Disney tops 2022 attendance, with Universal Orlando making gains

June 13, 2023, 9:59 PM · Disney continued to top the list of the world's most visited theme parks in 2022, but Universal Orlando made historic gains last year, according to a leading industry report.

The 2022 TEA/AECOM Theme Index Report is out, and once again, Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom tops the list as the world's most-visited theme park, attracting a reported 17.13 million visitors in 2022. That's a 35% increase over the previous year's attendance, though still down from 2019's 20.96 million.

Disneyland, in Anaheim, Calif., again finished second in attendance, with a reported 16.88 million visitors in 2022, according to TEA/AECOM. That's nearly double of what Disney's original park drew in 2021, when it was closed for several months, then capacity controlled by the state. And it's nearly back to 2019's 18.67 million visitors, showing that Disney's ongoing advance reservation system isn't limiting capacity as much as redistributing it.

The TEA/AECOM Report (linked here) continues to list parks in their 2019 attendance order, so parks that might have ranked among the top 25 worldwide or top 20 in their region last year but did not rank that highly in 2019 are not included in the report. But it's easy enough to look at TEA/AECOM's reported numbers for 2022 to see the attendance order among the included theme parks.

And that's where you will find the shocker. One of the Universal Orlando Resort's theme parks has outdrawn three of Walt Disney World’s theme parks, according to TEA/AECOM. Universal Orlando's Islands of Adventure drew the third highest number of visitors in America, and fifth worldwide, with a reported 11.03 million guests. Universal Studios Florida attracted a reported 10.75 million visitors, good for fifth place in the United States, trailing Disney's Hollywood Studios, with a reported 10.9 million visitors in fourth.

EPCOT followed with a reported 10 million visitors, with Disney's Animal Kingdom drawing 9.03 million. That barely outdrew Disney California Adventure's 9 million visitors and Universal Studios Hollywood's reported 8.4 million.

Worldwide, Universal Studios Japan attracted a reported 12.35 million visitors in 2022, beating Tokyo Disneyland, which drew a reported 12 million visitors last year, and Tokyo DisneySea's 10.1 million, according to the report.

While U.S. and Japanese theme parks approached their 2019 attendance levels, many theme parks in China saw their 2022 attendance drop from 2021 levels. Shanghai Disneyland led in Asia, with a reported 5.3 million visitors, down 38% from 2021. Hong Kong Disneyland drew a reported 3.4 million last year, up 21% from 2021, while Universal Studios Singapore welcomed 2.1 million visitors, up big from 2021, but still down significantly from 2019's 4.5 million.

In the United States, the major drop-off from the Disney and Universal parks to the rest of the pack continued. SeaWorld Orlando was again the best of the rest for reported attendance, with 4.45 million visitors in 2022. Busch Gardens Tampa Bay followed with 4.05 million, with Knott's Berry Farm's 3.90 million after that.

Next up, Canada's Wonderland returned to action with a reported 3.77 million visitors in 2022, approaching its 3.95 million number from 2019.

The only U.S. theme parks to record losses in 2022 relative to the year prior, according to TEA/AECOM, were the three Six Flags parks included in the report: Six Flags Magic Mountain (down 2% to 2.99 million visitors), Six Flags Great Adventure (down 28%, to 2.15 million), and Six Flags Great America (down 5%, to 2.54 million).

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Replies (28)

June 14, 2023 at 1:19 AM

Wowie, a good recovery year for Orlando indeed. The Magic Kingdom continues to be the unbeatable beast.

A big ouch to Six Flags for their three flagship parks to actually lose visitors last year.

California is definitely a wild card in this equation. Even with a full year of operation for Avengers Campus, California Adventure still lags wildly behind Disneyland. Now that Nintendo is open, will Universal finally overtake that park in attendance?

Side note to TEA/AECOM: it's time to ditch the 2019 rankings. That kind of reporting will only misinform the readers with short attention spans.

June 14, 2023 at 3:53 AM

I would expect next years report for Orlando parks to show lower attendance. Both Disney and Universal are running some pretty good ticket deals this summers (Disney’s 4 Park ticket for $396, Universal’s Buy 2 days, get 3 free). Such good deals say to me projected attendance is down. I think that will continue as those who go every few years are waiting until Epic Universe opens, and with exception to IoA, that (and economy concerns) is going to hold attendance to pre-pandemic levels.

