The Magic Kingdom at the Walt Disney World Resort continued as the world's most-attended theme park, closing in on the 20 million-visitor mark, with 19,332,000 visitors last year, according to the analysts at AECOM. That's up four percent from 2013, according to the report, which is produced in cooperation with the Themed Entertainment Association [TEA].
But the big winners in the industry last year were Universal Studios Florida — up 17% to 8,263,000 visitors — and Universal Studios Japan — up 16.8% to 11,800,000. What did both of those parks have in common? Harry Potter, with new Wizarding World lands opening last year at both parks. Universal's Islands of Adventure was unchanged, remaining at 8,141,000 visitors and losing one spot in the rankings to its sibling, USF.
Harry Potter hasn't arrived yet at Universal Studios Hollywood, but the arrival of the Minions in an impressive new Despicable Me-themed miniland last year help the park overcome the construction disruption that typically depresses attendance at parks. USH was up 11% last year, to 6,824,000 visitors, raising the question if USH can catch rival Disney California Adventure in 2016 when the Wizarding World of Harry Potter opens in Hollywood. DCA gained three percent, rising to 8,769,000.
Other Disney parks posted modest attendance gains, from 0.1 to 3.5 percent, with the exception of the Disneyland Paris parks, which both saw declines. That's especially troublesome at Walt Disney Studios Park in Paris, which dropped 4.7% to 4,260,000, despite the arrival of a well-received Ratatouille-themed miniland. Perhaps it should come as little surprise, then, that DLP this summer is heavily promoting Frozen-themed characters and events, which seemed to have helped Disney's parks in the United States to attendance gains last year.
Elsewhere in the United States, 2014 was brutal for theme parks. The report said, "Growth at U.S. theme parks was concentrated in the top nine parks, all of which are Disney and Universal parks, and that together saw visitor attendance go up by 4.2 percent on last year - an increase of 4.1 million visitors compared to last year. This was offset by a 2.8 percent fall in attendance at the remaining 11 parks which together, had 1.1 million fewer visitors compared to last year."
Here is your North American top 20, with attendance in millions and the change from last year:
And here is the global Top 10:
Further down the list, the biggest gain in the global Top 20 came from Songcheng Park in China, which crashed the Top 20 with a 38.3% increase to 5,810,000 visitors last year.
Previous theme park attendance reports:Tweet
And that is why I hate going to the Magic Kingdom. Way too damn busy, great for Disney but not so fun for us visitors.
Universal Studios Florida 8.3 17.0% - Up 17% big winner here....
Robert - I am wondering how many Season ticket holder there are for Disney?
If you think about it, how many times does an annual pass-holder Visit Disney parks in Orlando. Lets say the pass holder hits MK 2 times per month times 12 months times the number pass holders...
This would be an interesting number to see...
One thing I've been wishing for is to see the number of unique visitors in each park each year. That's the number of people who pass through the gates, not counting repeat visitors by those people during the year. Comparing that number to overall attendance, which counts repeat visits on subsequent days, would tell us a lot about the effect of APs on attendance at the various parks.
That said, the separation between Disney/Universal and the rest of the industry is getting to be stunning. I see it in the traffic numbers for the posts we publish here and you can see it clearly now in the TEA/AECOM numbers. With Springfield and Fast & Furious this year and Harry Potter next year, I fully expect USH to be over the 8 million mark in 2016. If Joel Manby can't see SeaWorld back above 5 million, then we're looking at a gap between Disney/Universal and everyone else that is larger than the annual attendance at most of those parks.
Also, nether Disney nor Universal provides hard attendance data to AECOM, to my knowledge. AECOM estimates based on information about relative attendance changes released by the parks, as well as sampled observations of park entries. The concept, however, is to count the first park entry of the day alone.
While Universal's Harry Potter can possibly be the excuse for lower attendance in Orlando, it cannot be the excuse for San Diego.
SeaWorld is still suffering from the death of a trainer and the documentary. No animals were killed. The Shamu show is no longer the draw that it once was.
Disney parks is moving up slowly and surely like a turtle. Universal is a bit like a hare with big jumps and a few snoozes under the shade.
The Magic Kingdom pulls more people in 20 days than my disowned home park, Worlds of Fun(?), pulls all season. Wow.
PS I can't wait to visit SeaWorld Orlando next year...crowds are down but the coasters and shows are still top notch! Oh yeah!
I do miss Busch running Sea World. I used to enjoy some free beer while in the parks. And I am pulling for them to make a come back. A new coaster will help a bit but I have no clue how much. But we do plan on hitting Sea World next year...
And BGT is a fantastic Park...
Here is a slogan - Tired of the Disney crowd- Come to Sea World! No waiting in lines... Everyday is a fast pass...
Why did she not mention all the animals Sea World have saved over the years?
USH up 11% is great, I was expecting a 5% gain. Great news since theyre investing a lot in plussing the park. 8 million in 2016, DCA level almost, seems a little too optimistic though. But hey Harry Potter.
Much of their claims have been proven to be incorrect and or fabricated. They wrote a story to push their opinion on you and well, you fell for it.
No different than listening blow hard on a talk show and folks listen and believe the garbage.
I am just pulling for Sea World because they do a lot of great things to distressed animals but that message was lost..
Have a nice day...
How come your published report lists Universal Islands of Adventure above Universal Studios Florida, when the latter had more visitors than the former?
7. Islands of Adventure - 8,141,000
8. Universal Studios Florida - 8,263,000
Is it because you guys aren't that good with numbers?
-All six North American Disney parks received attendance gains despite annual price increases and only one receiving significant investment in 2014. I guess the brand name is so strong that occasional investment is enough to keep attendance increasing.
