The 2017 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 2017 (as well as percentage change versus 2016)
1 MAGIC KINGDOM +0.3% to 20,450,000 from 20,395,000 in 2016
2 DISNEYLAND +2.0% to 18,300,000 from 17,943,000 in 2016
3 DISNEY'S ANIMAL KINGDOM +15.3% to 12,500,000 from 10,844,000 in 2016
4 EPCOT +4.2% to 12,200,000 from 11,712,000 in 2016
5 DISNEY'S HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS -0.5% to 10,722,000 from 10,776,000 in 2016
6 UNIVERSAL STUDIOS FLORIDA +2.0% to 10,198,000 from 9,998,000 in 2016
7 DISNEY'S CALIFORNIA ADVENTURE +3.0% to 9,574,000 from 9,295,000 in 2016
8 ISLANDS OF ADVENTURE +2.0% to 9,549,000 from 8,792,000 in 2016
9 UNIVERSAL STUDIOS HOLLYWOOD +12.0% to 9,056,000 from 8,086,000 in 2016
10 KNOTT'S BERRY FARM +0.5% to 4,034,000 from 4,014,000
Now, let’s take a deep dive into some of these figures and uncover some interesting trends….
1. Disney's Animal Kingdom becomes the second-most attended park at Walt Disney World
For what seems like forever, Walt Disney World has had a set #1 and #2 performer, with the Magic Kingdom and Epcot always taking the top two spots, respectively, and Disney's Hollywood Studios and Disney's Animal Kingdom switching between #3 and #4. However, it looks like the blockbuster opening of Pandora - The World of Avatar has really changed the game for Disney's Animal Kingdom, shooting attendance up a massive 15.3% over last year and catapulting this park right past Epcot to the #2 spot behind the Magic Kingdom.
This is even more impressive when you consider that Pandora - The World of Avatar was only open for 7 months in 2017, and in that time has already had such a massive impact on attenance. We expect this trend to continue in 2018, and we wouldn't be surprised if next year's report shows even more growth for this park, since it will include a full year of operations for this new land, which still continues to draw massive crowds.
2. Disney's Hollywood Studios continues to slip without attractions
We didn't expect big gains from Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2017, as this year saw the loss of yet another attraction with the closure of the Great Movie Ride. However, it looks like things were even bleaker than we originally thought, with this park actually posting a loss year over year when compared with 2016. However, 2018 will probably provide some reprieve as the June 30 opening of Toy Story Land will likely draw a modest amount of guests back to this park in 2018.