Most theme parks are secretive about attendance, including Disney and Universal parks, but every year the Themed Entertainment Association releases estimates based on the previous year's attendance.
The TEA released its annual report Wednesday, which is used throughout the industry as a standard, according to News 6 theme park expert Ken Pilcher.
If you're wondering how park hopper guests are counted, Pilcher explains that a guest's attendance counts only at the park where they start the day. For example: If I go to Animal Kingdom, and then Epcot, Animal Kingdom is the one that counts my attendance for that trip.
Below, Pilcher breaks down some big takeaways from the report for Orlando-area theme parks and attendance worldwide:
Most notable: For the first time ever, half a billion people visited major theme and amusement parks worldwide. With more than 7.5 billion people in the world, that's one in 20 people who went to an entertainment park last year.
Disney comes in No.1
More than 157 million went to Disney parks worldwide last year, according to the TEA report. Disney World's Magic Kingdom in Florida was the No. 1 attended park in the U.S. and worldwide.
Merlin, the company that owns of LEGOLAND Florida, Madame Tussauds and SeaLife, is No. 2 in the world with 67 million visitors. Something to note: Disney is more than twice as big as the No. 2 player.
Universal came in third with 50 million guests and SeaWorld was ranked ninth with 22.5 million visitors.
It was a big year for SeaWorld, though, which saw attendance growth after years of Blackfish blow back.
By the numbers
Magic Kingdom remains No. 1 in the world and nation in attendance with 20.8 million guests in 2018. It's been No. 1 pretty much forever, although occasionally Tokyo Disneyland has moved to the top spot.
To put it in perspective: Magic Kingdom drew 7 million more people than Disney's No. 2 park in Florida, and Magic Kingdom doubles the attendance of Universal Studios Florida.
Pandora continues to be a huge draw for Animal Kingdom, up 10% last year, which is much more of a draw than Toy Story Land when you consider that Hollywood Studios is up 5%.
For the second year in a row, Disney's 4th Florida gate, Animal Kingdom, is No. 2 among all Florida parks. Traditionally, that was Epcot, which is one reason Disney is now throwing so much money into new attractions there.
2018 was a milestone year for theme parks
Attendance at themed attractions at the major operators has exceeded half a billion visits for
the first time in history. This is equivalent to almost 7% of the world population. And not only that,
but this number keeps growing. Just five years ago, the market capture of the industry was only
5% of the global population.
SeaWorld parks had been moving down TEA charts for several years but 2018 attendance numbers show a nice comeback with room for more regrowth.
The 2018 SeaWorld Parks attendance figures recoup the previous year’s decline and surpass it, helped by significant increases at SeaWorld Orlando and SeaWorld San Diego as well as a modest increase at Busch Gardens Tampa.
Other parks saw attendance growth due to new attractions
- PANDORA: The World of Avatar continued to be a strong attendance driver in 2018 and grew more than 10.5% from 2017.
- Toy Story Land opened at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in June 2018 and was another traffic driver. Attendance was up by 5%.
- Universal Studios parks in North America earned modest attendance increases in 2018, with the biggest growth at Volcano Bay, Universal’s new water theme park, open since May 2017 and recipient of a TEA Thea Award in 2019. Attendance at the water park was up by 15.5%.
By the numbers: Top theme park groups/companies worldwide for 2018
Top 10 amusement/theme parks worldwide
Top 20 amusement / theme parks in North America
Top 10 water parks nationwide