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Report: Disney witness increased attendance in 2009 despite downturn

Disney Parks & Resorts have once again come top of the attendance tables in 2009, with Busch Gardens Williamsburg being the only other top 20 park to witness an increase in attendance over the year.

Disney’s heavy discounting in North America paid off in terms of attendance figures, with the operator holding all of the top six positions in the United States top 25 according to the 2009 Theme Index report. Disney can also be pleased that all of their parks experienced increases in visitors over the period, which can again be attributed to promotions and discounting, as well as a strong local fan base for the two West Coast parks.

Universal were dealt a major blow in 2009, with attendance figures falling at all three of their United States parks. Of course many guests will be holding out on visiting Universal Orlando until this summer, with The Wizarding World of Harry Potter set top open. Combine this with the delayed opening of Hollywood Rip, Ride and Rockit and a poor economy and it’s easy to see why Universal parks suffered, at least in Central Florida.

The biggest increase in attendance was on the West Coast, with Disney’s California Adventure seeing a 9.5% increase in visitors in comparison to 2008. The largest percentage drop was at Sea World San Diego, with the California-based park witnessing a 12.6% fall in visitor numbers.

U.S Attendance figures

1. Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom: 17.2 million +1.0%
2. Disneyland: 15.9 million +8.0%
3. Epcot: 11.0 million +0.5%
4. Disney’s Hollywood Studios: 9.7 million +1.0%
5. Disney’s Animal Kingdom: 9.6 million +0.5%
6. Disney’s California Adventure: 6.1 million +9.5%
7. SeaWorld Orlando: 5.8 million -6.8%
8. Universal Studios Florida: 5.4 million -12.0%
9. Islands of Adventure: 4.5 million -13.8%
10. Universal Studios Hollywood: 4.3 million -6.0%
11. SeaWorld San Diego: 4.2 million -12.6%
12. Busch Gardens Tampa: 4.1 million -12.3%
13. Knott’s Berry Farm: 3.3 million -6.5%
14. Canada’s Wonderland: 3.2 million -6.5%
15. Kings Island: 3.0 million -4.0%
16. Cedar Point : 2.9 million -8.0%
17. Busch Gardens Williamsburg: 2.9 million +3.7%
18. Hersheypark: 2.8 million -1.2%
19. Six Flags Great Adventure: 2.6 million -4.6%
20. Six Flags Magic Mountain: 2.5 million -2.5%
(tie) Six Flags Great America: 2.5 million -6.3%

On an international scale the top 25 parks in the world saw 185.6 million people pass through their gates in 2009, a drop of 0.2% from the previous year. Interestingly, it was North America and Asia that saw major drops in attendance at their top 20 parks, with North American park seeing a drop of 1.1% and Asian parks witnessing a drop of 3.5%.

Meanwhile European and South American parks faired much better, with parks in Europe seeing attendances stay level with the year previous and Latin American parks seeing a relatively large increase of 1.3% on 2008’s numbers.

Tourists seemed more willing to cool down at water parks in the heat of the economic crisis, with the top 20 water parks in the world seeing an increase in attendance of 2.1% and the top 15 in the U.S witnessing a 3% increase in 2008.

Worldwide attendance figures

1. Magic Kingdom
2. Disneyland
3. Tokyo Disneyland: 13.6 million -4.5%
4. Disneyland Paris: 12.7 million +0.4%
5. Tokyo DisneySea: 12 million -4.0%
6. Epcot
7. Disney’s Hollywood Studios
8. Disney’s Animal Kingdom
9. Universal Studios Japan: 8.0 million -3.6%
10. Everland (South Korea): 6.2 million -6.5%
11. Disney’s California Adventure
12. SeaWorld Orlando
13. Universal Studios Florida
14. Ocean Park (Hong Kong): 4.8 million -4.6%
15. Nagashima Spa Land (Japan): 4.7 million +1.1%
16. Hong Kong Disneyland: 4.6 million +2.0%
17. Islands of Adventure
(tie) Yokohama Hakkeijima Spa Paradise: 4.5 million -0.7%
19. Universal Studios Hollywood
20. Lotte World (South Korea): 4.3 million +0.6%

Disney dominated the battle of the brands, with 119.1 million visitors going through Disney Park gates around the world, giving the company a huge lead on second-placed Merlin Entertainments who could boast just 38.5 million visitors over the same period across their parks.

