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Global Theme Index shows mixed attendance trends for theme parks

Global Theme Index shows mixed attendance trends for theme parks
June 3, 2017

The newly released 2016 TEA/AECOM Theme Index and Museum Index, an annual study of attendance at top theme parks, water parks and museums around the world, shows mixed results for calendar year 2016.

While attendance at the world’s top 25 theme parks dipped by 1.1%, the world’s top 10 theme park operators saw a 4.3% increase at their properties, from 420 million to 438 million visitors.

The report also shows attendance at the top 20 waterparks worldwide grew by 3.6%, and attendance at the world’s top 20 museums increased by 1.2%.

Introducing the findings, John Robinett, AECOM Senior Vice President, Economics, explained “following record setting numbers in 2015, attendance results in 2016 were more modest but still reflective of a healthy, growing industry.

“The major theme park operators continued their positive performance, and most markets saw slow, steady growth, while weather, tourism and political issues contributed to minor declines in others.”

The attendance study, now in its 11th year, reveals an evolving theme park industry with many new ventures and developing markets, offset by well-established operators who continue to refine and improve ways of doing business.

The report suggests the slight overall decline in attendance at the top 25 theme parks was driven largely by anomalies in Asia. In some areas, revenues grew even where attendance did not - notably at Disney parks in North America

Globally, waterparks continued their strong growth trend (attendance increases of 3.6% at the top 20), with existing parks doing well and new parks being built.

The top 20 museums hit a new high in 2016 with 108 million attendees, exceeding the previous record by over one million guests. The modest growth (1.2%) is generally attributed to a dearth of blockbuster exhibition openings in 2016.

Among operators, Walt Disney topped the Theme Park Groups Worldwide top ten list with 140 million visitors, with its Shanghai Disneyland ranked 21st in the Top 25 World Amusement/Theme Parks Worldwide, after opening in June last year.

Merlin Entertainments ranked second, with 61 million attendances (a rise of 1.2%) while Universal Parks and Resort ranked third with 47.3 million attendances (a rise of 6.6%).

Among Asian-based operators, OCT Parks China, known for theme parks such as Happy Valley and Window of the World, was fourth, with more than 32.2 million visits in 2016.

Fantawild, which manages 23 theme parks across China, was ranked fifth, with an attendance of 31.6 million last year.

Chimelong Group, operator of China’s largest amusement park Chimelong Paradise, was seventh in the annual list and they also topped the attendance list of Top 20 Water Parks Worldwide.

Among Australian attractions, Wet’n’Wild Gold Coast ranked as the world's 14th (and Asia’s fifth) most visited waterpark with 1,242,000 visits in 2016, a rise of 3.5%.

Key figures from the 2016 TEA/AECOM Theme Index and Museum Index:

• 438 million visits to attractions run by the top 10 global theme park groups, up 4.3%
• 233 million visits to the top 25 amusement/theme parks worldwide, down 1.1%
• 148 million visits to the top 20 amusement/theme parks in North America, up 1.2%
• 127 million visits to the top 20 amusement/theme parks in Asia-Pacific, down 2.8%
• 108 million visits to the top 20 museums worldwide, up 1.2%
• 75 million visits to the top 20 museums in Europe, Middle East and Africa, up 0.9%
• 60 million visits to the top 20 amusement/theme parks in Europe, Middle East and Africa, down 1.1%
• 59 million visits to the top 20 museums in Asia-Pacific, up 3.1%
• 58 million visits to the top 20 museums in North America, up 1.8%
• 30 million visits to the top 20 water parks worldwide, up 3.6%

The attendance study, now in its 11th year, is created and distributed by the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) and the economics practice at AECOM.

TEA International Board President David Willrich of DJ Willrich Ltd added “the TEA/AECOM Theme Index and Museum Index is a vital resource, providing our industry with a solid body of relevant research and expertise for more than a decade.

“In addition to benefiting the attractions industry, the Theme Index is a boon to tourism, travel, finance, business and education sectors. We’re proud of our partnership with AECOM and our joint efforts to document and understand worldwide attendance trends.”

The TEA (Themed Entertainment Association) is an international nonprofit membership association representing some 10,000 creative specialists, from architects to designers, technical specialists to master planners, scenic fabricators to artists, and builders to feasibility analysts, working in some 1,300 firms in 40 different countries.

AECOM (formerly known as AECOM Technology Corporation) is an American multinational engineering firm that provides design, consulting, construction, and management services to a wide range of clients.

Click here to access the 2016 TEA/AECOM Theme Index and Museum Index along with prior editions (dating to 2006) or go to www.aecom.com/themeindex

Image: Merlin Entertainments' Madame Tussauds Sydney (middle) and Wet’n’Wild Gold Coast (below).

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