Universal Makes Big Gains in 2021 Theme Park Attendance Report

October 14, 2022, 4:47 PM · The theme park industry's leading estimate of attendance is back with its report for 2021.

Typically, we see the TEA/AECOM Theme Index Report in late spring, so I was beginning to wonder if we would it see it all this year, as the industry continues its recovery from the pandemic that closed parks around the world in 2020. Indeed, for the second year in a row, the Themed Entertainment Association and AECOM have chosen not to reorder parks from the 2019 attendance rankings. Nor do the report's authors provide an estimate of cumulative attendance by theme park company, since different operating restrictions in different jurisdictions in 2021 make it next to impossible to draw fair comparisons among companies that operate in different states and nations.

If you are interested in reading the report, it is available on the AECOM website.

In short, Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom remained the world's most attended theme park in 2021, as it has been since before and throughout the pandemic. TEA/AECOM reported attendance of 12,691,000 visitors at the Magic Kingdom in 2021, up 82% from 2020's 6,941,000, when the parks were closed for more than three months and operating capacity was limited for many months after that. In 2019, the Magic Kingdom drew 20,963,000 visitors, according to the TEA/AECOM report.

From there, I think it most fair to compare parks from the same state, since they were operating under the same rules in 2021. So in Florida, the TEA/AECOM reported the following attendance numbers for 2021. The number in parentheses is the park's ranking among North American parks in 2019.

The big winner here appears to be Universal Orlando, whose parks passed three of the four Walt Disney World Resort theme parks in estimated 2021 attendance. That appears partially to have come at the expense of SeaWorld Orlando, which fell behind sister park Busch Gardens Tampa Bay last year.

Among water parks, the TEA/AECOM estimated that Universal Orlando's Volcano Bay had the nation's highest attendance in 2021, with 1,691,000 visitors. Walt Disney World's Typhoon Lagoon had led the rankings in 2019 but was closed for all of 2021, while its sister park Blizzard Beach drew 1,201,000 visitors last year, just beating SeaWorld's Aquatica, which welcomed 1,147,000 visitors, according to the TEA/AECOM report.

In California, Disneyland continues to lead all local parks.

California theme parks reopened in spring of 2021, with varying start dates. But attendance was sharply limited in those first days back, so the bulk of each park's attendance would have come later in the year, when attendance was unrestricted for all. That said, Universal also did well in California, jumping rival DCA, while SeaWorld also fell backward, dropping behind Six Flags in the market.

Elsewhere in the United States, Ohio's Cedar Point led all other parks, with 3,327,000 visitors in 2021, according to the report. Around the world, Shanghai Disneyland led all parks in the TEA's Asia region, with Disneyland Paris atop the Europe, Middle East and Africa region.

The TEA/AECOM Theme Index reports attendance for the top 20 theme parks in each region in 2019, so parks that ranked outside the top 20 that year but would have ranked among the top 20 in 2021 attendance are not included.

Here are links to previous theme park industry attendance reports: 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002.

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Replies (63)

October 14, 2022 at 5:30 PM

Nice press for Universal Orlando. Well done!

Keep in mind this calculation relates to stats in a year that ended nine months ago. Robert notes that the report usually drops four-and-a-half months into the year.

Considering that circumstance -- as well as the uncertainty of the economy and the atypical fallout from COVID -- does anyone here believe Universal will hold serve when TEA/AECOM publishes its report for 2022?

And that's absolutely an academic question. If UO beats DAK, EPCOT and DHS next year (even by the minor margins shown in thia year's report) that would be a VERY big deal.

October 14, 2022 at 8:16 PM

Also let’s not forget that Disney continues to limit attendance with mandatory advance reservations, which Universal has not been doing. Surely that will affect the 2022 numbers as well.

However, so long as people keep coming to Orlando, that’s good for the industry and the people who work in it, whether they come for Disney or for Universal.

