A stam­pede

Orlando Sentinel - - FRONT PAGE - By Gabrielle Russon Staff Writer

at Walt Dis­ney World’s An­i­mal King­dom? Why, yes — of tourists. Com­pared to the year pre­vi­ous, 1.7 mil­lion more park guests crashed the theme park’s gates.

With the open­ing of its Avatarthemed land, Dis­ney’s An­i­mal King­dom saw a 15 per­cent at­ten­dance boom last year — about 1.7 mil­lion more peo­ple — walk­ing through the turn­stiles in 2017 than in 2016, ac­cord­ing to a re­port re­leased Thurs­day that tracks at­ten­dance at the world’s big­gest amuse­ment parks.

SeaWorld Or­lando slipped out of the Top 25 most-vis­ited theme parks in the world while Uni­ver­sal con­tin­ued to gain more at­ten­dance — es­pe­cially at its Hol­ly­wood park, which jumped 12 per­cent.

Af­ter a flat 2016, the in­dus­try is surg­ing as the Top 25 amuse­ment parks in the world saw 244 mil­lion visi­tors, up about 5 per­cent from last year, the re­port said.

Theme parks op­er­a­tors are not known for pub­licly re­leas­ing at­ten­dance fig­ures for their prop­er­ties, but the Themed En­ter­tain­ment As­so­ci­a­tion and the global man­age­ment firm AECOM pro­duce an an­nual study on at­ten­dance that gives more in­sight into the in­dus­try.

“The in­dus­try re­sumed its historic pace of growth in 2017,” said John Robi­nett, se­nior vice pres­i­dent of Amer­i­cas at AECOM. “Ma­jor theme park op­er­a­tors had an out­stand­ing year with sig­nif­i­cant over­all growth, led largely by prop­er­ties in China.”

Walt Dis­ney World’s Magic King­dom re­tained the ti­tle of the most vis­ited theme park in the world, the re­port said. Nearly 20.5 mil­lion peo­ple vis­ited in 2017, up less than 1 per­cent from 2016. In 2016, the at­ten­dance had dipped slightly from 2015.

In sec­ond place was Dis­ney­land in Cal­i­for­nia — which saw about 18.3 mil­lion visi­tors, up about 2 per­cent.

Dis­ney’s An­i­mal King­dom to­tal at­ten­dance was 12.5 mil­lion, mak­ing it the world’s sixth most-vis­ited park and sur­pass­ing Ep­cot’s at­ten­dance of 12.2 mil­lion.

Over­all, Walt Dis­ney parks grew about 7 per­cent, draw­ing 150 mil­lion peo­ple world­wide.

The only Dis­ney park to see a de­cline was Walt Dis­ney World’s Hol­ly­wood Stu­dios, which dipped 0.5 per­cent to 10.7 mil­lion visi­tors. One long­time at­trac­tion, The Great Movie Ride, closed last year at the park and much of the park is un­der con­struc­tion as Dis­ney builds two new lands for Toy Story and Star Wars.

At Uni­ver­sal Or­lando Re­sort, both theme parks’ at­ten­dance jumped about 2 per­cent, which ranked Uni­ver­sal Stu­dios No. 10 (about 10.2 mil­lion) and Is­lands of Adventure No. 14 (about 9.5 mil­lion) among the world’s most-vis­ited parks.

Uni­ver­sal’s Vol­cano Bay, which opened in 2017, was the sixth largest wa­ter park in the world with 1.5 mil­lion visi­tors.

Or­lando was a “mega-des­ti­na­tion” that rep­re­sented one-third of all North Amer­i­can at­ten­dance at theme parks, the re­port said.

“Dis­ney is lever­ag­ing the power of com­pelling in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty with Pan­dora — and new Star Wars lands on the hori­zon — as did Uni­ver­sal with the Harry Pot­ter at­trac­tions, and both set a lead­ing ex­am­ple for the in­dus­try,” said Brian Sands, a TEA vice pres­i­dent in a state­ment.

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