Disney Leads Theme Park Attendance Report, as China Gains

July 16, 2020, 6:05 AM · Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom continued to lead the world's theme parks in attendance last year, drawing nearly 21 million visitors in 2019. That's according to the 2019 TEA/AECOM Theme Index and Museum Index, released this morning by the Themed Entertainment Association.

The 2019 figures represent what might turn out to be a long-lasting high point for theme park industry attendance, which will drop substantially in 2020, thanks to the pandemic closing so many parks for so long.

But as we look back toward more successful times, here are the global top 20 parks for attendance in 2019:

  1. Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom: 20.96 million 0.5%
  2. Disneyland: 18.66 million Flat
  3. Tokyo Disneyland: 17.91 million Flat
  4. Tokyo DisneySea: 14.65 million Flat
  5. Universal Studios Japan: 14.5 million 1.4%
  6. Disney's Animal Kingdom: 13.88 million 1.0%
  7. Epcot: 12.44 million Flat
  8. Chimelong Ocean Kingdom, China: 11.73 million 8.4%
  9. Disney's Hollywood Studios: 11.48 million 2.0%
  10. Shanghai Disneyland: 11.21 million -5.0%
  11. Universal Studios Florida: 10.92 million 2.0%
  12. Universal's Islands of Adventure: 10.37 million 6.0%
  13. Disney California Adventure: 9.86 million Flat
  14. Disneyland Paris 9.74 million -1.0%
  15. Universal Studios Hollywood: 9.14 million Flat
  16. Everland: 6.60 million 12.9%
  17. Lotte World: 5.93 million -0.1%
  18. Nagashima Spa Land, Japan: 5.95 million 0.5%
  19. Europa Park: 5.75 million 0.5%
  20. Ocean Park, Hong Kong: 5.7 million -1.7%

Hong Kong Disneyland dropped to 21st worldwide, with 5.65 million visitors: a 15 percent decline from 2018.

In North America, top 20 parks remained unchanged, although the order shifted slightly, with Universal Orlando's Islands of Adventure making the biggest gain, thanks to Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure:

  1. Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom: 20.96 million 0.5%
  2. Disneyland: 18.66 million Flat
  3. Disney's Animal Kingdom: 13.88 million 1.0%
  4. Epcot: 12.44 million Flat
  5. Disney's Hollywood Studios: 11.48 million 2.0%
  6. Universal Studios Florida: 10.92 million 2.0%
  7. Universal's Islands of Adventure: 10.37 million 6.0%
  8. Disney California Adventure: 9.86 million Flat
  9. Universal Studios Hollywood: 9.14 million Flat
  10. SeaWorld Orlando: 4.64 million 1.0%
  11. Knott's Berry Farm: 4.23 million 3.0%
  12. Busch Gardens Tampa: 4.18 million 1.0%
  13. Canada's Wonderland: 3.95 million 4.0%
  14. SeaWorld San Diego: 3.72 million 0.5%
  15. Cedar Point: 3.72 million 1.5%
  16. Six Flags Magic Mountain: 3.61 million 0.5%
  17. Kings Island: 3.52 million 1.0%
  18. Six Flags Great Adventure: 3.45 million 1.5%
  19. Hersheypark: 3.38 million 0.5%
  20. Six Flags Great America: 3.16 million 2.0%

Worldwide, Disney continues as the global leaders, though its parks' collective attendance was down .08 percent, to 155.991 million visitors in 2019. Merlin came in second with 67 million visitors, followed by Oct Parks China at 53.97 million, up 9.4 percent from last year. That put Universal in fourth, with a gain of 2.3 percent to 51.243 million.

But the big winner was China's Fantawild, which saw a 19.8 percent increase to 50.393 million visitors in 2019, according to the report.

The TEA/AECOM Theme Index is produced annually by the Themed Entertainment Association the analysts at AECOM. It aggregates publicly reported attendance numbers from the parks along with industry-recognized estimates of attendance at parks that do not release their numbers officially. Here are previous year's attendance reports:

Replies (18)

July 16, 2020 at 7:44 AM

So (if you believe the soothsayers at TEA/AECOM) in 2019, the Walt Disney World parks have welcomed 62,991,000 guests and the Universal Orlando parks welcomed 23,101,000 guests.