October 14, 2022 at 8:48 PM

This was predictable as Disney has moved away from the business model of trying to maximize attendance while Universal has not. There are plenty of days at Disney that are not packed but the park is "sold out." Cue all the clickbait articles that will be coming out now...

October 14, 2022 at 9:58 PM

Not sold out, plenty of reservations available for WDW parks. So what other excuse do you have for the attendance shift to Universal?

October 14, 2022 at 10:00 PM

The_man writes: "Cue all the clickbait articles that will be coming out now..."

Me: And the nominees for themed entertainment related internet post of the year, are ...

October 14, 2022 at 10:21 PM

Disney has made it very clear that the 60, 70, 80, 90,000+ days at Magic Kingdom are over. They don't allow anywhere near that now. You never ever see triple digit wait times anymore, the wait times for major rides usually hover around 60 every day. That is by design. Also many days have availability for people paying full price but not for AP or Cast Members. Disney's Parks are making more money now than ever, if their strategy wasn't working then why would they have just raised prices again a few days ago?

I'm no corporate apologist or anything I think anyone here can verify that, I will always call out companies on BS. But you can't sit there looking at record profits quarter after quarter after quarter and say Disney's strategy isn't working. The most profitable retailer in the world per-capita is Costco and they purposely try to keep people out of their stores, they don't give AF about record attendance.

October 14, 2022 at 10:29 PM

Because the_man wrote, "But you can't sit there looking at record profits quarter after quarter after quarter and say Disney's strategy isn't working" ... I think it is only fair he helps Mr. Schneider up off the floor.


October 14, 2022 at 11:46 PM

Not so fast, TH. Magic Kingdom is Magic Kingdom when it comes to attendance, same with Disneyland. But why are the other Disney parks falling behind the Universal parks? Resos are available. The other Disney parks are not sold out. They can accommodate more guests under their new business model and increase company profits even more, but they aren’t. Can you explain this?
Disney is leaving $$$ on the table and Universal is snatching it up. The tides are turning. The writing is on the wall. And UEU is right around the corner.

October 14, 2022 at 10:41 PM

Right around the corner = An estimated three years from now.

October 14, 2022 at 10:48 PM

And Universal has already passed all of Disney’s other non-castle parks and will continue to do so leading up to the opening of UEU. Good news for all the Disney fan boys, you’ll get more of the parks to yourselves.


October 14, 2022 at 10:47 PM

The tides are turning to what exactly? Will Disney stop making record profits when Epic Universe opens?
The "other Disney parks" are still crowded, I was at Epcot the other night and there was barely any space to walk at all (which is extremely common at night in the showcase whereas it wasn't 10-15 years ago), you still can't even get on the new ride unless you play a lottery at 7am or 1pm where you have like a 5 minute window to get a spot, and DHS is still getting an hour wait for almost every ride every day. How many more people do you want in these parks?

October 14, 2022 at 11:27 PM

Don’t kid yourself. Cutbacks and record prices led to record profits. It certainly isn’t because of attendance or the guest experience.

October 14, 2022 at 10:58 PM

Jacking up prices leading to record profits is literally exactly what I meant in my first post. Obviously they wouldn't be able to make record profits with less people in the park if the prices weren't going up.

October 14, 2022 at 11:17 PM

Disney should have made even more “record profits” from their other theme parks, but they didn’t because the parks couldn’t consistently reach capacity (even under their new business model). They were not sold out. Why? Because Universal took a record amount of market share away from Disney.
The tides are turning.

October 14, 2022 at 11:17 PM

What "cutbacks"? And where is there evidence that consumers who went to Universal parks consciously chose that product over Disney?

October 14, 2022 at 11:26 PM

From the attendance numbers/shift smart guy!


October 14, 2022 at 11:44 PM

The attendance numbers shifting is based on an estimate. When neither Universal nor Disney provide actual stats, what is it specifically about the TEA/AECOM methodology that makes you conclude their report is accurate to the point where you can proclaim the tides are actually (in reality) turning?

