The 2015 TEA/AECOM annual attendance report was released on Wednesday, May 25th, 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 2015 (as well as percentage change versus 2014)
1 MAGIC KINGDOM 20,492,000 (+6.0% from 19,332,000 in 2014)
2 DISNEYLAND 18,278,000 (+9.0% from 16,769,000 in 2014)
3 EPCOT 11,798,000 (+3.0% from 11,454,000 in 2014)
4 DISNEY'S ANIMAL KINGDOM 10,922,000 (+5.0% from 10,402,000 in 2014)
5 DISNEY'S HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS 10,828,000 (+5.0% from 10,312,000 in 2014)
6 UNIVERSAL STUDIOS 9,585,000 (+16.0% from 8,263,000 in 2014)
7 DISNEY'S CALIFORNIA ADVENTURE 9,383,000 (+7.0% from 8,769,000 in 2014)
8 ISLANDS OF ADVENTURE 8,792,000 (+8.0% from 8,141,000 in 2014)
9 UNIVERSAL STUDIOS HOLLYWOOD 7,097,000 (+ 4.0% from 6,824,000 in 2014)
10 SEAWORLD FLORIDA 4,777,000 (+2.0% from 4,683,000 in 2014)
11 BUSCH GARDENS TAMPA BAY 4,252,000 (+ 3.0% from 4,128,000 in 2014)
12 KNOTT'S BERRY FARM 3,867,000 (+5.0% from 3,683,000 in 2014)
13 CANADA'S WONDERLAND 3,617,000 (+ 2.0% from 3,546,000 in 2014)
14 SEAWORLD CALIFORNIA 3,528,000 (-7.0% from 3,794,000 in 2014)
15 CEDAR POINT 3,507,000 (+8.0% from 3,247,000 in 2014)
16 KINGS ISLAND 3,335,000 (+3.0% from 3,238,000 in 2014)
17 HERSHEY PARK 3,276,000 (+2.0% from 3,212,000 in 2014)
18 SIX FLAGS MAGIC MOUNTAIN 3,104,000 (+9.0% from 2,848,000 in 2014)
19 SIX FLAGS GREAT ADVENTURE 3,052,000 (+9.0% from 2,800,000 in 2014)
20 BUSCH GARDENS WILLIAMSBURG 2,780,000 (+3.0% from 2,699,000 in 2014)
Now, let’s take a deep dive into some of these figures and uncover some interesting trends….
1. Disney's Hollywood Studios outpaces Epcot in terms of growth
We've been talking about the decline of Disney's Hollywood Studios since 2014 (when the first rash of major closures hit this park) but it looks like attendance, at least in 2015 wasn't affected. In fact, even though Disney's Hollywood Studios is still Walt Disney World's least-attended park, it continues to grow at a healthy pace, improving 5% year over year, tying the growth of Disney's Animal Kingdom and actually outpacing Epcot, which only grew an anemic 3% year over year (more on that in a moment).
However, though this is good news for 2015, we wouldn't expect this trend to continue for much longer. Disney's Hollywood Studios got two big boosts last year from the farewell editions of Star Wars Weekends as well as the Osbourne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights (the latter of which reportedly drew more guests in its final year than it ever has in its 20-year history). Without these special events propping this park up in 2016, we can't imagine that this upward trend will continue.
2. Disneyland's 60th anniversary brings big gains
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the biggest Disney parks gainers this year were Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, which shot up 9% and 7% year over year, respectively. This is likely due to the fact that both parks have been celebrating the 60th anniversary of Disneyland, which kicked off last May and will continue to run through September 2016. This celebration has brought new fireworks, special entertainment, and the Paint the Night parade to Disneyland, and a special 60th anniversary edition of World of Color to Disney California Adventure, which has drawn guests in droves to these two parks to experience everything that is related to this limited-time celebration.