Tuesday 13 June 2017

2016 Annual Attendance Data Review

So it is that time of year when the Annual TEA/AECOM Theme Index, is released! This report gives us a deep insight into the global theme park market, by listing out the attendance data for the top 25 Theme Parks. As in previous years, I've pulled out the data, and had a detailed study of it, and made my own conclusions.

If I was to summarize this years results very quickly, Universal maintains rapid growth, however Disney maintains it's mammoth lead. Paris is tanking badly, as is the Hong Kong market, but all points success for Shanghai. Let's take a look at a few pretty graphs.

If we look at the overall attendance graph, we see that the general trend for this year is very flat, if not slightly lower attendance. It's hard to pick out much out of this, so let's look at Disney and Universal separately and then some winners and losers.

It's a very flat year for Disney Parks, with two obvious exceptions. Disneyland Paris is really starting to nosedive, and Shanghai Disneyland had a strong debut. We'll come back to Paris in a second, but you should notice that Shanghai is just a fraction under Hong Kong Disneyland. That is despite Shanghai not being open for the full year. It opened on June 16, which means that it was only open for 54.25% of the year.  It this was extrapolated to a full year result, they would have just topped 10 Million (I calculated 10,323,232) would have put the park straight in between DCA and Animal Kingdom on this graph. I predict that next year we will see them around the DCA mark, which is pretty phenomenal for a new park. Let's take a look at the competition:

Universal is all about growth. Steady growth across the board, is great news for this chain. Only Singapore had a slight loss, but we must remember it is very different to the other Universal Parks. By that, I mean, no Harry Potter. I have left Magic Kingdom on this chart, only to show that while these parks keep growing, there is a long way to go. USJ, one of our biggest Big Winners, still needs to grow by a THIRD of it's current size, to catch up to Magic Kingdom.

The Biggest winners are really the 4 Universal Parks, but it is definitely worth mentioning Lotte World and Chimelong Ocean Kingdom who had incredible years. While parts of Asia flourished, other parts fizzled:

Hong Kong was a big loser this year. It's two big parks both had major losses in 2016, but this isn't surprising. Hong Kong had a large tourism problem last year as it's currency is pegged to the US Dollar which was rising, while the Chinese economy slowed, which mean that Hong Kong was very unattractive to local Chinese tourists.  As for Sea World Florida and Disneyland Paris, these are parks with well documented image problems at the moment, that don't seem to be going away any time soon.

If we look the the overall Growth graph, we can see the main pattern is almost a direct reversal of 2015. Most of the parks that were up in 2015 were down in 2016 and vice versa. If we look just at Disney:

It's a very flat year. The little improvements of 2015 are very much flattened out.

Universal's growth is certainly more positive. While there is slowing growth at the Florida parks, there is still an improvement going on here. The hardest thing about looking at these graphs is that individual years can have a lot of variation, even due to things like the weather. So it pays to look at a more long term growth chart. So here is how Disney is growing over 5 year averages:

You can see most of the parks are averaging between 0 and 5 percent attendance growth, which I think is a good achievement! Until you compare it to Universal:

Universal (if you discount Singapore) only have one in that 0-5% range, while the 3 main Studio parks are all averaging around 5-12% growth, which is extraordinary!

But I don't want Universal to get to far ahead of itself:

This graph shows the average attendance per park at the multi-park resorts. For me this just illustrates how far Universal have to come to pass Disney. The Tokyo, WDW and Disneyland Resort all average around 14-15 Million guests per park, while Universal Orlando is just started to crest 10 Million. This is a lot more quests over a lot of parks, which just goes to show that while Universal is making up ground at the moment, there is no foreseeable reason why Disney shouldn't be the leading theme park operator for many years to come.


  1. Wow, just goes to show how important branding and image is, I'm sure the marketing peeps will be going crazy with this data and I wonder if anyone of the parks will try and take some big risks to step up?

    1. It's funny that Disney brand is so strong that they almost have to do nothing. But they aren't thankfully. It's funny though how image leads to money which leads to quality, which leads to more money. Once you break that threshold it's a fast climb!

    2. So true, great observation!