You even acknowledge the_man is correct about Disney making record profits -- criticizing the company because they "should have made even more 'record profits'".

Those are your words.

October 14, 2022 at 11:38 PM

And, again, what "cutbacks" are so substantial that they generate record profits?

October 14, 2022 at 11:43 PM

Also, when you post "Universal took a record amount of market share away from Disney" what specifically is the benchmark you are referencing? What is the previous "record amount"? When did that previous record occur? Pre-pandemic? Post-pandemic? Which organization published stats affirming such records -- current and past?

October 14, 2022 at 11:54 PM

We are trying to say the same thing: Disney has higher prices, lower attendance, and is making more money than ever. Disney is not hurting for customers they have so much demand that they are literally turning people away when they could easily fit them in the park in order to get fewer people who will pay higher prices.

If you're trying to suggest that Universal's parks division is going to be more profitable in the future than Disney's is I guess that's one thing, it certainly can happen, but highly unlikely IMO. I've been hearing this "Universal is better than Disney/catching up to Disney/going to beat Disney" all the time since IOA opened like 25 years ago. It's not a new narrative, I remember watching the Universal Orlando commercials on TV in 1999-2000 talking about how fairytales and pixiedust are out and Universal is in. TBH I think from a brand perspective Disney is just as popular as ever.

October 15, 2022 at 12:58 AM

Wrong, Disney is hurting for customers. The other Disney parks are not sold out, the other Disney parks are not literally turning people away. You are wrong in saying that. Resos are available but Disney cannot get them all filled because Universal has taken away record market share from Disney, and the attendance numbers conclude this.
As for the cutbacks, a 15% reduction in Disney’s workforce since 2019 is rather substantial. That $$$ saved (from uncollected employee salaries and benefits alone) have contributed to record profits, substantially.


October 15, 2022 at 3:03 AM

The fact that people take these Disney/Universal "estimated" attendance figures so seriously is somewhat baffling to me. These numbers are not real. They're not actual attendance figures. They're guesstimates by TEA/AECOM's "experts" who somehow "analyze" attendance at Disney/Universal parks without ever being given any real numbers by those companies. And everyone - including the media - accepts these attendance figures as gospel, as if they are real and actual. Why isn't anyone questioning the accuracy of these estimates?

October 15, 2022 at 8:13 AM

Lots of speculation in this discussion, so I'll throw in some speculation of my own. ;) And for arguments sake, let's say the numbers are a decent estimate.
Building upon TH Creative's initial post, the data presented in the report suggests that neither park has fully recovered from the pandemic (numbers in 2021 were lower than 2019 across the board). Universal's Florida parks (non-water) in 2021 were at about 85% of their 2019 numbers. Disney across its 4 Florida parks were about 62% of its 2019 attendance numbers in 2021. As a long-time marketing guy (yeah, I'm one of those), I'd say one factor to consider is the customer personas for each park. Disney likely draws a higher percentage of families with young children, and multi-generational families (parents, kids, and grandparents). Whereas Universal likely draws a higher percentage of families with older kids and younger adults who don't have any kids. Which park's overall customer makeup was more risk averse during the pandemic (which, let's face it, we're still in)? Also, which parks draw a higher percentage international travelers? I would assume Disney?
It could be argued that given its audience makeup, Disney is going to take longer to recover from the pandemic. Coming back to TH Creative's initial post, I'll be curious to see how these trends play out in 2022 and 2023 as more types of people feel more comfortable traveling to theme parks.
I'm not saying audience makeup is the only reason, nor that the points other have made aren't valid, but it's one to be considered.

October 15, 2022 at 4:49 PM

LOL, Universal parks are lapping Disney parks and the Disney fan boys are conveniently saying “…(the report) is based on estimate.” Three short years ago, you all were patting Disney (and each other) on the back about the attendance report, but now - They’re estimates! They’re estimates!
How conveeeeeenient.