By my accounting, since 2007, the six Walt Disney World parks have welcomed 720,316,000 and the three Universal Orlando parks have welcomed 206,169,000 guests.

Those nine parks brought 926,485,000 consumers to Central Florida over a period of 12 years.

The dependence Central Florida's economy has on the themed entertainment industry is stunning. In turn, the realization of how bad the pandemic has/will hit that same economy is frightening.

Please Note: Attendance calculations do not include guests who visited DSTP.

July 16, 2020 at 8:42 AM

On a quick glance at the numbers here, the biggest one that stands out is that DCA AND DL were both flat in year over year attendance. While DCA's additions building into and through 2019 were relatively minor (mostly the Pixar Pier transformation), DL saw one of the largest single investments ever made to the park in Galaxy's Edge. The impact of Galaxy's Edge did not affect the entire year since it didn't officially open until May, but perhaps it demonstrates that large investments don't necessarily pay off with immediate bumps in attendance.

Now, Disney had a hand in tempering attendance gains because of changes to their annual passes and restrictions initially placed on entry into the new land (as well as RotR not being open for all of 2019), but I would think that Disney executives and accountants would not be satisfied with flat attendance resulting from a $2+ billion addition. On the other side of the coin however, these numbers do show that DL was not as much of a ghost town as people were making it out to be through the summer and fall of 2019. There were multiple claims from close followers of Disneyland that the park was hemorrhaging attendance because of the shrewd new AP policies and the limitations being placed on guests wanting to enter Galaxy's Edge. The park ultimately finishing the year with the same level of attendance as the previous year shows that those claims were false, and if Disney was reaping increased revenue from higher prices and per cap spending, then perhaps Disney was able to reach the balance between giving guests a little more room in the park while still generating profit to pay for the massive addition. The biggest problem with all of these numbers is that it will be nearly impossible to fully evaluate the impact of Galaxy's Edge at DL and DHS because of the pandemic, which could spell trouble for future massive additions to our favorite theme parks.

July 16, 2020 at 9:05 AM

@TH - Let's not mince attendance with "consumers" or "tourists" since a click of the turnstile does not equate to a individual visiting Orlando. Most visitors (and locals) don't just visit one Orlando theme park in a year, so those 926+ million visits does not mean that many people visited Central Florida over that 12 year period. Not only does that number not differentiate between locals and tourists, but it does not accurately reflect the number of people vacationing in the region.

There's no doubt that the Orlando theme parks are a major economic engine and draw huge numbers of tourists from far and wide. However, let's not oversell these numbers as many hospitality and tourism lobbyists are apt to do by equating "visits" to " tourists".

July 16, 2020 at 3:47 PM

So if I had written "Those nine parks brought 926,485,000 consumers into Central Florida theme parks over a period of 12 years," -- wherein each consumer can represent multiple "clicks" -- that would be okay?

July 16, 2020 at 9:24 AM

That's certainly better TH...Living in the lobbying capital of the world (Washington, DC), I'm always perturbed by those who contort and exaggerate real, verifiable data to justify their POV. There's nuance to all data, and the lack of qualifications given to certain data sets can dramatically change one's understanding of the real numbers.

It does happen all the time, so there's some level of acceptance of outlets providing data without providing important qualifications (see everything surrounding the pandemic), but as a scientist, nothing bothers me more than seeing data not being accurately presented and qualified.

July 16, 2020 at 9:25 AM

I don't often agree with TH Creative but lets be honest here if Orlando had no parks it probably wouldn't be a very big city today nor would it have one of the biggest airports. As a Canadian I can honestly say that I would have never been to Orlando if it didn't have high quality theme parks.

I wish there was a way to accurately know where everyone is from when entering theme parks. It would be amazing to compare the various parks. I know that Orlando is clearly more touristy then the LA parks but it would be fun to know exact numbers.

July 16, 2020 at 9:48 AM

@ Francis 24 - We once won the world roller hockey championship ... So we got that going for us.

July 16, 2020 at 10:43 AM

I have to go with the "visitor-tourist" talk as when my family lived in Jacksonville, we visited WDW three or four times a year with special deals for Florida residents.

July 16, 2020 at 10:45 AM

If Orlando didn't have Theme Parks, it would be the city that Jacksonville makes fun of.

