I’m not sure about the rest of you, but 2016 was just a bad year all around for many. It was a year that marred a top tourist destination with tragedy, after tragedy. How did the year effect travel to the world’s theme parks? Today, the annual Themed Entertainment Association, along with AECOM has released their list of the top theme parks by attendance for 2016. The report reflects the past year against the year before, and reflects the nature of growth in the industry. The report tracks every single park worldwide, and also includes museums and Family Entertainment Centers. It’s the most reliable and comprehensive report in the industry.
So how did theme parks fair in 2016?
Many North American theme parks were down in 2016, due to many factors. Central Florida theme parks took small hits, which is no surprise. What is surprising is that almost every single Disney park in the world had small attendance slips. While many of the parks lost less than 1%, it’s a clear sign that Disney can no longer ride on the nostalgia factor alone. Meanwhile, Universal all Universal theme parks (with the exception of Singapore) had a spot in the top 25. Also, every single Universal park saw pretty good increases. Universal opened several new attractions last year, which made for huge gains.
The biggest success is Universal Studios Hollywood, which opened The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in April. From that point, the park saw a massive increase of almost a million people for a 13% increase over 2015.
Meanwhile, SeaWorld Orlando took huge hits. The chain announced big changes in the Orca breeding and presentation of their signature whales, which contributed to a decrease of almost 8%.
Top Ten U.S.
The effect of travel to Centeal Florida can be seen in the top ten of the United States. With the exception of the Universal parks, all of the Orlando parks were down. Parks around the rest of the country were up overall by almost 2 million. People are still visiting theme parks in huge numbers.
On the waterparks side, there is much of the same story. Asian parks seem to be thriving, while Disney is dipping.
The saddest part of the top list for waterparks shows that Wer n Wild Orlando was still a huge draw as a tourist destination. The park closed in December, and still managed to pull in over a million visitors.
Aquatica, Typhoon Lagoon, and Blizzard Beach all have declined in attendance, but they also haven’t added new attractions in several years. It will be very interesting to see how Volcano Bay factors into things next year.
The biggest takeaway from this year’s report is that the Asian market continues to grow exponentially. Disney is starting to see a slowdown, which means they really need to pump the new attractions out on a more frequent basis. With attractions like Pandora this year, and Star Wars down the pike, we will most likely see the Mouse hold on tightly to the crown, though Universal is continuing to gain ground.
Meanwhile, SeaWorld continues to tread water. They really need to get the message clear, and figure out a happy medium between pleasing the fans and bringing back those they lost to activists.
Are you surprised by any of the results?