October 15, 2022 at 12:22 PM

There is really no reason for the “reservations available/not available argument as anyone can go to the Disney websites to see for themselves.

At WDW, MK and HS are usually sold out a week in advance (including right now), but EPCOT and AK reservations can be had up to the day before and sometimes the day of visit.

I don’t follow DL’s reservations that closely, but a look at that website shows Disneyland park sold out for the next two weeks while DCA has sporadic availability at that time (although it is sold out for the next three days as of now).

Disney is clearly going for another market: limit attendance, but raise prices on everything to go after bigger spenders. They can cut labor costs if attendance is limited. I’m sure a record profits report for the past fiscal year is upcoming.

However, I will continue to contend that, while this strategy is great in the short term, the Disney Parks brand is being damaged by the current management. Through all the cost cutting, there are no major attractions set to be opened in the next three years (assuming Tron actually opens by 2025) while Universal is opening A WHOLE NEW PARK. Chapek’s current contract extension expires by then, and he needs to fear for his job at that time.

October 15, 2022 at 12:38 PM

It's times like these that I wish TEA would have included park hopping in their figures, mainly because I'd want to know how much the 1:00/2:00 rule has been affecting overall sales of that. It also seems really crazy to me that there's a 3.5 million guest dropoff between Disneyland and California Adventure despite the parks being literally within walking distance much like Universal Orlando.

October 15, 2022 at 7:54 PM

Since prices are going up everywhere at Disney parks, I wonder if they won't put as much of an emphasis on attendance, marketing more towards high-income families than ever before. That is if the estimates are somewhat accurate.

October 15, 2022 at 9:39 PM

These attendance stats (if accurate) are ten months old ... For God's sake does anyone here believe that the themed entertainment industry leaders have not adjusted their tactics since December 2021 -- ten months ago?

The discussion here should not be about the stats. It should be about why in the hell TEA/AECOM's report is accurate or offers ANY real insight or value.

October 15, 2022 at 10:53 PM

And when all else has failed and all your talking points are exhausted, there’s nothing left to do but attempt to delegitimize the report. You did it, TH, you reached the end of this discussion.

October 16, 2022 at 7:32 AM

My skepticism regarding the TEA/AECOM report is nothing new:

TPI – THC – 05/31/12: “I suggest we all do a bit more homework on our own before accepting this report as gospel.”

TPI – THC – 06/03/14: “Of course we will never know exactly how accurate the report is -- as its methodology remains shrouded in a vague description."

TPI – THC – 06/03/14: “TEA is an organization that promotes the themed entertainment industry. I have no doubt that ALL of the statistics in this report are inflated. Perhaps Mr. Niles will identify the Tweeter.”

TPI – THC – 06/03/14: "Again, it's too bad that AECOM does not come clean and show how they calculated their estimates. Short of that we are just taking their word for it."

TPI – THC – 06/02/17: “Taken from that perspective, and if you believe TEA/AECOM, little has changed since 2016. And (for the record) I believe the Magic Kingdom stats are inflated.”

TPI – THC – 7/16/20: “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.”

TPI – THC - 2/25/21: “Someone is cutting a check to the AECOM soothsayers so they can roll some Dungeons and Dragons dice and CLAIM they know the score related to a year that's part Salvador Dali and part William Blatty novel? ‘Oh God, help us all.’ -- Emma Stone”

TPI – Russell Meyer - 2/25/21: “I don't think that's what TH is saying - probably more along the lines of this report being nothing more than an annual pat on the back to industry leaders and publicity stunt to gin up more business in the following year. That's absolutely what the report is, and anyone that sees it as anything other than a marketing tool is fooling themselves.”

And those were all years when the Disney parks came out on top.

October 16, 2022 at 11:40 AM

And yet the skepticism was only brought up this particular time (halfway through the thread) when there were no other arguments to make - the last gasp.
The tides are turning.

