Magic Kingdom tops 20 million in 2015 theme park attendance report

May 25, 2016, 8:42 AM · The theme park industry's annual attendance report is out, and Disney and Universal theme parks continue to dominate. Attendance grew five percent overall at the world's top 25 theme parks, led by massive surges to theme parks in China, according to the 2015 TEA/AECOM Theme Index and Museum Index. [PDF file]

Among parks well known to western fans, the Universal Studios theme parks in Japan and Florida posted the largest gains in attendance last year. Universal Studios Japan saw a 17.8% increase in attendance, to pass Tokyo DisneySea and take the number four spot worldwide, with 13.9 million visitors last year. Universal Studios Florida jumped 16 percent to 9.6 million visitors in 2015, to take the number 10 spot globally from Disney California Adventure.

Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom continued as the world's most popular theme park, topping the 20 million mark in annual attendance.

The Tokyo Disney theme parks suffered slight declines, along with Hong Kong Disneyland, Ocean Park and Lotte World, as tourism in Asia generally found the year difficult, beyond the massive surge of domestic visitors to new parks in China. SeaWorld San Diego also saw its attendance continue to decline, though SeaWorld Orlando and the Busch Gardens parks saw very slight gains.

Here are the North American top 20:

  1. Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom 20.5 6%
  2. Disneyland 18.3 9%
  3. Epcot 11.8 3.0%
  4. Disney's Animal Kingdom 10.9 5%
  5. Disney's Hollywood Studios 10.8 5%
  6. Universal Studios Florida 9.6 16%
  7. Disney California Adventure 9.4 7%
  8. Islands of Adventure 8.8 8%
  9. Universal Studios Hollywood 7.1 4%
  10. SeaWorld Orlando 4.8 2%
  11. Busch Gardens Tampa 4.3 3%
  12. Knott's Berry Farm 3.9 5%
  13. Canada's Wonderland 3.6 2%
  14. SeaWorld San Diego 3.5 -7%
  15. Cedar Point 3.5 8%
  16. Kings Island 3.4 3%
  17. Hersheypark 3.3 2%
  18. Six Flags Magic Mountain 3.1 9%
  19. Six Flags Great Adventure 3/1 9%
  20. Busch Gardens Williamsburg 2.8 3%

And the global top 10:

  1. Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom
  2. Disneyland
  3. Tokyo Disneyland 16.6 -4%
  4. Universal Studios Japan 13.9 17.8%
  5. Tokyo DisneySea 13.6 -3.5%
  6. Epcot
  7. Disney's Animal Kingdom
  8. Disney's Hollywood Studios
  9. Disneyland Paris 10.4 4.2%
  10. Universal Studios Florida

Previous theme park attendance reports:

Replies (32)

May 25, 2016 at 9:04 AM · Another sign that TEA/AECOM really has no idea.....the cover is DL, yet is credited as Magic Kingdom at WDW. Hah!
May 25, 2016 at 10:14 AM · This link does nothing on my machine using IE11.

It finally opened in about 10 minutes....

May 25, 2016 at 9:53 AM · Disney in Orlando hardly any investment, no e-ticket attractions in over 10 years yet still have an upward surge. Crazy. The fact Hollywood Studios is still pulling in customers is insanity.
May 25, 2016 at 10:12 AM · Disney just announced their theme park numbers were down in Florida did they not? but TEA/AECOM are just guessing anyway.
May 25, 2016 at 10:26 AM · Disneyland took the second spot back at least. Wow, SeaWorld San Diego really took a dive. Soon it could be overtaken by CEDAR POINT!?!?
May 25, 2016 at 10:39 AM · Good catch, Agent 67.

Cover is Sleeping Beauty Castle. Not in Orlando. Sheesh.

May 25, 2016 at 11:57 AM · Very happy to see Knott's up 5%. Their focus on theme with a family-friendly atmosphere and a nod to their past is paying off. Good for them.
May 25, 2016 at 12:15 PM · As always, the MK is the linchpin of WDW's popularity. Pandora might pull some guests away from the Kingdom, but I figure not much will change until Star Wars Land opens.

By the way, I don't think it's accurate or fair to say that Disney has made "hardly any investment" in Orlando. $500 million for New Fantasyland, the current expansions of AK and DHS (which, granted, are overdue), and lot of other additions over the years.

