The world’s most popular theme parks revealed
TEA/ERA Attraction Attendance 2007, distributed by Park World, includes breakdowns of the most popular amusement parks and waterparks in North America, Europe, Mexico/Latin America, Asia/Pacific Rim and also the world’s Top 10 theme park/attraction chains.
“Overall, 2007 was what we call a ‘steady as she goes’ year for theme parks and waterparks, with healthy, modest growth across most sectors and geographies,” says John Robinett, senior vice-president of ERA (Economics Research Associates), which compiled the data.
Disney’s Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida, was again the world’s most visited park in 2007, attracting just over 17 million guests, and 10 other Disney parks appear in the Top 25. Other leading parks – all attracting five million visitors or more – include Universal Studios in Orlando and Japan; Everland. South Korea; SeaWorld Orlando; Islands of Adventure, Orlando; and Pleasure Beach, Blackpool, England. A total of 187.6 million guests visited the Top 25 parks alone.
“Theme parks are a specialised business and both operators and investors need reliable information in order to make good decisions,” says Nick Farmer, president of the TEA (Themed Entertainment Association), which produced the report together with ERA. “The publication of these statistics benefits us all in our continual efforts to improve the guest experience.”
Major theme park chains showed an overall increase of 3.8% in 2007, “primarily driven by acquisitions by Merlin Entertainments, Parques Reunidos, Herschend Family Entertainment plus growth in most of Disney’s and Universal’s theme parks,” notes Christian Aaen of ERA’s Los Angeles office. While nearly all of the Top 20 US parks are owned by chains, the activities of Merlin and Parques Reunidos, both backed by private equity, have lead to further consolidation in Europe.
North American amusement parks demonstrated fairly strong attendance growth at more than 2.5%. “The standouts were Disney – which had a particularly strong showing in its Orlando parks – and Universal Studios, also doing well in Orlando,” notes John Robinett, senior vice-president of ERA. Several parks in Southern California, coming off strong previous years, were either flat or slightly down. Lowered gate prices at various venues in the Cedar Fair chain contributed to modest attendance increases.
Latin American parks exhibited modest, steady growth at around 2.1% overall. La Ciudad de los Niños (Kidzania) and Parque Plaza Sésamo exhibited good growth in Mexico City and Monterrey.
Parks in Europe did well, with more than 3% growth in attendance and four parks showing double digit increases. “The 15th anniversary of Disneyland Paris saw strong attendance growth as a result of strong marketing and strategic investment,” according to David Camp of ERA’s London office.
Poor weather, particularly at key holiday periods, is blamed for the downturn at several other venues. Pleasure Beach, Blackpool, and Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen, both recorded drops but held on to their respective number two and number three positions.
In its second year of operation, Hong Kong Disneyland experienced a dramatic slump, down more than 20%. Lotte World, in Seoul, South Korea, was closed for six months for improvements and renovations, which cut attendance by more than half. Excluding Lotte World, the Asian numbers become more favourable, with Everland in Kyonggi-Do, South Korea, making the global Top 10.
In Hong Kong, the home-grown Ocean Park reclaimed its title as the region’s most popular park, recording a 12.3% attendance leap (to 4.92 million), in stark contrast to Disney’s fall. Happy Valley in Shenzhen, the leading park in Mainland China, had a strong year and was up 10%.
In Japan, Disney’s two parks, Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea, continue to thrive with total combined attendance of more than an estimated 26 million. At Universal Studios Japan, in Osaka, attendance was up 2.5% to 8.71 million.
Waterparks are growing dynamically, with four double-digit increases in the US. However, “Asia is catching up very quickly,” adds Aaen, “particularly led by Korea and Japan with major indoor/outdoor waterparks part of resort destinations.”
Caribbean Bay in Korea and Wet ‘n’ Wild on the Gold Coast in Australia were two of only five waterparks worldwide to attract in excess of 1 million guests last year.
TEA/ERA Attraction Attendance is a definitive reference work relied upon by journalists and professionals in the attractions and tourism community. The 2007 report can be downloaded here and will also be published in the May 2008 issue of Park World.