October 16, 2022 at 12:12 PM

Disney and Universal are market leaders and their competition helps each other and the industry. Universal is still growing in a way that Disney can’t. So until Universal reaches market maturity on par with Disney, these conversations will be largely moot. Universal will continue to grow and take “market share” from Disney. But market share is the wrong metric here, as Universal’s growth has brought huge growth to the industry as a whole, and Disney has benefited as well. Universal would be nothing without the Goliath of Disney to aim for, and Disney would be stagnating without a serious competitor. Having said all this, my home market in Southern California is not truly competitive as far as experience goes. Universal is a must-do single day tourist destination, but it is not on par with Disneyland the way the UOR increasingly is with WDW (and will be more-so with the addition of a 3rd main gate). I always feel slightly let-down after visiting UH. It is small, doesn’t have a full-day’s worth of rides or attractions, lacks a single full-sized coaster (Mummy doesn’t count, and is disappointing compared to its Orlando sibling), and lacks place-making. The feeling that you are walking around on top of a giant parking structure is hard to shake. The studio tour is cool, but feels outdated, and there are better and less expensive ways to experience the film industry in LA, including great tours at WB, Paramount, and Sony. Disneyland Park, on the other hand, has more than you could possibly see in a day, and is a better one-stop-shop for Disney E-ticket rides than any other single Disney park I could think of. When people talk of Universal vs Disney it makes me a bit crazy, because who cares? It’s like Mac vs PC from the ‘90s. Can we get on with it already? Disney is just very expensive now. Does that impact attendance? If it didn’t, the price increases wouldn’t be doing their job. Believe me, Disney could try (*gasp*) LOWERING their prices, and their parks could be overcrowded in a heartbeat. Finally, I have done my fair share of arguing with TH in these forums, but when a thread starts with TH basically saying “congrats to Universal” and the response is a series of arguments as if he didn’t say that, it just turns everyone off.

October 16, 2022 at 12:24 PM

Couldn't agree more about USH and DL.

October 16, 2022 at 3:08 PM

Jonah Sirota, just because you don’t have the stomach for a lively Disney vs. Universal debate doesn’t mean I or anyone else has to stay silent. BTW, read the entire thread and see where the debate truly begins and why. And also note that TH doesn’t end up on the side where he started, so there’s that too.

October 16, 2022 at 2:01 PM

Poor Disney, losing all those triple counted guests to Universal. Who will be left to enjoy the door busting classics like Small World and Peter Pan!

October 16, 2022 at 2:30 PM

I like a lively debate, but I like for people to be comparing apples to apples. Your comments such as "Disney is leaving $$$ on the table and Universal is snatching it up. The tides are turning. The writing is on the wall. And UEU is right around the corner," show a bias towards the narrative that Universal is overtaking Disney, a narrative that comes up frequently on these forums. I heard TH saying, basically, "this data is not hard and fast, but if it holds, will represent a significant shift," which is a more nuanced view.

I am not upset to imagine a world in which Universal parks are more successful than Disney, but I just don't see the evidence for it at the moment. I also shared my experience of how I still felt that the Disney parks experience in So Cal is the premium product, and worth the price (or at least justified in the price differential). But that doesn't make me a Disney fan-boy. I want them all to succeed. I wish that the Disney parks weren't so over-crowded that Disney could keep raising the prices at will. Then again, perhaps these attendance figures show that they may have pushed a bit too far. Or perhaps, as some are suggesting, they are exactly where they intend to be (which is to preference wealthier guests and try to increase per-capita spending over attendance figures). It's not pretty, but that doesn't mean it's not good business.

October 16, 2022 at 2:32 PM

LOL, the evidence is in the report! Helloooooo?

October 16, 2022 at 2:46 PM

Perhaps you think comments like that are part of a lively debate. I read them as disrespect.

October 16, 2022 at 3:20 PM

Bruise like a peach do ya? Or is it that you can’t defend your statement?
The evidence is in the report!