It’s no surprise that Disney’s numbers were so high, especially when you consider the amount of discounts Disney offered their guests to attract them to their parks and resorts across the world. Of course the attendance numbers are far from telling the whole story, despite increases across the board Disney Parks & Resorts made big losses in 2009 thanks to the financial crisis, as did many major theme park operators.

But what the attendance figures do show is guests spending trends during economic hardship. What’s clear from the increases is Disney’s strategy of offering big discounts and conducting heavy advertising is a clear route to success when it comes to attracting customers and ensuring brand loyalty in tough financial times.

It will no doubt be interesting to see what the statistics say this time next year, with the economy (hopefully) improving, my prediction is Universal will see at least a slight bounce-back whilst Disney may suffer due to a lack of major investment in new attractions.


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Captain EO returns to Walt Disney World

According to the Disney Parks blog the popular 3D show Captain EO will be returning to Walt Disney World this summer, delighting many fans of the show, who will be able to experience the attraction from July 2nd.

The attraction, staring Michael Jackson, will open at Epcot in the summer, further adding to the reasons to visit Central Florida in 2010 with the Wizarding World of Harry Potter set to open at Universal’s Islands of Adventure and the Summer Nightastic event coming over from the West Coast to debut at Walt Disney World.

The show had made its comeback at Disneyland following the passing of its star Michael Jackson and the popularity of the show over on the West Coast was the key reason Disney Parks & Resorts decided to take the show to the East Coast to add to the Walt Disney World line-up.

Interestingly, the show will also be featured at Disney’s overseas parks in Tokyo (June 30th) and Paris (June 12th), a bold move by Disney, especially in Paris where shows are rare due to the need to please both French and English speaking guests.

Captain EO will come into the Theatres currently holding the ‘Honey I shrink the Audience’ themed shows.

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Lines – The new wait times application from TouringPlans.com: Review

Ever wondered what the wait time was for Big Thunder Mountain whilst you were waiting in-line at Soarin’? Have you ever pondered if there’s any Fastpasses left at Toy Story Midway Mania at Noon? Well, if so then ‘Lines’, the new mobile application from the people at TouringPlans.com, is for you.

Lines provides real-time updates on all the wait times at Walt Disney World, not only this but it also tells you what attractions have Fastpasses left and what attractions don’t, keeping your time wandering to the tip boards and attractions entrances to a minimum, which can be vital when following a touring plan and try to avoid long-waits at popular attractions.

Not only this but Lines also does something similar systems don’t, it tells you the actual wait time. What I mean by this is that the posted wait time at attractions usually aren’t completely correct, meaning you may be waiting for a longer or shorter period of time than what Disney has posted on the board. Don’t ask me how its predicted, but from other peoples experiences using the application I’ve heard that the ‘actual wait time’ is correct to within a few minutes, again, helping you plan what to do next and what to skip in order to fully enjoy your day.

Lines also gives park hours and highlights which parks have Extra Magic Hours and how long for. Extra Magic Hours are something everyone must take into account when trying to plan their day at Walt Disney World and it’s very useful to have them at the touch of a button on your phone, rather than having to ask at the front desk or grab a list containing the times.

Crowd estimations are also included in the application, allowing guests to see how crowded the parks will be on the day of their trip. Not only this but the application also informs you of which parks to avoid and which parks to visit on any given day, again helping you plan to cut your time waiting in line at the more crowded parks of the day.

Combining this with the touring plans provided in The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World will ensure that you have a greatly enjoyable day in the park, keeping wait times to a minimum and enjoyment to a maximum. The best part of all, it’s free, at least for now anyway. Any member of TouringPlans.com (basic or premium) can access Lines until December. After this time Lines may only be available to Premium members, making the $4.48 I paid with my Unofficial Guide discount seem even more of a bargain.

I’d strongly suggest having this application to hand on your next visit to Walt Disney World. Lines is worth the price of a subscription by itself, let alone all the other great features available to members on TouringPlans.com

Try Lines for yourself now at http://m.touringplans.com/

M. Owen

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