May 25, 2016 at 12:31 PM · BIAS BIAS BIAS BIAS BIAS
May 25, 2016 at 1:28 PM · TEA pulled the report temporarily to fix the MK/DL goof. I've changed the link at the top of the post to go to the newly posted, corrected version of the report.
May 25, 2016 at 2:03 PM · 20 M Suckers!!!! Iger's greed knows no boundaries.What would walt think?
May 25, 2016 at 2:45 PM · So Matt Ouimet publicly stated during conference calls that Knott's had passed the 4 million mark earlier in the fall and that the property as a whole drew over 5 million visitors by the end of the year. And here we have the TEA numbers at 3.9 million for Knott's and Soak City doesn't even appear on the water park list. Something obviously doesn't add up.
May 25, 2016 at 2:56 PM · 20+ million.... Jeez. That's crazy talk.
May 25, 2016 at 2:58 PM · My take on this year's results:

-People wonder why Disney doesn't add new attractions frequently, and I think this shows why. Prices went up and attendance went up, but there weren't any big new attractions in either 2014 or 2015. DLR had all the new 60th anniversary stuff, numerous ride upgrades, and the Star Wars additions to Tomorrowland, likely contributing to more locals visiting, while WDW had almost nothing marketable, yet they posted sizable gains at almost all parks. Obviously, 2-3 major attractions per resort per decade is all Disney needs.

-USH only grew 4% despite adding Fast and Furious, Springfield, and other minor enhancements, while USO had the biggest gains of the year despite not adding anything. To me, this says that USH is failing to connect with the local market with their new pricing system and is not enough of a draw for the tourist market like USO is. I'm really interested to see what their 2016 report looks like as Wizarding World of Harry Potter does not appear to be meeting expectations in California.

-SeaWorld appears to be slowly recovering, though they are still suffering from the public perception of the parks. Hopefully the additions throughout the chain this year and next year will help to get them back on track. I worry about the San Diego park, however, as they are still losing attendance and have nothing to market in 2016 (not even a new show).

-In the regional theme park contests, Cedar Fair is doing quite well but Six Flags seems to be growing more rapidly. It appears that the "new attraction for every park every year" strategy combined with refreshing sections of the parks each year is really paying off. I think both chains are realizing that while roller coasters can be a good investment, only investing in coasters is not a winning strategy long term. None of the parks listed added brand new coasters in 2015 (Twisted Colossus is debatable between new coaster or extreme makeover), yet all posted attendance gains when several were losses or flat last year.

-Lastly, while I doubt that the numbers reported are exact (I have a tough time believing MK or DL really average 50,000+ daily visitors, for example), I do think the trends are accurate in the report. I'm really curious to see what happens in the industry in the coming years as it looks like we're in the biggest transition point since the 1980s.

May 25, 2016 at 3:51 PM · @Tuna MD
The TEA report is for 2015, Disney announced they are down for the first part of 2016.
May 25, 2016 at 3:53 PM · @AJ
It's possible that people in California, knowing that Harry Potter was opening in 2016, decided to skip USH in 2015 and wait for HP to open. Will be interesting to see if USH attendance jumps up in 2016.
May 25, 2016 at 3:53 PM · @AJ
It's possible that people in California, knowing that Harry Potter was opening in 2016, decided to skip USH in 2015 and wait for HP to open. Will be interesting to see if USH attendance jumps up in 2016.
May 25, 2016 at 4:12 PM · These TEA reports are so inaccurate. With Disneyland's 60th crowds, there's no way that Disneyland didn't pass the 20 million mark. Also, there are a lot of rumors circulating around claiming that DCA passed the 10 million mark this year. To top it all off, Cedar Fair CEO, Matt Ouimet, stated that Knotts's attendance in 2015 was over 5 million, but yet TEA estimates that Knotts only received 3.9 million visitors?!?!?! Lastly, I don't believe that Magic Kingdom's attendance spiked 6% this year, if anything the most it increased by is 2%. But honestly, these estimates are about as accurate as the Touring Plans crowd calendar.
May 25, 2016 at 5:30 PM · So Universal's Orlando parks pull 18.4 million and Disney attracts 54.1 million.
May 25, 2016 at 7:52 PM · I'm finding it really, really hard to believe that Hollywood Studios went up 5%, in spite of all the closings that occurred last year. I recognize that the Star Wars events may have offset attendance drops, but seriously. Why would more people go to half of a park under construction?

Glad to see Busch/Seaworld on a upswing, though they still have a long way to go before becoming a big boy again.

May 25, 2016 at 8:08 PM · @JT - Park. Hopper.

