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Hagrid, Universal Islands

No one can deny that so far 2020 has been an unprecedented year for theme park attendance across the globe due to the COVID-19 closures. Although many of the large theme park operators across the US including Disney and Universal and indeed across the world have started to reopen their gates, with limited capacity and the remaining threat of COVID-19, attendance is still very low in comparison to the numbers we would usually expect. 

The 2019 TEA/AECOM annual attendance report was released this week. Although it may be hard to remember times before COVID-19, theme park attendance during 2019 wasn't affected by the current pandemic so should give a fair assessment of where the top theme parks were and will hopefully get back to over the coming years.

It is always a lengthy read but 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. 

Quick Comparison in changes from 2018 to 2019

Magic Kingdom castle, Disney
Image: Disney

In order for you to do a quick comparison yourself 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 

And, this is TEA/AECOM's full list of the top 10 best-attended theme parks in North America, just released in the 2019 report (as well as percentage change versus 2018)

  1. 1 MAGIC KINGDOM  Up 0.5% to 20,963,000 from 20,859,000
  2. 2 DISNEYLAND PARK Up 0.0% to 18,666,000 from 18,666,000
  3. 3 DISNEY’S ANIMAL KINGDOM Up 1.0% to 13,888,000 from 13,750,000
  4. 4 EPCOT Up 0.0% to 12,444,000 from 12,444,000
  5. 5 DISNEY’S HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS Up 2.0% to 11,483,000 from 11,258,000
  6. 6 UNIVERSAL STUDIOS FLORIDA Up 2.0% to 10,922,000 from 10,708,000
  7. 7 UNIVERSAL’S ISLANDS OF ADVENTURE Up 6.0% to 10,375,000 from 9,788,000
  8. 8 DISNEY CALIFORNIA ADVENTURE Up 0.0% to 9,861,000 from 9,861,000
  9. 9 UNIVERSAL STUDIOS HOLLYWOOD Up 0.0% to 9,147,000 from 9,147,000
  10. 10 SEAWORLD ORLANDO, ORLANDO Up 1.0% to 4,640,000 from 4,640,000 

With a 4.0% attendance boost overall to the top 10 theme park groups worldwide, taking the total number of visitors to 521.2 million in 2019 the world's population continue to vote with their feet and say yes to theme parks.

Now, let’s take a deeper look into some of the figures in this extensive report and uncover some interesting trends….

Disney's Hollywood Studios gets a slight boost

Star Wars Galaxy's Edge
Image: Disney

Although Disney's Hollywood Studios still sits in last place in terms of attendance out of the top Walt Disney World parks, it has seen the biggest increase out of the four parks this year with a 2.0% rise. With the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge at the end of August, surely Disney were hoping for a larger boost than this. Having said that, it was the much anticipated Star Wars : Rise of the Resistance that adoring fans were waiting for and this didn't open until December 5, so unsurprisingly this hasn't had a massive impact on the 2019 numbers. 

Attendance stays rather static across Walt Disney World parks

Pandora, Disney
Image: Disney

Last years report saw a huge increase of 10.0% for Disney's Animal Kingdom park thanks to the continued success of Pandora - The World of Avatar which opened in 2017 and which had catapulted this park to the #2 spot behind Disney's Magic Kingdom. Disney's Animal Kingdom continues to hold this spot but only saw a 1.0% increase on attendance in 2019. 

Disney's Magic Kingdom's attendance increased slightly by 0.5% to 20,963,000 with Epcot remaining completely static. 

Disappointing 0% attendance growth for Disneyland Resort

Image: Disney

While Disneyland saw a 2.0% increase in 2018 and California Adventure had a 3.0% rise, 2019 has seen a 0% attendance growth for both parks. This for many may come as a rather large surprise, considering the much anticipated Star Wars Galaxy's Edge opened at Disneyland on May 31, 2019.

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