The 2014 TEA/AECOM annual attendance report was released yesterday, and tucked away in the facts and figures are some interesting trends worth paying attention to, especially for fans of Universal Orlando Resort and Walt Disney World.
A quick word on methodology: The statistics cited in the TEA/AECOM report are a combination of self-reported statistics from parks and publicly available financial reports. Though these numbers are great for looking at overall trends, they are no means exact, and are at best, rough estimates of overall attendance at theme parks.
For quick reference, here's TEA/AECOM's full list of the top 20 best-attended theme parks in North America in 2014 (as well as percentage change versus 2013)
1 MAGIC KINGDOM (19,332,000) +4.0%
2 DISNEYLAND (16,769,000) + 3.5%
3 EPCOT (11,454,000) + 2.0%
4 DISNEY'S ANIMAL KINGDOM (10,402,000) +2.0%
5 DISNEY'S HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS (10,312,000) +2.0%
6 DISNEY'S CA ADVENTURE (8,769,000) +3.0%
7 ISLANDS OF ADVENTURE (8,141,000) +0.0%
8 UNIVERSAL STUDIOS FL (8,263,000) +17.0%
9 UNIVERSAL STUDIOS HOLLYWOOD (6,824,000) +11.0%
10 SEAWORLD FL (4,683,000) -8.0%
11 SEAWORLD CA (3,794,000) -12%
12 BUSCH GARDENS TAMPA BAY (4,128,000) +1.0%
13 KNOTT'S BERRY FARM (3,683,000) 0.0%
14 CANADA'S WONDERLAND (3,546,000) -1.0%
15 CEDAR POINT ( 3,247,000) -4.0%
16 KINGS ISLAND (3,238,000) +1.0%
17 HERSHEY PARK (3,212,000) +1.0%
18 SIX FLAGS MAGIC MOUNTAIN (2,848,000) -2.0%
19 SIX FLAGS GREAT ADVENTURE (2,800,000) 0.0%
20 BUSCH GARDENS WILLIAMSBURG (2,699,000) -1.0%
Now, let’s take a deep dive into some of these figures and uncover some interesting trends….
1. Diagon Alley propels Universal Studios Florida to massive growth (again), but Islands of Adventure stays flat
In 2013, Universal Studios Florida took the crown for most growth year over year, jumping 14% from 2012, thanks to its new Transformers ride and expanded Simpsons area. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Universal Studios Florida led the growth game again in 2014, soaring 17% over last year’s already boosted number, thanks to the opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Diagon Alley.
However, in an interesting twist, 2014's TEA/AECOM report shows that Islands of Adventure actually experienced no growth in 2014 and was completely flat with 2013's attendance figures. Though Islands of Adventure technically didn’t have any new attractions open in 2014, the Hogwarts Express ride that opened as part of the Diagon Alley expansion requires park to park tickets to experience, which should (in theory) have boosted Islands of Adventure. However, it looks like the Hogwarts Express attraction simply stopped Islands of Adventure from declining, instead of spurring growth, which seems like a bit of a disappointing development.
Unfortunately, next year's attendance report may have more bad news in store for Universal Orlando Resort, which will not be opening any new attractions in 2015 for the first time since 2011. Unfortunately this means we will probably see the end of explosive growth at Universal Studios Florida, and could possibly even see some declines at Islands of Adventure in 2015's report.
However, though we're not expecting Universal's growth streak to continue next year, all is not lost as 2016 will bring Skull Island: Reign of Kong to Islands of Adventure, which should hopefully get growth jump-started again at Universal Orlando Resort.