October 16, 2022 at 4:23 PM

"Bruise like a peach." How pathetic. Nothing sadder than a keyboard warrior-- you're a grown man, act like it. You sound like Trump.

October 16, 2022 at 5:50 PM

And so chimes in the biggest hypocrite on TPI. thecolonel, weren’t you the one who commented, “See you next Tuesday” to a fellow TPI commenter last month? “How pathetic. Nothing sadder than a keyboard warrior-- you're a grown man, act like it.” LOL!

October 16, 2022 at 5:15 PM

Of course there is a lot of bias in this TEA/AECOM reports. The industry needs every good news they can get, specially after covid and other calamities such as the recent hurricane. And considering the market Share they pay dues to Disney ( with the number one park in each coast ) and universal ( the biggest growt in the year ). How ever we can see the tendencies. Disney is focusing into being the PRIME destination for FAMILIES. ( also the biggest nostalgia trip around ) And also the focus on increasing SPENDING PER CAPITA. And scaring away lower income families in the process ( despite how loyal they are to the brand ) which does tarnish the brand a little, but not fast enough that they must change gears in the overall business model, Universal is positioning themselves as the hot tendy ticket in town, attracting young People and couples with older Kids, with newer rides and a upcoming New Park, and keeping prices a bit lower than Disney ( most of the time ). They are NOT competing for the same market exactly, but taking bits out of each other when posible is desireble. I do belive that younger ( and smaller ) families with older Kids are traveling more than bigger families, because prices in gas, plane tickets, etc. That benefits Universal attendance numbers over disney- thats a fact- . But i dont think Disney Cares that much. There is not such a thing as " poor Disney ".

October 16, 2022 at 6:46 PM

Haha, how does telling someone you'll see them later make you a keyboard warrior?

Keith, I think you need to get up from the computer and touch grass.

October 17, 2022 at 8:51 AM

Google the term “See you next Tuesday” as this is what thecolonel commented to THCreative on September 27th of this year.
You’ve been exposed.

October 16, 2022 at 9:34 PM

To get off the name-calling, I do like the point made that when folks talk Disney vs Universal, it's always Orlando when California seems to be more Disney advantage. My mom visited USH with grandsons and talked of how it is a letdown compared to Florida while Disneyland is top tier. And of course the international parks as we can all agree Disney is better in Tokyo than Universal and elsewhere.

For this, sure, some bias and some of it a bit dated but it's still meant to show some shifts in things and I also agree it's best for Disney to have a serious competitor to try and spark things rather than just dominate.

Me? I'm a Disney fan, always have been but I love Universal too so I don't see it as "either/or" but just enjoying both companies work when they do things right so don't need to make this into a raging fight.

October 17, 2022 at 7:48 AM

Delighted for Universal I used to be a Disney fan but it lost its way.

October 17, 2022 at 9:17 AM

So, in a nutshell, some posters here believe that the report is absolutely accurate and that the Universal Orlando is trending toward having greater annual attendance than Disney. Other posters regard the report as an industry generated estimate that may not be accurate.

Speaking for myself, I'll close my participation in this discussion by repeating the first thing I offered up: "Nice press for Universal Orlando. Well done!"

October 17, 2022 at 10:05 AM

We just returned from a week in Central Florida, and I can say with pretty good confidence that none of the parks we visited (BGT, EPCOT, Volcano Bay, IOA, USF, and Discovery Cove) are struggling to attract guests. Mid-October has been a typical time for us to visit over that last 20 years for various reasons, and crowd levels during this visit were pretty comparable to what they were the last time we visited during this time frame (2017).

The one observation I made continuously during our trip that I found interesting was the willingness of guests to pay extra to avoid lines and make touring the parks easier. I have never seen so many VIP Tours at Universal before this past week. They were everywhere, and the number of guests using Universal Express (either by staying at Deluxe hotels or buying it separately) was huge to the point where the UE lines often overflowed their queues. In previous trips, UE typically meant no longer than a 5 minute wait, even if standby lines were over an hour, but we were waiting sometime 20+ minutes for attractions through the UE line. Similarly at EPCOT, I was pretty surprised by the number of guests paying for Genie+ despite the limited value (we didn’t buy it). EPCOT is a bit of a special case right now because of the spine construction, but the park was about as crowded as I’ve EVER seen it (including summer weekends) with near shoulder to shoulder crowds around choke points.

