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SeaWorld and Disney Parks Make Big Gains While Universal Slumps in New Attendance Report

The 2018 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 2018 (as well as percentage change versus 2017)

1 MAGIC KINGDOM  Up 2.0% to 20,859,000 from 20,450,000

2 DISNEYLAND PARK Up 2.0% to 18,666,000 from 18,300,000

3 DISNEY’S ANIMAL KINGDOM Up 10.0% to 13,750,000 from 12,500,000

4 EPCOT Up 2.0% to 12,444,000 from 12,200,000

5 DISNEY’S HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS Up 5.0% to 11,258,000 from 10,722,000

6 UNIVERSAL STUDIOS FLORIDA Up 5.0% to 10,708,000 from 10,198,000

7 DISNEY CALIFORNIA ADVENTURE Up 3.0% to 9,861,000 from 9,574,000

8 UNIVERSAL’S ISLANDS OF ADVENTURE Up 2.5% to 9,788,000 from 9,549,000

9 UNIVERSAL STUDIOS HOLLYWOOD Up 1.0% to 9,147,000 from 9,056,000

10 SEAWORLD ORLANDO, ORLANDO Up 16.0% to 4,594,000 from 3,962,000 

Now, let’s take a deep dive into some of these figures and uncover some interesting trends….

1. Disney's Animal Kingdom stil riding high on the success of Pandora: The World of Avatar 

Image: Disney

Back in 2017 the blockbuster opening of Pandora - The World of Avatar boosted Disney's Animal Kingdom a massive 15.3% over 2016 and catapulted this park right past Epcot to the #2 spot at Walt Disney World behind the Magic Kingdom. And it looks like this trend continued in 2018, with Disney's Animal Kingdom still holding the #2 spot in Orlando, growing an additional 10% year over year as guests continued to flood this popular land. 

2. Disney's Hollywood Studios gets a Toy Story Land boost

Image: Disney

It looks like 2018 was a bit of a bounce back year for Disney's Hollywood Studios, as the park posted a 5% gain last year (after a loss in 2017) likely in large part due to the opening of Toy Story Land last June. Though some have criticized the simplicity and poor upkeep of this land, it looks like this opening helped keep things moving in a positive direction for this park while we're waiting for the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge later this year. 

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