July 16, 2020 at 11:37 AM

The one thing that I have always been curious about is how are park hoppers accounted for. When the statistics show that X number of people attended the Magic Kingdom can they tell if that person was at Epcot and exclude them count.

When our family goes to WDW we don't buy the park hopper option as we just don't feel it is a good value considering the distances between parks. We do however get the park hopper at Universal as the two parks are side by side.

July 16, 2020 at 12:20 PM

I'm actually surprised Hollywood Studios didn't see more of a spike than 2.0%. It has been packed every time I visited since the opening Galaxy's Edge.

July 16, 2020 at 12:42 PM

Must be disappointing for Hong Kong, not even number 1 in its own market

July 16, 2020 at 1:11 PM

A few notes:

1) Disneyland and DCA being flat. That happened because a strong final quarter of the year (led by Halloween and Christmas) overcame a dismal summer, as Disneyland's efforts to manage expected Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge crowds worked too well.

2) DHS got a bit of a Galaxy's Edge boost, but it came late in the year, as the Star Wars land opened there at the end of summer. There likely was a Rise of the Resistance kick up in December. too.

3) Among the regionals, Knott's was helped by its Calico River Rapids ride, food events... and being the place where all those fans who skipped Disneyland headed during the summer. Canada's Wonderland picked up visitors thanks to its new B&M Dive coaster.

4) It's been five years since Six Flags Great America bumped Busch Gardens Williamsburg from the NA Top 20. I'm surprised that there hasn't been a change in the parks on that list since then. Which park is ready to step up?

July 16, 2020 at 1:26 PM

Also, just so everyone is aware, this report is not the end all be all defining the industry, and is not without its faults. While some parks and operators openly provided attendance data to AECOM for the report (full disclosure - I work for AECOM, though not in the division that assembles this report), much of the data are gleaned through routine observations and surveys.

Evidence of the fallibility of this report can be seen on the museum rankings that has a peculiar omission. The National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC is regularly one of the most visited museums in the world (saw 6.2 million visitors in 2018), but is not anywhere on the top 20 for 2019. Now, the DC icon is going through a massive renovation that has a number of popular galleries closed or with limited artifacts, but a drop from #5 in the world, to outside the top 20 should warrant a credible comment - the Index attempts to blame this >50% drop on a switch in counting techniques used by certain Smithsonian museums along with the renovation, which also impacted attendance in the 2nd half of 2018 but not to the degree insinuated by the museum's complete absence from the top 20.

July 16, 2020 at 1:45 PM

I'm surprised there are not any water parks from California in the North America Top 20. I wonder if that's a mistake since I would expect that Knott's Soak City and Raging Waters each receive at least 500,000 visitors per year.

July 16, 2020 at 2:41 PM

Makes me worry that Orlando could go the way of Detroit.

July 16, 2020 at 3:23 PM

Detroit’s problem (and it was by no means unique to Detroit, I’m looking out on a river that was once the beating heart of an empire with shipbuilders up and down) was that the same (or closely equivalent) products could be sourced elsewhere.

Orlando’s problem is more temporal. Nobody is trying to replace WDW, or at least nobody seriously thinks they are despite bluster in press releases. Once international tourism can restart (and it will - this virus has changed much about society but I can’t see it changing our wanderlust) there is no replacement for WDW or USO.

There will be a period of pain. Those making the decisions are deciding how long it will be. Maybe some smaller operators of hotels or timeshares go under. But I’m convinced The fundamentals of the Orlando experience are such that as soon as those barriers are down, it will pick up again, and the parks will return to being money making machines.

What I hope Disney and Universal, and the smaller operators do with this time is to stop thinking “Brand Disney” and “Brand Universal” but instead think “Brand Orlando”. Many tourist destinations have a single-ticket for an enormous number of attractions (seriously don’t visit London without it). Maybe that dream is a little big, but there are a lot of little things along the way they can do to join up the many opportunities Orlando offers.

July 16, 2020 at 5:57 PM

It's quite a sobering read when you see how good the parks were doing up until this year.

Also, I've never heard of Chimelong Ocean Kingdom, but it's quite amazing that a SeaWorld-type park with a handful of rides can pull in enough people to rank 8th in the world.

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