-Meanwhile, I'm shocked how much the Paris Disney Parks' attendance dropped. Either Ratatouille didn't resonate well with visitors or everyone is waiting until the refurbishments are complete before visiting. Hopefully Disney is able to reverse this decline as Disneyland Paris is a pretty nice park (Walt Disney Studios could be as well with the DCA treatment).
-Universal has proven that Harry Potter is still the biggest theme park franchise out there. USF and USJ both saw pretty big increases this year, though I'm surprised there wasn't at least a small increase at IOA. Despicable Me also gave USH a bigger increase than I was expecting, and I fully expect this park to increase by ~20% in 2016 once the Wizarding World of Harry Potter opens and challenge DCA for second place in California.
-I expected SeaWorld to have a significant decrease in 2014, as it was an off year for the parks and they were still being hit by Blackfish controversy. However, the attendance drops in Florida and especially California are larger than I anticipated. That said, I have faith that Joel Manby will turn the company around. The announced 2016 additions are already a great step in the right direction.
-Among regional parks, this report shows that constant investment is needed to maintain attendance. However, I'm surprised that Kings Island added the biggest coaster in North America last year yet only saw a 1% increase. I'm also surprised that Cedar Point fell 4% despite adding a couple new family rides, though the park did feel lightly populated on my visit compared to what is typically reported. Lastly, I would be really interested to see the numbers for the entire Six Flags chain and see how well the "new attraction for every park every year" strategy is actually paying off. SFMM and SFGAdv certainly didn't benefit from their additions.
I would suggest that the lopsided growth for USF relative to IOA has to do with the early entry hours shifting from IOA, where it had been for years, to USF.
Everybody goes to Diagon Alley first now. I think it's a sign of great health in both parks that their overall attendance is so well balanced now.
Second, as for the report the attendance at each park includes Park Hoppers at properties where such tickets exist. It's the only way to get an Apples-to-Apples comparisons with other operators that don't have multiple gates at their properties. This idea that only the entry at the first park visited counts is nonsense. For all practical purposes of operating a theme park you need to know how many people will enter the park that day. Whether they also attend a second or third park is irrelevant.
If you ask a cast member at a Disney park what they're attendance is and they share a number. That number will be the total # of guests that enter the park. Not the # of guests that enter the park first before going to another park.
The only # that is irrelevant in planning and only relevant to bodies in the park NOW is re-entry. Re-entry is just the same person returning. That # is only relevant for determing when to shut down your gates because a park is at capacity.
Mr Niles writes: "If you wanted to succeed in the theme park industry last year, you really needed a powerful new franchise in your parks, such as Harry Potter, Minions or Frozen."
I Respond: If you agree with this conclusion then it should be clear that Universal is not going to catch Disney in the Orlando market. Once again all of the Disney Orlando parks crushed IOA and USF (smallest margin 2 million guests). And they are maintaining their lead without adding what some would call an E-ticket attraction.
Moving into the next two to four years Disney will add attractions based on POWERFUL IP ('Frozen,' 'Star Wars' and 'Avatar') as well as the massive retail expansion at Disney Springs. Further, they will enjoy the benefit having having thousands of freshly renovated hotel accommodations.
So WDW is about to enter a period of rapid development of high profile attractions during a time where their attendance numbers are dominating the market.
If they brought back the beer... I may change my opinion just sayin'.
Adding on to your point, I think it also helps that Disney has lots of nostalgia behind it. Who doesn't know Peter Pan or Winnie The Pooh?
A 2 million attendance margin really isn't that big. USF is up 1 million from due to Potter being open for half a year. Once it hits a full year of operation, it really isn't going to take much for USF and IOA to pass DHS and maybe even DAK before 2017.
Also, to 18.104.22.168, I think I know what you intended to say, but what you said isn't quite correct. If Mickey Mouse was truly the biggest franchise in the industry, Toontown would be the most popular area of Disneyland and a dark ride themed to Steamboat Willy would generate 3 hour lines. Obviously, this isn't the case. Disney as a brand is well known and has an outstanding reputation, so I think the resorts are a draw more because of the history and the overall experience than because of any one particular franchise. On the other hand, half the people who visit Universal are probably doing so mainly because of Harry Potter. Think about it like this: How much of an attendance hit would the Disney parks take if Mickey Mouse was removed completely? Some, certainly, but probably not more than 10% or so. How much of an attendance hit would Universal take if they removed all the Harry Potter attractions? I'd guess at least 25%. Therefore, I'd say Harry Potter is by far the more popular franchise, and given the others in use it is currently the top theme park franchise.
I Respond: If either USF or IOA reached 10 million guests it would represent a 25% jump in a single year. I'm sorry but yes that absolutely is "that big."
This might be a bit of a stretch, but I believe another, albeit smaller, reason that Disney is more successful is that they have a bigger resort.
Grant it, this is a pretty unfair advantage, as Walt bought a whole crapload of land about a decade before Universal even considered building a Florida park. But still. You've got four parks, two water parks, a shopping center, and more on-site hotels than I dare to count. Disney is probably the only themed resort where you can spend your entire time on property and still have a filling vacation.
Universal knows this and is trying to replicate the same method. Hence the new hotel and the upcoming water park. Problem is that Universal's property is significantly smaller, so they can only expand so much.
Again, might be a bit of a stretch, but I thought it was worth considering.
Having said that, if I were to bet a paycheck on the actual rankings of the Orlando market, I go with:
1. Magic Kingdom
3. Universal Studios
4. (Tied) Islands of Adventure / Animal Kingdom
6. Disney Hollywood Studios
When Avatar & Star Wars Opens:
1. Magic Kingdom
2. Animal Kingdom
3. Disney Hollywood Studios
5. (Tied) Universal Studios / Islands of Adventure
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