Couple all this with all of the price increases, and you would think the parks could do more to limit overcrowding instead of packing more people in and asking them to spend more for time saving up charge products that have limited use and value.

As far as the report itself, I’ve always taken it with a grain of salt, but can say that going solely by the crowd levels we experienced this past week, the Universal parks were about as crowded as EPCOT was for us. Does that mean UO will catch and/or surpass WDW in overall attendance anytime soon, I don’t think so. However, I think as the UO parks mature and add a 3rd park (or 4th if you buy their marketing) to their lineup, they we be on more level footing than at any time in the resort’s history.

October 17, 2022 at 1:17 PM

Being local, and going to the parks 3-4 times a week, I cannot see how Universal is anywhere close to taking over Disney. The last 2 weeks have been somewhat skewed due to the fall break being observed in some northern states.
The weeks before that gave a much better indication of Disney having more in their parks than Universal ever had. MK was consistently the busiest, with DHS a close second. IOA & USF were comparable to Epcot and DAK. Relatively light crowds. When Velocicoaster is 20mins, it's time to ride and indicates a less than busy park. The past 2 weeks saw VC averaging 40-60mins.

To be honest, I don't want Universal to be as busy as Disney. I like my walks and opportunities to get on my favorite rides. These days at Disney I don't get that luxury. Guardians is the only one I ride, and that's because of the virtual queue.

Take it from a park going local, Universal has still a lot of catching up to do to overtake Disney for attendance.

October 17, 2022 at 6:31 PM

Thus proving the savvy theme park consumer is clamoring for paid line-skipping access and resort parking. So little wonder Disney jumped on the bandwagon.

October 18, 2022 at 9:32 AM

I wouldn't call these moves from the "savvy theme park consumer", because this really feels more like a function of "revenge travel" and the more financially capable guests flexing their muscle to differentiate their experience from those who don't have the same financial means.

Disney was already tapping this market with their after hours parties and insider tours (not so much VIP since those are really for the uber rich), but they seem to be trying to create this middle class of exclusivity with Genie+ and ILL which IMHO really doesn't provide that much of an advantage and is a service that looks and feels like its free predecessor (FP/FP+), but is a significant downgrade. Disney is trying to straddle the fence without annoying their long time fans, but I truly believe that they are failing miserably.

October 18, 2022 at 3:31 PM

Oh no rusell. I must disagree. I think Disney IS trying to annoy long time fans ( the ones that know the system in and out ) and I truly belive that they are succeding admirably

October 19, 2022 at 9:10 AM

@Pablo - I don't think they're deliberately trying to annoy long time fans, but I do think that the operations team is constantly frustrated with guests finding loopholes in their systems. Genie+ is the most level playing field Disney has come up with offering very little flexibility within the system for guests to exploit. I would also expect that if the DDP ever relaunches, it will similarly have much tighter controls and significantly reduced value over its predecessor.

I do wonder what the end game is here. Obviously Disney wants to try to normalize the experience for all guests, which is clearly going to upset long-time fans that have grown accustomed to being able to experience every major attraction in a single park in one day. However, the more casual, once in a lifetime guest will get to experience more than they did before. I think that's the ultimate goal here, along with optimizing revenue.

October 19, 2022 at 3:11 PM

WDW News Today (Please note the use of the word "both".) "While the TEA Index is widely referenced within the industry, it should be noted that neither Disney Parks nor Universal Parks & Resorts release attendance numbers to any outside party, so these numbers are based on estimations and other methodologies. Internal sources at both Disney & Universal have indicated to WDWNT.com in the past that these numbers can be off by anywhere from thousands to millions of guests."

