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TEA and AECOM release 2011 Theme Index: the

Global Attractions Attendance Report

Update : 23:56 Published by François Mayné the 1 June 2012, Feature.
The Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) and AECOM have released the TEA/AECOM 2011 Theme Index: Global Attractions Attendance Report, a annual study of attendance at major theme parks, amusement parks and water parks worldwide.

Available free of charge, this document is a reference within the attractions industry and among professionals and media who consider it as the most reliable way to establish global industry trends. The figures used in the report are indeed directly collected from the operators / owners of the parks themselves or through financial reports, investment banking, professional organizations or local tourism offices. These figures are then reviewed and compiled by geographical areas and by types of parks in order to establish rankings of attendance levels with, for each, a top 10, 20 or 25.

The report points to both the economic recovery of the sector and the increasing globalization of the themed entertainment industry. The total attendance for top 25 worldwide theme parks was up 4.8% to 198.1 million visitors compared to 2010. Surpassing for the first time the 100 million visitors, Asia now represents 1/3 of the global attractions market and gradually approaches the North American market that it could soon exceed. Despite the recession, theme parks in Europe have managed to maintain their profitability and attendance levels while some parks in the United States have reached record levels thanks to audacious investments.

The first eight places of the world ranking are occupied by Disney parks (in order Magic Kingdom, Disneyland, Tokyo Disneyland, Tokyo DisneySea, Parc Disneyland, Epcot, Disney's Animal Kingdom and Disney's Hollywood Studios) followed by Universal Studios Japan and Islands of Adventure. This ranking contains a total of 12 parks in North America, 8 parks in Asia and 5 parks in Europe.

In the 20 years since TEA was founded, the international attractions industry which it serves has had its ups and downs - but overall it has grown and our members have grown with it," says TEA president Rick Rothschild. "The landscape is more international; attractions and audiences are more diverse; and a new generation of creative storytellers and technical specialists is emerging alongside the veterans. The TEA/AECOM Global Attractions Attendance Report is one of the critical resources our association provides to help the industry thrive - an annual snapshot to mark important trends, to facilitate networking and the exchange of information, to celebrate excellence and to foster business."

More than 335 million visitors for the major attractions operators

With the market growing globally, the major attractions operators have of course managed to work out well by welcoming about 336.56 million visitors (for the top 10), up 4,6% compared to 2010, which is mainly due to new acquisitions, expansion plans and capital investments.

It is still and always Walt Disney Parks & Resorts which dominates the world rankings with a combined attendance of 121.4 million visitors (+0.7%) followed by Merlin Entertainments with 46.4 million (+13.2%), Universal Studios Recreation Group with 30.8 million (+13.7%), Parques Reunidos with 26.2 million (+5.4%) and Six Flags with 24.3 million (stable). Then follow Seaworld Parks & Entertainment, Cedar Fair, OCT China Parks, Herschend Entertainment (the only operator with a decline in attendance) and finally Compagnie des Alpes which remains in the tenth place this year with 9.21 million visitors (+2.4 %).


In the U.S., the bold investments have led to dramatic growth. The top 20 amusement parks have welcomed nearly 127 million visitors, up 2.9% (3.6 million) compared to 2010. The analysis reveals that Islands of Adventure and its new themed area The Wizarding World of Harry Potter has resulted itself a 1.3% increase in attendance in the country - nearly half - in attracting 1.725 million more tourists (+29%) compared to the previous season. On the west coast, SeaWorld San Diego has also found success with a two digits increase of attendance (+13%) thanks to its new show and the Turtle Reef themed area.

Apart from these two outstanding examples, the other major theme parks in North America (which are concentrated in Florida and California) have signed slight increases (from 1 to 3%) with however a significant +3.8% for Six Flags Magic Mountain. The only decrease in this ranking is reported to Busch Gardens Williamsburg that has lost 2% of visitors while Epcot (Florida) and SeaWorld San Antonio (Texas) remained stable.

John Robinett, Senior Vice President - Economics for AECOM states : "A pair of outstanding performers - Universal Orlando and SeaWorld San Diego - are a lesson to all operators on how to apply reinvestment to beat the business cycle. It takes guts to invest in the teeth of a recession, and it's these bold management moves that have led to the success of our leaders this year. As full economic recovery in North America and Europe is going to take a while, operators should take this to heart and apply their imaginations."

The South American market has for its part had a much more modest growth with 0.7% to 13.4 million visitors for the 10 major theme parks. Leading the pack are Parque El Mundo Aventura and Salitre Magico in Colombia while Playcenter and Hopi Hari in Brazil had a decrease in attendance of respectively 20.6% and 6.7%.


