The North American theme and amusement park market rose of 3.8% in 2017, its smallest increase in the past five years, mainly fueled by a 3.1% rise in per capita spending. Attendance edged up only 0.7% in 2017. Regional parks in the United States were the weak link, with a 0.4% decline in attendance, reflecting decreases at SeaWorld regional parks and only modest growth elsewhere. Extreme weather in some areas hurt many regional parks. U.S. destination parks, however, did relatively well in 2017, with a 3.0% increase in attendance, up from the 0.7% gain in 2016. Canadian parks did a bit better than U.S. parks in 2017, with a 1.3% increase in attendance. The market rebounded last year, as major new attractions and several thrill rides were introduced, and attendance rose 2.5%.
The theme and amusement park market in North America grew faster than nominal GDP from 2012 through 2016 but dipped below the 4% GDP growth in 2017.
Destination parks in the United States are defined as the eight major parks in the Orlando/Tampa area in Florida—Magic Kingdom Park at Walt Disney World Resort, Epcot at Walt Disney World Resort, Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World Resort, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park at Walt Disney World Resort, Universal Studios Florida, Universal’s Islands of Adventure, SeaWorld Orlando, and Busch Gardens Tampa Bay— and the three major parks in the Los Angeles/Anaheim area in California: Disneyland Park, Disney California Adventure Park, and Universal Studios Hollywood. These parks are considered destination parks because a significant portion of their attendance is generated by tourists who live outside of the immediate vicinity. Attendance at destination parks rose 3.0% in 2017, up from the 0.7% increase in 2016. The opening in 2017 of Pandora – The World of Avatar at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park at Walt Disney World Resort led to record attendance at that park, and a full year of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood produced record attendance at that park too. Both parks recorded double-digit increases in 2017 and drove the increase in overall attendance. Several major new attractions opened last year and in 2019 should provide a boost to the market.
In addition, parks were being a bit more aggressive in raising their prices in 2018, and somewhat faster increases will occur during the next few years, averaging 3.8% compounded annually for the forecast period as a whole. While up from 2017, those projected increases will be less than the 5.1% compound annual increases during the past five years as a whole. Total spending at destination parks will increase at a projected 6.8% compound annual rate, rising from $12.6 billion in 2017 to $17.5 billion in 2022.
(Source IAAPA Global Theme and Amusement Park Outlook 2018-2022)