October 19, 2022 at 3:19 PM

Absolutely TH, and I would guess the inaccuracy was even greater during a period where parks were running limited operations. FWIW, that same source (WDW News Today) has reported that the Play Pavilion has been cancelled.

October 19, 2022 at 6:59 PM

The trend is real and the tides are turning. Hey TH, maybe you can get some legitimate info from the National Inquirer next time. WDWNT…it’s no wonder you’re citing this internet fan page, they’re about as unbiased as you.


Oh, and the reimagining of EPCOT is an embarrassment. Good luck next time.

October 19, 2022 at 5:41 PM

@RM - Yeah ... PLAY! is done.

October 19, 2022 at 6:16 PM

@ Mr. Keith ... So you're saying Disney and Universal have a history of confirming the conclusions of the TEA/AECOM reports?

October 19, 2022 at 7:05 PM

The assumptions are real (by TH) but are not true (typical).

October 19, 2022 at 9:59 PM

Rusell. I do fully agree that optimizing revenue IS the end goal. I maybe was wrong in saying that they were traying to upset long time fans. More Likely they Just dont care about them any more. But on to point maybe a better leveling field méthod would be first come first serve. No FOTL gimmick to buy or exploit. ( with park reservations ) And i would wager that old fans are a LOT more frustated than Disney operations

October 20, 2022 at 9:52 AM

the TEA reports are estimates ... but disney and universal have an incentive to discredit their legitimacy, and whispering in the ear of a large website is a great way to do that. the more information they can keep private, the better.

October 20, 2022 at 10:12 AM

@Pablo - Yes, I think that's Disney's current M/O. They understand that long-time fans will come no matter what and that the company doesn't need to do much to earn their repeat business. Also, Disney has learned that those type of guests are causing a lot of problems that spin bad publicity they're trying to avoid (4-hour long lines for Figment popcorn buckets, eBay resellers, MDE savants sniping reservations, and APs overcrowding parks). Instead, Disney is shifting its focus (both marketing and operations) to make visiting easier for first-time guests, which in turn decreases the value of knowledge and experience in improving guest experiences on subsequent visits. They are also shifting resources to cater more to big spenders and once-in-a-lifetime guests looking to make their first and only visit to the parks as special and unique as possible. Disney is embracing the YOLO mentality, but IMHO they've done so by devaluing and diminishing the regular park visit. With increasing prices, crowds, and reliance on Genie/Genie+/ILL, guests are also spending more time in the parks - gone are the days of going back to your resort's pool midday to relax, because if you do that, all ILL and Genie+ LL reservations will be gone by the time you return to the park.

As I've noted before, I don't think these changes will effect Disney in the short term, but I do think at some point they will start feeling the impact 5-10 years down the line when guests who used to visit every year or 2 are only visiting every 5-8 years (or not at all) - FWIW, we were every-other year type visitors, but we last made a multi-day visit to WDW in 2020 (we spent a single day in EPCOT last week and spent 3 days at WDW as part of the Starcruiser media voyage in February which included visits to MK and DHS), and we don't plan to make another multi-day visit until 2025 driven primarily by the opening of Epic Universe.

While there is a seemingly limitless supply of guests wanting to take their first trip to WDW, getting those guests to come back is what will ultimately drive the resort's growth and to justify further expansion. If guests are not coming back, WDW has no incentive to grow, improve, and mature.

October 20, 2022 at 11:33 AM

Yes sir. Rusell. in this I fully agree. We had, on previous discussions, pointed out about this impact on the Disney brand and the diservice to loyal fans. And wow are you rigth on track about Disney having little or none interest in improving quality of products or costumer service. Which saddens me because Disnay is considered the gold standard. Its true, change is always in the horizon. Too bad it seems to go in that particular dirección. I HATE to be that kind of fan....but if nobody says anything...things will continue to become even worse. Glad not to be the only voice in the desert.

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