The 2016 TEA/AECOM annual attendance report was released this week, 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 10 best-attended theme parks in North America in 2016 (as well as percentage change versus 2015)
1 MAGIC KINGDOM 20,395,000 (-0.5% from 20,492,000 in 2015)
2 DISNEYLAND 17,943,000 (-1.8% from 18,278,000 in 2015)
3 EPCOT 11,712,000 (-0.7% from 11,798,000 in 2015)
4 DISNEY'S ANIMAL KINGDOM 10,844,000 (-0.7% from 10,922,000 in 2015)
5 DISNEY'S HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS 10,776,000( -0.5% from 10,828,000 in 2015)
6 UNIVERSAL STUDIOS FLORIDA 9,998,000 (+4.3% from 9,585,000 in 2015)
7 ISLANDS OF ADVENTURE 9,362,000 (+6.5% from 8,792,000 in 2015)
8 DISNEY'S CALIFORNIA ADVENTURE 9,295,000 (-0.9om 9,383,000 in 2015)
9 UNIVERSAL STUDIOS HOLLYWOOD 8,086,000 (+ 13.9% from 7,097,000 in 2015)
10 SEAWORLD FLORIDA 4,402,000 (-7.9% from 4,777,000 in 2015)
Now, let’s take a deep dive into some of these figures and uncover some interesting trends….
1. 2016 was NOT a good year for Walt Disney World
Though we knew that Walt Disney World didn't exactly have a stellar 2016 (despite adding more than two dozen new attractions during this time period), it looks like things were worse than anticipated, with every single park reporting lower attendance last year. This is especially surprising from the Magic Kingdom, which has experienced solid growth for the past decade. And though things are looking like they are finally turning around in 2017, it looks like last year brought declines across the board to the most-visited theme parks in the world.
Particularly hard-hit was Disney's Animal Kingdom, which was still in a holding pattern in 2016 as Rivers of Light had been delayed and replaced with a temporary Jungle Book-inspired show. However, we're positive that this park will return to growth in 2017 with the addition of Pandora - The World of Avatar as well as Rivers of Light, which have thus far drawn huge crowds this summer.