June 14, 2023 at 6:24 AM

@2bits ... you're right, attendance is down. I've been in the parks the past 3 days, and both Universal and WDW have been strangely quiet.
I'm not talking 15min FOP wait times, LOL, but certainly fewer people around at the moment. Although the volleyball tournament will bring a few more in over the next couple of weeks.

Good times for us locals, that's for sure.

June 14, 2023 at 8:13 AM

Interesting results. I am actually surprised and not surprised that EPCOT fell a few spots. That used to be reliable number 2 at WDW. I guess the construction kept it away. I hope Disney doesn't get the wrong idea and think that "nobody likes Epcot anymore".

June 14, 2023 at 8:58 AM

It really makes you wonder why parks were feeling so crowded in 2022 yet the data indicate attendance was still well short of 2019 levels. Personally, we did multi-day trips in both 2019/20 and 2022, and the parks seemed to be more crowded on our most recent visits (February 2022 and October 2022) than they were in our pre-pandemic visits (August 2019 and January 2020). The biggest change has been the way the parks are managing crowds (Genie+, ILL, Park Pass, etc...), and it seems pretty clear to me that Disney in particular has sacrificed efficiency and guest comfort for profits.

It would be interesting to see the SF attendance numbers compared against their financial results to see if their strategy to eliminate cut-rate admission prices has turned into improved profitability. If so, this might be a 1-time hit to their overall attendance numbers, but if this decrease didn't significantly impact their margins, then they will have forged a new path that should improve their standing within the industry and overall economic stability. However, if this new strategy didn't result in better margins, then they will need to go back to price slashing to get their attendance back up to levels where they can balance the books. Considering that SF hasn't been spending a lot of capital on new attractions over the past few years, if the profits are there to support future expansion, the chain could be in big trouble.

June 14, 2023 at 9:39 AM

Back in April, at Disney's annual shareholders meeting, Robert Iger said "about 50 million visitors will go through our gates this year alone ..." That was the first time in a very long time that anyone from Disney made a specific reference to attendance numbers.

Add up the number of guests that visited Walt Disney World's six theme parks (Universal.com - "The One-of-a-Kind Thrills & Tropical Chills of Volcano Bay, Universal’s Third Theme Park") then Mr. Iger's projection seems on the money.

According to the estimates of the dice rolling AECOM/TEA soothsayers, Walt Disney World's parks welcomed 49,076,000. That outpaces UO's 23,625,000 -- a difference of 25,451,000 guests.

This means, according to the report, WDW welcomed more than twice as many guests in 2022 as UO.

And the TEA/AECOM estimates don't include attendance at WDW's DSTP.

June 14, 2023 at 9:42 AM

WDW feels very crowded and under staffed. LL makes the wait times 30 mins longer. Not enough people eaters. One showtime for fireworks. Lots of upcharges that take away prime viewing for shows. 2 parks aren't running trams. Long lines for food. No where to sit. Tron is a pain to get on. Tron is "mid." No e-ticket attractions in the future.

June 14, 2023 at 9:45 AM

Something seems pretty weird about the Chinese estimates. I know Universal Beijing had a rough go during lockdowns, but I find it extraordinarily hard to believe that it failed to crack Asia's top 20 by getting at least 1.24 million. I live in Beijing, and Happy Valley, which is just down the road from US, allegedly got 3.7 million?? More than triple US Beijing?!

There is some data missing here.

June 14, 2023 at 10:05 AM

"According to the estimates of the dice rolling AECOM/TEA soothsayers, Walt Disney World's parks welcomed 49,076,000. That outpaces UO's 23,625,000 -- a difference of 25,451,000 guests.

This means, according to the report, WDW welcomed more than twice as many guests in 2022 as UO."

Those numbers seem pretty dead on, and makes complete sense given that WDW has twice as many parks as UO. FWIW, the estimates don't include visitors to CityWalk either, so this is about as apples to apples as it gets. We also don't get any indication whether the attendance numbers include after-hours events (MNSSHP, HHN, etc...), and how the return of those events in a more "regular" form in 2022 impacted the data.

