New Park Attendance Numbers Around the Globe! What Do They Mean?
You see it all the time, headlines that say attendance is down at Walt Disney World or Universal’s Epic Universe is going to take away all the business from Disney. Well, is it? We have a strong sense of how parks are faring after the pandemic, now that TEA (Themed Entertainment Association) and AECOM (Architecture, Engineering ,Construction, Operations and Management) has released its Global Attraction Attendance Report for 2022. From this we can begin to read the TEA leaves (get it?) as to how these parks are faring. There are a number of surprises, not just among parks in Florida, but in California and internationally. Plus we look at astonishing numbers for water parks–especially at Disney. Join us as we examine the theme index report of 2022 to see how theme parks are really faring, and where they are going to in 2023 and ahead in 2024.
Note: TEA & AECOM offered the numbers both internationally and domestically ranked based on their 2019 ranking. I’ve gone ahead and simply made a 2022 ranking as the other can be confusing. Both are listed below. We should also note that while this report is highly reputable in the industry, they don’t always get their numbers first hand.
How I Read the TEA Leaves
Number one now and probably forever is Magic Kingdom. Disney may not be able to keep all four parks above all its competitors, but adding to the capacity at Magic Kingdom will assure that its flagship park is way ahead of everyone else. It is still nearly 7 million above its Universal competitors.
Despite disappointment by the most loyal Disney fans there wasn’t more, and while shy by 3 million compared to 2019, many were attracted to the 50th anniversary of the park.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios holds strongest of the WDW parks after MK, but weak compared to Islands of Adventure which premiered a big VelociCoaster ride and a fairly new Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure in 2019.
The fact that Epcot’s numbers are the way they are is caught between two new attractions, Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind (late May 2022) and Ratatouille (October 1st, 2021) and still unending construction. Even Universal Studios Florida did better than Epcot or even Tokyo Disney Sea, despite no real new attractions. That said, the numbers at USF are soft compared to four years ago.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom plummet from nearly 14 million to barely over 9 million suggests why new attractions are needed immediately for that park. Rumors around Moana and Zootopia replacing Dinoland continue to surface.
Elsewhere in Florida Sea World and Busch Gardens though not making the top 25 International lists, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment are considered a major park contributor after Disney, Universal, Cedar Fair and Six Flags. Domestically, Busch was number 12 with 4 million and SeaWorld Orlando was 4.5 million.
The million dollar question is whether Universal’s Epic Universe will raise up attendance at its two earlier sister parks, or will rob attendance from those parks. Key to Universal’s success is the number of people who buy a one day, two park ticket. Will they go with a one day, three park ticket or a two day, three park ticket? Will they be able to add numbers quickly upward when guests from the Orlando Convention Center converge during the last couple hours of the day for an evening event.
Disneyland has still fared well being in second place worldwide. And like Magic Kingdom, it is millions way (nearly 5 million separation) from the #3 listing. But Disney California Adventure was softer than four years ago even though they opened a new Avenger Campus. Adding a new Avatar land will boost numbers up no matter where it lands in either park (probably Disneyland). And then there is their future expansion.
Universal Studios Hollywood was less than four years ago, but it should be buoyed up significantly this year by Super Nintendo which opened earlier this year.
Also out in California, SeaWorld San Diego did 3.5 million with Knott’s Berry Farm doing 3.9 million. The former is comparable to four years ago, but Knott’s is much softer and could use a new family attraction.
Universal Studios Japan did slightly better with its new Super Nintendo experience than Tokyo Disneyland. But Tokyo Disneyland has been investing in new attractions such as the Enchanted Tale of Beauty and the Beast.
The challenge with Tokyo Disney Sea is that the back half of the park is under major construction with Fantasy Springs. That may have softened their attendance. The great news is that the back half of the park is under major construction with Fantasy Springs.
The challenge with Tokyo is in order to create a better experience for guests they plan to cap their peak attendance which was 33 million combined in 2019 to 75% of that number by 2025.
Shanghai Disney’s numbers have plummeted by 38% being slow to come out of the pandemic. Chimelong Ocean Kingdom, also in China, plummeted by 41%. 2022 was the worst year for Chinese attractions. The saving grace for Shanghai is Zootopia coming soon.
Hong Kong has also suffered this last year from a prolonged pandemic. But it’s attendance is more than twice than Ocean Park in Hong Kong, which used to rival HKDL in its attendance. Moreover, its saving grace is the opening of its Frozen land before the end of this year.
Hong Kong Disneyland’s penetration rate at the resident market is nearly 50% They sell record amounts of annual passes. The tourism market, however, is still uncertain.
The problem is Frozen and Zootopia are not coming fast enough to save attendance numbers for this year.
Disneyland Paris had its biggest year on record, perhaps helped by the park’s 30th anniversary, a new Avengers Campus and Marvel-themed hotel. Record attendance was also found at Walt Disney Studios Paris, but only by about 100,000 more than what was found in 2019. It should have been better helped by Avengers Campus.
Disappointing is apparently this summer with Disneyland Paris, where Cast Members know that to take advantage of a strike you have to hit hard during the busiest part of the season–summer. It will probably be buoyed up next year by the Olympics coming to Paris.
Water Parks in Florida
Weather has largely supported the water park business in Florida. But there are still storms.
Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon led the pack in water parks with 2,248,000 people in 2019. That number shrank to 1.9 million in 2022.
Blizzard Beach led a close second in 2019 with nearly 2 million while Universal’s Volcano Bay was close behind with 1.8 million. Volcano Bay’s number is nearly the same in 2022. But Blizzard was closed most of the year and had only 101,000 guests! Part of the closure was due to construction on the slides in the back half of the park. But still, that is a frightening drop.
Still, SeaWorld’s Aquatica saw roughly the same numbers of 1.5 million in both 2019 and 2022.
The way Universal and SeaWorld packages those water park options are what helps keep them steady. Still, this is Disney’s biggest drop since other than each taking turns in the Fall and late Winter with 2-3 months of closure, they were both open year around!
Could the cruise line be stealing customers away from Disney water parks as a preferred vacation away from your vacation solution?
While you have low overhead costs running a water park compared to a theme park, its difficult to get the per cap benefits like you do in the theme parks.
No matter the reason, it’s time for Disney to reinvent its water parks. They are important to the long-term of the resort.
Summary & Souvenirs for Your Organization
- According to Francisco Refuerzo, Senior Analyst of AECOM Economics, In 2022, leisure, recreation and attraction operators became laser-focused on improving the guest experience, learning that they were able to achieve or surpass pre-pandemic revenues with reduced attendance level. Are you laser focused on your customers?
- Loyal customers to Disney is more important than ever. How important are they to you? What are you doing to keep them?
- It isn’t enough to do another ride–the total customer experience matters. Genie+, Strikes, lack of customer service can impact negatively what you do.
- Your customer’s tastes are becoming more sophisticated. Is your efforts to please those tastes more sophisticated? If not, change that.
At Performance Journeys we work with organizations like yours to get at the heart of what it takes to create a great guest experience.
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The 72-year-old, internationally-respected Disney historian who has authored thousands of articles and dozens of books about all things Disney. He has also been a guest on several Disney Insight Podcasts. Moreover, he’s been a friend for years. Jim is now struggling with a series of major medical issues and is in need of financial help to pay his bills. We invite you to help!
There are three ways you can support Jim with any or all of the following:
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