Report shows impact of pandemic on theme park attendance

ANAHEIM, California – A new report has found that Southern California theme park attendance has declined by more than 80% year over year, highlighting the sudden and drastic impact of the coronavirus pandemic and government closures on the theme park industry.

What would you like to know

  • The annual TEA / AECOM Theme Park Attendance Report found that Southern California theme park attendance fell by more than 80%.
  • In 2020, Disneyland had 3.6 million visitors; Universal Studios Hollywood 1.7 million; Knott’s Berry Farm 811,000; Magic Mountain of Six Flags 686,000
  • California Governor Gavin Newsom last year closed theme parks and other major sports and concert halls in an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus
  • TEA / AECOM report shows theme parks are rebounding slowly but surely

According to Thematic Entertainment Association 2020 / AECOM Global Attraction Attendance Report, Disneyland attendance increased from 18.8 million in 2019 to 3.6 million in 2020. Disney California Adventure attendance increased from 9.8 million in 2019 to 1.9 million in 2020. Knott’s Berry Farm saw attendance increase from 4.2 million to 811,000 visitors.

In Los Angeles, Universal Studios Hollywood saw a sharp 81% year-over-year drop in attendance, from 9.7 million to 1.7 million. Six Flags Magic Mountain also experienced an 81% year-over-year drop in attendance, from 3.6 million visitors in 2019 to 686,000 in 2020.

In North America, attendance at the top 20 theme parks, including Disney theme parks in California and Florida, Universal Studios, Six Flags, Cedar Fair and others, fell 72% to 159.3 million in 2019 to 44.1 million in 2020.

Worldwide, attendance at the top 25 theme parks fell by 67%, from 253 million in 2019 to 83 million in 2020.

“The year 2020 has been a difficult year for theme parks, water parks and museums, which are by nature dedicated to bringing people together for shared experiences,” said the report’s authors. “Around the world, due to the pandemic, most of these sites were closed for significant periods in 2020, and sharp drops in attendance were the inevitable result. “

The annual report of the Themed Entertainment Association and AECOM, out wednesday, highlights how severely theme parks around the world have been affected by the coronavirus-catalyzed downturn and the sudden halt in tourism.

As governments closed theme parks and borders, this created a ripple effect that severely affected not only the bottom line of these businesses, but also the hotels and tourism businesses that depend on these theme park tourists. .

The finances of the city as in Anaheim, the home of Disneyland, have also been negatively affected. Anaheim relies on taxes from Disney tourists to fuel its general fund. With Disneyland closed and little to no tourists last year, Anaheim has borrowed more than $ 200 million to cover budget deficits resulting from the economic downturn caused by the pandemic.

The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, or IIAPA, estimates that the effects of the pandemic cost $ 23 billion in economic losses in 2020 due to COVID closures.

Disney and other theme park companies do not publish attendance figures, but the TEA data is widely accepted as many companies sponsor and are members of the industry association.

The attendance report, which is typically released in May, comes as theme parks like Disneyland, Universal Studios and others rebound from the continuing pandemic.

Governor of California Gavin Newsom theme parks closed and other large gyms and concert halls in mid-March 2020 at the start of the pandemic as a way to slow the spread of the contagious coronavirus.

While Florida theme parks reopened with capacity limits last summer and other states are slowly opening, California theme parks remained closed throughout 2020.

In the fall, theme park operators in California revolted with city and tourism officials urging the governor to reopen.

Newsom eventually gave in and allowed the theme parks to initially reopen with maximum capacity restrictions last March when coronavirus cases slowed. However, many operators continue to operate at limited capacity and are understaffed.

Still, there is a silver lining, according to the report.

When California’s theme parks finally reopened, pent-up demand was plentiful and thousands of people – despite the ongoing pandemic – began to flock to Disneyland, Universal Studios Hollywood, Knott’s Berry Farm, and smaller theme parks. .

“Domestic tourism has made a strong comeback, which is good news for smaller, more regional parks which cater primarily to domestic visitor bases,” said the report’s authors. “Hotel occupancy rates, the number of Airbnb vehicles and motor vehicles have all increased significantly… We are hearing about some of the highest numbers ever. National parks and campgrounds are doing great business. The domestic tourism boom is expected to continue and continue. a lifeline as we wait for the borders to reopen. “

The Themed Entertainment Association and AECOM have been publishing their Global Attendance Report for over 15 years.

AECOM senior analyst and hospitality consultant Marina Hoffman said there was only one way to go from here, to the top.

“The pain has spread across the industry as well as the fan base. But as soon as the parks were able to reopen, guests returned in large numbers and operators adjusted, ”Hoffman said in a press release. “Although economically disrupted by the pandemic and facing personnel and operational issues, the industry is looking to the future. Major theme park operators and major chains – including Disney, Universal, Six Flags, Cedar Fair and Herschend – continued with construction plans, opening new attractions and plans for the future. Even in the hard-hit water park sector, new developments are encouraging. “

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