if you ask me. I think that DHS might beat AK's numbers for this year because of Saturday May 19 (the parking lot got full, and complimentary parking was given at Epcot).
May 30, 2012 at 8:51 PM · Nice to see all the positive gains this year. Our favorite industry is growing, gang! =)
May 30, 2012 at 9:49 PM · This report is always fun to look at. DCA is 1.4 million annual visitors behind Islands of Adventure for spot number 6. I believe the reimagined DCA with Carsland will overtake IOA and claim the top six spots for Disney.

It's also nice to see my home state represented in the top 20 for the first time in a while. Sea World San Antonio made it to spot number 20. That is a fantastic and underrated park and hopefully its attendance starts to rise constantly.

May 31, 2012 at 1:29 AM · Thrilled to see Islands of Adventure is still growing, as it's the best theme park in Orlando these days.

As Universal regulars, the discrepancy between the two parks is totally believable. USF is like a ghost town compared to IOA. There's so much more to do at IOA - Potter, kid rides, bigger coasters, Spider Man!, water rides. USF can't compete...without Potter, at least.

Not sure what the implication is upthread. Why are the industry attendance numbers suddenly suspect because IoA is doing so well? I would've thought that would be expected!

May 31, 2012 at 2:19 AM · The attendance for Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Hersheypark both surprise me. They are both regional and seasonal parks. Granted they are near major metropolitan areas but, not close.
May 31, 2012 at 3:08 AM · It baffles me how DAK gets more guests than IOA.
May 31, 2012 at 4:49 AM · I suggest we all do a bit more homework on our own before accepting this report as gospel.
May 31, 2012 at 5:00 AM · The second most surprising aspect of this report is the growth at both the Magic Kingdom and DCA. I expect both parks will pop once all their construction is complete, but with the massive projects underway for most of last year, attendance growth was unexpected, imho. Figured everyone was like me and waiting to plan a trip until AFTER all the construction was done...?

Will Cars Land finally make DCA a respectable park by Disney standards (near 10m a year), and will the Magic Kingdom hit 18m once New Fantasyland is complete?

May 31, 2012 at 6:48 AM · I believe IOA's attendance number in 2010 was around 5.9 to 6 million. The numbers add up. Those increases are also disproportionate because Universal took huge attendance hits during the recession. They didn't give the gate away to prop up their attendance numbers. Now that we've at least climbed out of the economic basement a little, people are ready to spend money again. Naturally they will spend it on the newest hottest attraction in town. Credit to Universal for positioning themselves big for the recovery instead of cutting and running. That kind of growth won't last, but they can definitely build on it and take some more market share if they continue to develop new attractions.

Good to see that the industry is bouncing back.

May 31, 2012 at 7:21 AM · Good to see gains at so many parks! What happened at Sea World San Diego this year that caused such a large increase?

There's always some strange things about these reports. I'm always amazed that Hershey has a higher attendance than Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Six Flags Great Adventure. Hershey just much have more to do than I realize beacuse Six Flags always seems so much more crowded. Hopefully Verbolten can help turn around BGW's recent attendance slump. It's also a bit funny that all of the WDW parks saw a 1% increase except Epcot. Strange.

And as a final note, if the Magic Kingom has a higher attendance than Disneyland and they both grew by the same percentage, didn't the Magic Kingdom actually widen the lead over Disneyland?

May 31, 2012 at 7:30 AM · Rounding on the percentage increase figures.
May 31, 2012 at 7:56 AM · Just went through and double-checked the Disneyland data, and corrected that.
May 31, 2012 at 9:27 AM · I guess I don’t understand why some people are having such a hard time believing that IOA had that much of an increase. These are numbers for 2011, the first full year of WWOHP. If you break it down it is very easy to believe. This wasn’t a 29% increase in a park that had 17 million people a year coming to it, they only had 5.95 million in 2010 and in 2011 it was just an increase of 1.75 million. If Magic Kingdom had an increase of 1.75 million people it would only be about a 9% increase. 1.75 million people is only about an extra 4,800 people a day and I believe that WWOHP drew that many extra people on average last year.
May 31, 2012 at 10:56 AM · It's unfortunate that the study does not break out it's methodology in greater detail. From Page 51: "AECOM obtains the figures used to create the TEA/AECOM Theme 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."

Maybe they do and it's located somewhere on the net.

I am also trying to figure out why BLIZZARD BEACH AT DISNEY WORLD is listed as SECOND and the attendance is 1,891,000 and CHIMELONG WATER PARK is listed as THIRD and the attendance is 1,900,000

Kinda sloppy.