The real question I have is how many of the "visits" are actually the same people entering each of the parks and/or visiting parks multiple times (multi-day visits and/or passholders). How many of the @49M visitors to WDW were unique compared to UO? How close are we to a true level playing field in terms of unique visits to the 2 different resorts, and how many of those unique visits chose just one of the 2 resorts over the other?

It's a real shame that the analysis in the report is completely lacking to see whether visiting habits are changing, and trends observed over the past year that could indicate future patterns. I feel that this report has declined significantly in quality over the past few years, and has pretty much turned into a cut and paste effort.

June 14, 2023 at 10:47 AM

@Russell oh I wish we could have hard data like that broken down with charts. My nerdy side would go crazy if we could have that! lol

I also agree that there's definitely date missing because like AJO said there is simply no way that US Beijing didn't beat Happy Valley in attendance. I can't believe US Japan beat out Tokyo Disneyland! I guess Japanese people really do like Nintendo..haha

June 14, 2023 at 12:11 PM

the massive drop at animal kingdom is interesting (2022 compared to 2019 attendance). I wonder if galaxy's edge pushed more guests to choose Hollywood studios at the expense of Epcot, animal kingdom or both.

June 14, 2023 at 12:21 PM

All those additions to Epcot and they went down 2 million since 2019. Harmonious has to be one of biggest theme park flops of all time.

June 14, 2023 at 12:29 PM

@Francis 24 - I believe US Japan outdrew Tokyo Disneyland because the Tokyo parks had more days during 2022 where they were forced to close and/or limit capacity where Osaka was not under the same rigorous restrictions.

I think the way these data are acquired (i.e. lots of spit-balling and empirical observations versus actual turnstile counts) prevents AECOM from performing actual analyses on the data, hence the appeal on the last section of the report for operators to provide real data to use for the report. Disney, Universal, and most of the large theme park companies almost certainly have those data, but don't want competitors to see it, but AECOM's inability to perform any sort of analysis to bridge those gaps, these data are pretty meaningless, particularly when they keep the parks in their 2019 order. If AECOM actually did the analysis, even if it's off the mark, it would likely encourage some more transparency from the parks in order to set the record straight, and ultimately would help to better understand the industry and its trends.

June 14, 2023 at 1:05 PM

>>This means, according to the report, WDW welcomed more than twice as many guests in 2022 as UO.

But as it had twice as many parks, that's what we'd expect to see.

June 14, 2023 at 3:29 PM

I hadn't realized Osaka re-opened sooner then Tokyo. That would definitely explain it then. I love Universal but there's simply no way that it would have bigger attendance the Tokyo Disneyland!

As for Orlando its really no surprise Disney is so much bigger then Universal was anyone actually surprised by that? I can't wait to see the numbers once Epic Universe has been open a full year. I think it might have a shot at 3rd place after Magic Kingdom and Disneyland.

June 14, 2023 at 4:36 PM

Russell: "We also don't get any indication whether the attendance numbers include after-hours events (MNSSHP, HHN, etc...)"

Me: Far be it from me to defend the methods of TEA/AECOM ("Show your math!") but considering that those events require shortened regular operating hours in the parks I am not persuaded that the dice-rollers' calculations would be much different.

Russell: "... the estimates don't include visitors to CityWalk either ..."

Me: Dude, you the same guy who wondered if "...the "visits" are actually the same people entering each of the parks and/or visiting parks multiple times". I don't imagine credit could be given to CityWalk if someone buys a pair of cheap (well, "theme park cheap") sunglasses in CityWalk as they move toward their primary targets of either IOA or USF. DSTP is a VERY POPULAR stand alone (with free parking) that draws healthy crowds on its own -- without the assistance of two amazing theme parks located at the opposite end of its entrance.

Chad H: "But as it (WDW) had twice as many parks (UO), that's what we'd expect to see."

Me: Yeah. Russell offered the same perspective. But if you're gonna embrace that type of math then you have to assume all parks mark the same average. If that is the case (and if you believe WDW has the inherent advantage) then please tell the brigade of UO fanboys that Epic will not push Universal past Disney in total number of guest beginning in 2025/2026.

