2009 Theme Index Shows Industry is Holding Its Own: Bowl Expo Takes Center Stage

The just-released AECOM/TEA 2009 Theme Index shows the rankings and attendance increases/decreases for the Top 25 Theme Parks (in the world, and separately for the United States) and for the Top 20 Waterparks (in the world, and separately for the United States.)  The results are quite interesting to evaluate when tracked alongside the world and the United States 2009 economic indexes, and chronicles the ups and downs of various countries, taking into consideration: weather conditions (global warming or global cooling, take your pick); whether the park is located in a mature or an emerging market; the impact of any 2009 attraction additions or upgrades; great, average or poor marketing campaigns; and even the number of years the park has been open.
There is a lot to be learned from this information.  Below are some of the most interesting results:

Top 25 Theme Parks (World)

Disney World ranked number one with 17,233,000 visitors and an increase of 1 percent over 2008.  Florida was hit hard, but Disney was able to market to the local region and make up the differences lost from an overall decrease in air travel and the “staycation” phenomenon, where families chose to stay closer to home and conserve their family leisure entertainment dollars.  
Disneyland California ranked number two, and saw an 8 percent increase to 15,900,000 visitors. Disney’s California Adventure was number 11, experiencing a 9.5 percent increase with 6,050,000 visitors.
Universal Studios, Orlando, Fla., was number 13 on the other hand, and experienced a 10 percent drop to 5,530,000 visitors. Seaworld Florida, Orlando, was number 12 and had a 6.8 percent decrease with 5,800,000 visitors. Islands of Adventure at Universal Orlando was number 16 with a 11.3 percent drop to 4,627,000 visitors, and Busch Gardens, Tampa Bay, Fla., number 23 with a 12.6 percent decrease to 4,100,000 visitors.  Meanwhile, in the California market, Universal Studios Hollywood at number 19 dropped 6 percent to 4,308,000 visitors, and Seaworld California, San Diego was number 22, a drop of 12.6 percent to 4,200,000 visitors.  One could conclude that these parks did not do nearly as good a marketing job as Disney, but other factors may have played a role.
Japan’s economy was also hit hard and almost every top theme park saw a decrease in attendance.  Tokyo Disneyland at number three was down 4.5 percent with a 13,646,000 attendance. Tokyo Disney Sea was number five, down 4 percent with 12,004,000 visitors, and Universal Studios, Osaka, Japan was number nine, down 3.6 percent with 8,000,000 visitors. However, Nagashima Spa Land, Kuwana, Japan at number 15 saw a 1.1 percent increase with 4,700,000 visitors.
We also want to bring to your attention that De Efteling, Kaatsheuvel, Netherlands, number 24, had a 25 percent increase to 4,000,000 visitors.

Top 20 Waterparks (World)

Typhoon Lagoon, Disney World, Orlando, Fla., number one, had the same attendance of 2,059,000 as in 2008 as did Blizzard Beach at Disney World, number two with 1,891,000 visitors.  Chimelong Water Park, Guangzhou, China, number three, saw a 12.5 percent increase to 1,800,000 visitors, while Aquatica, Orlando, Fla., number four, had a 6.8 percent decrease to 1,600,000 visitors. Wet’N Wild, Orlando, Fla., number seven, dropped 5 percent to 1,235,000 visitors.
The largest increase in the top 20 waterparks was Beach Park, Fortaleza, Brazil, which at number 14 increased 29.4 percent to 683,000 visitors.  The largest decreases were: Wild Wadi Dubai, UAE, number 15, down 17.9 percent to 677,000; Sunway Lagoon, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, number 10, down 17.5 percent to 907,000; and Seorak Waterpia, Gangwon-Do, South Korea, number 19, down 16 percent to 525,000,
The point here is not to pick on any of the top theme parks and waterparks, but to point out that even in the most challenging economic times, the overwhelming majority of them did very well as compared to many other industries.  Our industry may not be recession proof, but it is recession resistant.  Note also that season passes play a part in attendance figures and per capita spending plays a significant role.  Based on other reports, it would be fair to say that many parks saw an increase in per capita spending, depending on the attracted customer base, while other parks saw a decrease in per capita spending.  Our take is that per capita spending has a lot to do with the amount of the park entry fee, food prices, discount packages, and many other factors.
Special thanks to Brian Sands for sending me the 2009 Attraction Attendance Report, the seventh year that this report has been compiled. For more information visit http://www.aecom.com/economics/.


Bowl Expo Takes Center Stage

The next great industry event, Bowl Expo, takes place this month in Las Vegas.  With the fate of the Fun Expo resting in IAAPA’s hands, Bowl Expo naturally can become “the FEC spring show.”  Bowl Expo is already a great show and includes a fantastic seminar program.  Bowling is the number one leisure industry attraction and more and more bowling centers are expanding and adding family attractions (including redemption games) to their offerings.
We expect to see several past Fun Expo exhibitors at Bowl Expo and even more in the years to come. For many years, the manufacturers have been asking for fewer shows. They have finally gotten their wish, but with only one show per year (IAAPA), this may not be enough exposure for many manufacturers to base an entire year’s worth of sales on.  This is another reason why Bowl Expo is expected to grow.
There are currently several family entertainment center models that include bowling:  The regular bowling-anchored FEC; the FEC with regular bowling; the bowling hybrids; the FEC with string pin regular bowling; and the FEC with mini-bowling. There will be other bowling-related models as family entertainment centers continue to evolve. What better place than Bowl Expo to see history in the making!

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