With a 9.4% increase in attendance to 105.1 million visitors for the top 20 theme parks, the Asian market is now the most dynamic in the world. Many operators in this region have made substantial investments in 2011, which led to an excellent response from the public. The major theme parks of the region have realized two digits growth in attendance such as Ocean Park Hong Kong (+36%), Hong Kong Disneyland (+13%), Lotte World in South Korea (+37%), Nagashima Spa Land in Japan (+ 30%), Dinosaur Park Changzhou in China (+52%) or Universal Studios Singapore that signs the largest increase of the year with a jump of 70%!

These are once again the Japanese and Korean theme parks which get the top spots, led by Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea that are however affected by a net decrease in the number of visitors (3.2 and 5.8% respectively) due to the consequences of the earthquake of March 2011.

Chris Yoshii, Global Director, AECOM Asia explains “The Asia market loves shows and live entertainment and there is a growing market for high end shows and show elements, multimedia spectaculars, night shows, lake shows that are well choreographed, with Cirque du Soleil type acrobatics... Southeast Asia is quietly growing a substantial attractions industry - particularly waterparks which require a smaller footprintand capital investment... In Asia overall, we are still a good way from the saturation point." John Robinett adds "With 105.1 million, Asia represents about one-third of global theme park attendance. The gap will close substantially when Shanghai Disney opens - and we already know of several other major Asian theme parks planned or under construction. By adding 5-10 more theme parks, Asia will probably catch up to North America and then surpass it."


Despite the challenging economic environment, the European market held up well and signed an increase of 2.8% of overall attendance levels of the 20 major theme parks to 57.8 million visitors. Trends are more volatile for large parks (which generally depend more of foreign tourists) than for smaller regional parks that receive an influx of local visitors who travel now less far and for a shorter period.

In 2011, the majority of the 10 largest theme parks in Europe welcomed more visitors than the previous year including Disneyland Park in France (+4.7%), Efteling in The Netherlands (+3.7%), Tivoli Gardens in Denmark (+7.2%) and especially PortAventura in Spain which had a spectacular 15.5% attendance increase, thanks to the opening of Sesamo Aventura themed area.

David Camp, Vice President – AECOM Europe/Africa/Middle East explains “People are becoming ever more budget-conscious but are still taking short breaks and days out... Special celebrations, targeted capital reinvestment, package deals, holiday events and hotel nights are all part of the strategy. The majority of the top 20 parks in Europe have hotel accommodation now and these hotels are busy with guests who often visit the park on two days for each overnight stay. It's become an important business driver."

He adds “While we are seeing discounting at some parks, other operators are looking at offering added value; upcharging rather than discounting. There are not many big theme parks in Europe and the view of most operators is that they provide a quality, fun day out. They have continued to invest in enhancing their products and people have continued to visit without the need to offer big discounts. However, we haven’t seen admission prices rise a great deal during the recession. Halloween has been getting bigger and bigger; it’s a very busy period at a lot of parks now. Christmas opening is popular at many parks too. These events provide guests with a different experience to the normal park operation and serve to drive repeat visits .”

The European ranking is led by Parc Disneyland (10.99 million visitors) followed by Parc Walt Disney Studios (4.71 million, +4.7%), Europa-Park (4.5 million, +5.9% ) Efteling (4,125 million) and Tivoli Gardens (3.963 million). Then follow PortAventura (Spain), Liseberg (Sweden), Gardaland (Italy), Alton Towers (UK) and LEGOLAND Windsor (UK). A clear sign that the economic situation is not yet standardized is that some parks showed decrease in attendance such as Alton Towers in UK (-5.5%), Phantasialand in Germany (-5.4%), Futuroscope (-4.6%) and Parc Asterix (-4.1%) in France, LEGOLAND Billund (-3%) in Denmark or Mirabilandia (-1.6%) in Italy.


The worldwide success of the waterparks industry did not stop in 2011 with a 12.9% growth in attendance of the 20 major waterparks to 24.6 million visitors. This increase was driven primarily by the Asian market where the top 10 waterparks hosted 22.3% more visitors compared to 2010!

The ranking is led by two Disney properties in Orlando (Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach) followed by Chimelong Waterpark in China and Ocean Park Water Adventure in Indonesia which had an incredible increase of 147,1% with 1.73 million visitors.

The TEA/AECOM Theme Index 2011: Global Attractions Attendance Report is available online on www.teaconnect.org

* Some theme parks still practice the system of "pay per ride" (buying a ticket for a specific ride or a group of rides) and considers their attendance figures as the number of tickets sold, which is the case with the Tivoli Gardens in Denmark for example.
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