I imagine very few people visit the Walt Disney World resort, which is often a vacation planned and saved up for for years - and skips one of the 4 parks. Even if you just go to DHS to have a look, you still want to get your money's worth and not leave 25% on the table. You probably won't write home about it (since there's FB, Twitter, text message, and email), but you'll still go. And that counts toward attendance.

If you're there for seven days, and have already been to all 4 parks, and want to go to one of them Magic Kingdom.

Which Chinese parks are surging? I wrote a review on ChimeLong Paradise in Guangzhou last year. Very Six Flags.

May 25, 2016 at 10:58 PM · Jon, that is entirely possible, but if it is true I would have expected there to be significantly higher crowds after Potter opened than there have been. While this summer will be the real test, indications are that so far attendance has fallen below what USH anticipated. I'm just surprised that King Kong 360 3D resulted in a rise of 0.74 million visitors in 2010 yet Fast and Furious: Supercharged (which is essentially the same thing) combined with other smaller additions could barely get a 0.3 million increase.

Disneyobsession, while it is possible DCA did barely reach 10 million I would bet that there is no way Disneyland hit 20 million. If Disneyland really reached 20 million, that would be an average of almost 55,000 visitors per day. According to a friend who worked at the park until earlier this year, weekdays were typically 20,000-30,000, weekends and school breaks were generally around 50,000, and the busiest days might see 70,000 (the gates close at about 80,000). I just don't see any of these numbers increasing enough to make the park hit 20 thousand, and I honestly doubt it will reach that number before Star Wars opens. Regarding Knott's, 3.9 million is for the theme park only and 5 million is for the whole resort. That 5 million includes visitors who only go to Soak City (estimated to be about 400,000) as well as those who do not enter the parks and only visit the marketplace and/or Independence Hall.

James, think about it like this...if you're visiting Walt Disney World and you know it will be 5+ years before you'll have another chance to go, are you going to visit DHS as it is or do you want to completely skip it? Most visitors would pick option one. I have a feeling that 99% of those who visit WDW for at least four days will include a trip to DHS, and I wouldn't be surprised if that 5% is roughly comparable to overall attendance growth for the resort. Besides, not only does DHS still have a fair number of attractions (19, vs 26 at DAK and 30 at Epcot), but it also has one of the top 5 attractions at the entire resort.

May 25, 2016 at 11:35 PM · AJHUMMEL WROTE - "while USO had the biggest gains of the year despite not adding anything. "

Er ... some small attraction called Diagon Alley.

May 26, 2016 at 1:06 AM · So at 54.5 million guests per year that would mean Disney theme parks are visited by an average of 149,000 guests per day. And at Universal 18.4 million guests per year that would mean Disney theme parks are visited by an average of 50,000 guests per day.

Orlando ROCKS!

May 26, 2016 at 6:36 AM · Theme parks fans, like us, are driven by new e-ticket rides. But for average visitors, smaller lines would add more to the overall experience than new rides.
The capacity increase from the fantasyland expansion, plus many new meet and greet, and the new fast pass system made a great job at dilluting the lines, plus enhancing the MK experience.
Also, a smaller DHS may had driven visitors to one more day, or half day, at MK.
May 26, 2016 at 7:52 AM · "TEA pulled the report temporarily to fix the MK/DL goof. I've changed the link at the top of the post to go to the newly posted, corrected version of the report."

Oh I wish I had downloaded sooner! That flub would have been worth some serious $$$ a few years from now!! :D

May 26, 2016 at 8:22 AM · ^ "Clever girl ..."
May 26, 2016 at 10:01 AM · Worldwide Disney welcomes 138 million guests and Universal welcomes 45 million guests.

If you believe what is being reported.

May 26, 2016 at 11:53 AM · I may have to go with TH on these reports... it does sound like they are contrived nonsense.

How many of these people are "counted" at both Universal parks or all four Disney Orlando parks.

Rubbish, I tells ya...

May 26, 2016 at 2:05 PM · AJ - Matt Ouimet said specifically that Knott's Berry Farm surpassed 4 million visitors, so again the numbers don't add up.
May 26, 2016 at 2:25 PM · @ NB: BEST TPI PROFILE PIC EVER!!!!!!!!
May 28, 2016 at 8:16 PM · WDW has very long days and attracts people with younger children. They often take an afternoon break then return later for the parade and fireworks. Is there an element of 'double dipping' in the figures?

This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.

Park tickets

Weekly newsletter

New attraction reviews

News archive