I give HUGE credit to Mr. Moody for reminding me that "These are numbers for 2011, the first full year of WWOHP." That makes sense.

But (again) In 2010, when Potter made IOA jump, it affected the clicks at Sea World -- which experienced (allegedly) a dramatic drop of more than 12%. In 2011, that did not happen. Potter did not gobble up the ticket sales of another park.

And again, while IOA's numbers supposedly skyrocketed by 1.75 million its sister park USF (located right next door) added only 70,000 guests.

Make no mistake I am certain that IOA's numbers increased significantly in 2011. There just seem to be some holes in the study.

May 31, 2012 at 11:21 AM · I would love to see this data crunched by age. That could help to explain many of these issues.

My guess, and it is just a guess, is that WDW is still unbeatable for families with children, specially do to the fact that it has 4 parks and uses very well its pricing tactics to lock the customers inside its gates. That would explain why AK and DHS beet IOA. By the other hand, IOA could be steeling Disney’s late teenagers and “adult with no children” customers. That impact could explain why Epcot had no growth while all the other 3 WDW parks had some.

Disneyland Paris grew 4.7% in attendance but went down on revenues. Price discounts may have played a big role on that growth.

It is wonderful to see Tivoli Gardens on the top 25. It is a very old, traditional and low tech park, but it is lovely and full of live!!!

May 31, 2012 at 12:52 PM · TH, you sound quite upset.....
May 31, 2012 at 12:57 PM · Flavio: Concerning your demographics, I'm sure those are well guarded trade secrets. But what is obvious is that Universal is not clogged with strollers as are the Magic Kingdom parks. That fact says a lot. Your assumption though is probably correct. Disney obviously owns the families with young children demographic. Teenagers & adults are probably more evenly split. Again, just guesses, but probably close to the mark....NB: You should be leaving for your Universal vacation soon. Bet you're excited....
May 31, 2012 at 1:57 PM · Why would I be upset? If this report is accurate my local tourism industry welcomed 66,300,000 people in 2011. That's an increase of more than 2.3 million guests over 2010.

I have so many family and friends who are employed (both directly and indirectly) by the tourism industry. Speaking as someone who has a career building hotel resorts and theme park attractions, I pleased with the success of the industry.

I am just interested in the methodology of the survey -- as there are a few numbers that seem askew.

May 31, 2012 at 1:59 PM · Rob Pastor: I also think Disney (EPCOT) has the over 50 demographic locked down as well.
May 31, 2012 at 2:01 PM · On the other hand I do get upset when I write a post and forget to log in.
June 1, 2012 at 7:56 AM · TH: Epcot assumption sounds right.
June 1, 2012 at 12:56 PM · Rob, you are 100% correct sir.... 19 days and counting.
June 1, 2012 at 3:39 PM · NB: Good luck & enjoy. The Studio's new night show is excellent and the new parade is decent also, & usually I don't care for parades. New Spider Man is fantastic. Took your advice & spent some time over Hard Rock Hotel. The food at the Palms was excellent.
June 1, 2012 at 11:11 PM · As far as the numbers go, where is Splashin' Safari in the list of top water parks, in North America or otherwise? I know Holiday World draws at least 1.1M annually, and I find it hard to believe Splashin' Safari wouldn't draw at LEAST half that, which would make it top 10 on that chart. Realistically I bet it draws closer to 90% of that 1.1M.
June 2, 2012 at 1:31 PM · Splashin' Safari wouldn't qualify for the report since it is not a separate gate water park. The attendance is counted as part of Holiday World.

Islands of Adventure's numbers are impressive, but expected. As a Universal Orlando passholder I've seen first hand what HP has done for that park. Universal has also repeatedly shared stats in various reports that makes it easy to figure out their attendance.

The suspect is Disney California Adventure. I've got close friends in the parks who say the numbers were wrong last year and they're wrong again this year. After 11 years of visiting (20 year DLR passholder) I can say from first hand experience that there has been a tremendous increase in attendance at the park over the past three to four years, especially on weekdays that used to be very slow. I doubt DCA will see a huge attendance boost with Cars Land though as the franchise doesn't have the same following as Harry Potter. DCA is not going to be a 10 million a year park. The market in California is so different from Orlando.

One last point. SeaWorld Orlando's decline in attendance last year had more to due with bad publicity surrounding the trainer accident and less to do with Harry Potter. The park also offered nothing new that year.

June 3, 2012 at 1:27 AM · Hi there,

Being Dutch, I wanted to point out that number 24 is called ' De Efteling '.

Kind Regards


June 3, 2012 at 11:10 AM · Fixed. Thanks.

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