WORLDWIDE TOP 50: Parks persist in the face of calamity
By Juliana Koranteng
The year might have been dogged by natural disasters and terrorism, but that did not stop the world's top 50 theme and amusement parks from reporting mostly positive gains in attendance in 2005.
The continuing Gulf war, earthquakes in Pakistan, Indonesia and Iran, the devastating tsunami in Thailand, the destructive Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and terrorist attacks in the United Kingdom were not enough to discourage park visits.
Worldwide, the top 50 amusement parks in 2005 saw aggregate attendance increase 2.2% to 253,081,000, or 5.5 million visits over the 2004 adjusted total of 247,490,000, according to Amusement Business/Economics Research Associates.
The regional ruler of the roost was North America, where attendance at its top 50 parks increased 4.1% to 175,970,00. Of the 28 North American parks that made it into the worldwide top 50, 19 reported attendance growth and two remained flat.
Walt Disney Co. parks continued to reign supreme. The company commanded the No. 1 spot with 16.2 million guests at the Magic Kingdom in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., up from 15.2 million the year before. Disney claimed the top eight spots.
Analysts attributed Disney's increases in the U.S. parks to the marketing push behind the 50th "Happiest Celebration on Earth" anniversary in 2005. Additionally, new rides and attractions such as Stitch's Great Escape at Magic Kingdom, the Buzz Lightyear AstroBlasters at Disneyland and the opened movie ride Soarin' at Epcot were a bonus.
Another U.S. success was Paramount Canada's Wonderland at No. 26, which saw a 7% jump in visitor numbers to almost 3.7 million. The boost, during its 25th anniversary, was attributed partly to a new roller coaster based on the movie "The Italian Job."
On the down side, Florida-based Universal Studios (No. 12 globally) and Islands of Adventure (No. 15) each saw visitor numbers slip 8.5% to 6.2 million and 5.8 million, respectively.
Disney also led the rankings parade in Europe. Disneyland Paris in France, No. 5 on the global chart, saw attendance remain the same at 10.2 million. Sister second-gate park Walt Disney Studios Park, launched in 2002, appears to still be struggling. At No. 48 last year, it fell out of the top 50 global chart in 2005.
Despite an uneven economy, the region's leading 10 parks saw visitor numbers grow slightly to 42.2 million from 41.2 million in 2004.
Germany's biggest park, Europa-Park, celebrated its 30th anniversary and jumped to No. 24 with 3.95 million visitors, up from No. 28 (with 3.3 million) the year before.
According to Europa-Park, a record 3.5 million people attended the summer period alone, benefiting from the growing trend of short-destination vacations in Germany. In addition, every fourth visitor stayed overnight at its hotels and camp; every fifth guest visited several times; and 80% were repeat visitors.
Blackpool Pleasure Beach, the U.K.'s biggest park by attendance and Europe's second-largest, reported a drop in attendance to 6 million from 6.2 million.
Managing director Amanda Thompson said that Blackpool is competing in a highly aggressive leisure sector. "We're pleased to have reached the 6 million mark again this year," she told AB. "Like retailers, we're chasing after customers with not as much disposable income. These days, there are so many art galleries and there is Sunday shopping and football. Everybody is doing a lot more to get hold of the people's pound."
Efteling, the Netherland's top park, rose to 3.3 million from 3.2 million. Henk Groenen, communications director, noted that the economy must be improving as the park saw corporate events held there grow in 2005.
Hurt by natural disasters in the region and Japan's deflationary economy, total attendance at parks in Asia-Pacific was lackluster.
Visiting guests at the leading 10 Asian-Pacific parks slowed to 65 million in 2005 from 71 million the year before, with the 8.5% fall illustrated through most of the parks. Attendance at the world's third-most-popular park, Japan's Tokyo Disneyland, slid to 13 million from 13.2 million. Tokyo Disney Sea saw a dip to 12 million from 12.2 million.
Universal Studios Japan was severely hit, reporting a 19% plunge to 8 million. And Japan's Huis Ten Bosch, No. 37 worldwide in 2004, fell off the top 50 radar with a disappointing 2 million guests, though it has emerged with a plan to return to profitability.
The Aicho Expo was also a factor in drawing visitors away from Japanese parks.
There is a sign of growth in mainland China and nearby Hong Kong, where Disneyland Hong Kong opened in September. Also, Hong Kong's Ocean Park defied the slowdown trend with more than 4 million visitors, up from 3.8 million in 2004. Moreover, two mainland parks in Shenzhen, Happy Valley and Window of the World, were newcomers in the global top 50 by bringing in 2.6 million and 2.4 million, respectively.
LATIN/SOUTH/ CENTRAL AMERICA
The only Latin American parks to enter the top 50 worldwide rankings was Six Flags Mexico with a 6% growth to 2.28 million visitors.
Other top 10 regional parks showing signs of healthy growth include Mexico's Plaza de Sesamo in Monterrey, up 18% to 960,000 guests, and Mexico City's La Ciudad de Los Ninos, which was up 0.4% to 810,000 visitors.
The Brazil market did not have a good year. Hopi Hari in Sao Paulo fell a massive 38.4% to 1.3 million visitors, and PlayCenter in the same city slowed 5.2%.
Source : Amusement Business