Aaron McMahon: "Harmonious has to be one of biggest theme park flops of all time."

Me: 'Harmonious' was meant to do what every close-of-night EPCOT extravaganza was meant to do. Continue food and beverage and souvenir sales. It was not meant to bring people to the parks. It was meant to sustain attendance until closing. I suspect EPCOT stalled because ... well it always has. According to TEA/AECOM EPCOT averaged 11.7 million per year between 2012 and 2019. I suspect it will bounce back in 2023/2024 when Future World revamp is finished. Not necessarily by another two million, but better than it is right now. Keep in mind EPCOT's new Future World thing will be the most substantial addition to an existing theme park in 2024. None of the other Disney or Universal parks will be pimping anything new and improved. And for those of you who are skeptical about whether or not the new Future World will be popular, let me introduce you to the brainiacs who stood in line for two hours to get a Figment popcorn bucket. There's a TPI regular who used to refer to these folks as "Disney drones".

June 14, 2023 at 4:49 PM

And here's a fun parlor game we can play: What would be a successful 2026 opening for Universal's Epic Universe. I am suggesting 2026 because if it opens in the summer of 2025 it will only have a half-year. So, the best TEA/AECOM data would be published in May-ish/June-is 2027.

Assuming I am still alive to celebrate my foresight, I would suggest success would be 12 million with no drops in attendance from the 2022 estimates at USF, IOA or Volcano Bay. That for me would be success.

June 14, 2023 at 5:14 PM

I do often wonder why companies don't report theme park attendance numbers in their financial reports in the same way companies might report subscribers to streaming services (Netflix, Disney+, etc). But similar to streaming platforms (and Wall Street) realizing that more subscribers don't equal more profitability, I can see why they choose to avoid reporting attendance. Wall Street or the company may then (naively) want parks to optimize for quarter-over-quarter attendance growth, even when the main metric should be the bottom line. If a park can generate more revenue with lower attendance, I don't see why attendance should be a large concern.

Now per capita spend on the other hand...

June 14, 2023 at 9:09 PM

"Keep in mind EPCOT's new Future World thing will be the most substantial addition to an existing theme park in 2024."

Tiana's Bayou Adventure? Though given that they keep saying that will be a late 2024 addition, I don't think anyone would be surprised if it slides into 2025. And then there's the Kidzone revamp at Universal Studios Florida. Along with whatever refresh in entertainment that park is planning.

June 15, 2023 at 7:06 AM

James Trexen: "And then there's the Kidzone revamp at Universal Studios Florida."

Me: What has Universal announced will be replacing KidsZone in 2024?

June 15, 2023 at 8:32 AM


Just because we don’t know what it is yet doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.

June 15, 2023 at 9:56 AM

I'm actually pretty disappointed in the kid zone re-vamp. Was hoping for a complete new land on Epic's level. The fact that they haven't demolished the Nuthouse coaster confirms that this will most likely be a let down. Good for the kids I'm sure and I'm still hopeful but my expectations are very low for this.

June 15, 2023 at 10:16 AM

@ J.Trexen: Is that really the best ya got?

June 15, 2023 at 1:48 PM

It’s the best anyone’s got. I don’t see the issue here? I would think someone who works in Orlando construction would be happy that Universal is keeping that industry employed.

June 17, 2023 at 7:27 AM

@ Trex: I would think that someone who works in the Orlando construction industry pursues genuine opportunities rather than pinning their hopes on unannounced, imaginary projects that may not ever break ground.

June 17, 2023 at 10:17 AM

Except it has broken ground and has gone vertical, so I don’t know why you keep trying to gaslight me into thinking nothing’s going on at Kidzone.

June 19, 2023 at 11:24 AM

Exactly what major attraction has broken ground and gone vertical in the former KidsZone area?

June 19, 2023 at 8:52 PM

I'm not going to keep arguing this TH. You're choosing an odd hill to die on. If you don't want to acknowledge the ongoing work at KidZone and the positive impact it could have for families visiting the park, then I guess that's your prerogative.

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