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Hogwarts Castle at night

Universal's theme parks saw a major boost in visitor numbers during 2010, helping to close the gap on industry leader Disney.

Attendance at Universal theme parks around the world rose by 11% from 2009's figures, to a total of 26.3 million visitors. Disney also saw a modest 1.3% rise in attendance at its parks, although it remains by far the industry's leading player with a massive total attendance of 120.6 million. Nearest rival Merlin Entertainments Group, which operates parks including the LEGOLAND chain, received 41 million visitors (up 6.5%).

Overall, the figures from the Themed Entertainment Association's annual attendance report paint a positive picture for the theme park market. Total attendance at the world's top 25 theme parks rose by 1.9%. In North America, attendance rose by 1.8%, while Asia saw a huge 7.3% increase, boosted by the opening of Universal Studios Singapore. Only Europe suffered, with a 1.8% decline in visitor numbers.

Universal Orlando's Islands of Adventure was the big winner in the US, with an attendance leap of 30.2% to 6.3 million visitors. The park's success can be entirely attributed to the opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which has proven to be a smash hit. By contrast, three of nearby Walt Disney World's four theme parks saw slight decreases in attendance in 2010.

In California, Universal Studios Hollywood saw a 26% increase in attendance to just over 5 million, boosted by the addition of King Kong 360 3-D to the park's famous Studio Tour attraction. At the Disneyland Resort, Disney California Adventure's attendance rose 3.0%, helped by the debut of the World of Color nighttime show.

Amidst the weak performance in Europe, Merlin's theme parks stood out, with attendance at Thorpe Park and Alton Towers in the UK rising by 3.4% and 3.8% respectively. The Disneyland Paris Resort continued to struggle, with attendance at both of its parks dropping by 2.6%.

The full set of attendance figures can be seen in the TEA attendance report.

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