Disney continues to reign supreme, gaining a 6.8 per cent increase in visitors – up to 150 million in 2017. Merlin came a distant second, upping its visitation year-on-year to 66 million, marking a 7.8 per cent increase. Universal rounded out the top three, with a 4.4 per cent increase of around two million visitors.
For the top 10 theme park groups overall, attendance growth rose by a combined 8.6 per cent to 475.8 million visitors. Fourth-placed OCT Parks China enjoyed the most significant growth, increasing visitation by 32.9 per cent to 42.9 million visitors – a staggering rise of 10.6 million people (Table 1).
For individual theme parks, Disney expectedly also sits on top of the pile, with the top three most-visited properties and eight of the top 10 attractions being Disney. The most-visited park, Magic Kingdom in Orlando, saw a slight increase of 0.3 per cent, while Disneyland in California enjoyed a 2 per cent rise and Tokyo Disneyland upped its visitor figures by 0.4 per cent in third place.
Outside of Disney, fourth-placed Universal Studios Japan saw its visitation rise by 3 per cent, with 14.9 million visitors in 2017. Universal Studios in Orlando also saw a slight rise of 2 per cent. Opening for the first time in 2016, Shanghai Disneyland has broken into the top 10, coming eighth with 11 million visitors in its first full year of operation.
Mainland China helped buoy the Asian region in attendance growth by 5.5 per cent. Many new parks, with Shanghai Disney leading the way, experienced double-digit growth year-on-year.
Overall, visitation rose to 134.2 million visitors in the Asia-Pacific region, though it wasn’t all plain sailing, as parks in Korea – particularly Lotte World and Samsung Everland – were hit hard owing to “geopolitical events that discouraged tourism from Mainland Chinese” – their key tourist demographic.
Waterpark attendance has now broken 30 million visitors among the world’s top 20, with particularly strong performance in some of Europe’s top waterparks. Across the world’s top 20 most-visited waterparks, attendance increased 1.6 per cent between 2016 and 2017 – breaking the 30 million visitor barrier for the first time in the AECOM report’s history.
Chimelong in China retains the title of world’s most-attended waterpark, with a 6 per cent increase year-on-year. Making its debut on the list is Orlando’s Volcano Bay, as the Universal waterpark ranked sixth with 1.5 million visitors in its first year. The largest attendance rise came for 16th-ranked Siam Park on the Canary Islands, which recorded a 20.9 per cent.
In Latin America, waterpark visits totalled 9.9 million visitors, raising expectations that 2018 will for the first time see that region cross over the 10 million mark. While there were increases at several properties in Brazil, the 2017 earthquake in Central Mexico led to declines, particularly for Six Flags Hurricane Harbor Oaxtepec – a newly acquired and renovated waterpark operating in its inaugural season.
For the EMEA market, overall attendance was up 3.2 per cent, though visitation in the Middle East declined due to “the significant increase in competition for leisure time and spend” in the region, impacting across the board and felt by the region’s most-visited attraction, Dubai’s Aquaventure, falling 5.6 per cent.
Prague’s Aquapalace had an excellent year, increasing its attendance by 18.8 per cent and Therme Erding in Germany, Europe’s most-visited waterpark, enjoyed a 6 per cent rise.
The top 20 waterparks in the US suffered in 2017, with a 2.9 per cent decline, driven by lack of reinvestment combined with bad weather.
France’s museums have shown significant recovery following a tumultuous 2016. The Louvre reclaimed top spot as the world’s most-visited museum with a 9.5 per cent increase in visitor numbers. Similarly, the Musee D’Orsay experienced a significant recovery, with a 5.9 per cent increase in visitation.
Across the Channel its not been so rosy, with uncertainty over Brexit and renewed security concerns particularly affecting London, where four of the five museums making the top 20 suffered declines in visitation. Highest-ranked, the British Museum saw its numbers drop to 5.9 million in 2017, while the Tate Modern saw its visitor numbers drop 3.1 per cent and there was a 4.1 per cent decline at the Natural History Museum. Bucking the trend following its expansion and three major exhibitions, the V&A upped its attendance by a quarter.
Asia’s culture sector recorded the fastest growth worldwide, with an 11 per cent increase in visitation. China claimed seven of the top 20 museums worldwide. This strong performance has been fuelled by its “an emerging middle class with rising levels of education, cultural awareness and disposable income and exposure to global cultural trends”.