Disney Theme Park Attendance Soared in 2022
The Themed Entertainment Association has released its estimates for theme park attendance in 2022.
As usual, Disney tops the list thanks to its theme park empire. But Disney has more cause for celebration than usual this time.
Let’s talk about all the great news about Disney theme park recovery from the lowly years of the pandemic.
Magic Kingdom Leads the Way
As has remained the case for more than a decade, Magic Kingdom once again proved the most popular theme park in the world.
None of us should feel surprised about this fact. Magic Kingdom’s dominance is an ironclad fact in the tourism industry.
However, the attendance totals for 2022 are eyebrow-raising.
According to the Themed Entertainment Association (T.E.A.), 17.1 million tourists entered Magic Kingdom last year.
For comparison, here is Magic Kingdom’s attendance during the past five years:
- 2018 – 20.9 million
- 2019 – 21 million
- 2020 – 6.9 million
- 2021 – 12.7 million
- 2022 – 17.1 million
By glancing at this data, we can tell the damage that the COVID-19 pandemic caused at theme parks around the world.
Even the most popular park of them all, Magic Kingdom, watched its attendance fall 67 percent seemingly overnight.
In 2021, Walt Disney World attendance modestly recovered, but the parks remained a shell of their former glory.
Last year, the tide turned as guests finally felt safe enough to leave their homes.
We shouldn’t view Magic Kingdom as just as strong as it was before the pandemic, though.
Instead, the park remains 3.9 million visits beneath its record high in 2019, the year before the pandemic.
Magic Kingdom’s 2022 attendance of 17.1 million effectively matches what the park managed in 2011.
Still, the park grew 35 percent year-over-year, which is a stunning performance, all things considered.
I’ll also add that, in terms of attendance, we may not witness another year like 2019 for a while.
Disney officials prioritize guest surveys as a way of ensuring that guests enjoy their visits.
Management appears committed to a bit of crowd control. The idea is that Disney can earn more money per guest with smaller, happier crowds.
Disney Also Claims the Second-Most Popular Park Again
Last year’s T.E.A. report came with an asterisk for the years.
In 2021, Universal Orlando Resort didn’t restrict attendance the same way that Walt Disney World chose.
Disney erred on the side of caution during the health crisis, while Universal trusted its guests to decide for themselves.
As a result of Universal’s more open-ended policy, its two Orlando theme parks finished second and third in the world in attendance in 2021.
The majority of analysts recognized the flukish nature of this behavior, but the internet still witnessed its fair share of bad-faith arguments.
That trend will likely remain this year, simply not quite as much. I say this because Disney claimed the top two spots in attendance again.
Disneyland Park soared 97 percent with 16.9 million guests in 2022, as opposed to a modest 8.6 million in 2021.
As a reminder, Disneyland couldn’t operate until April 30th, 2021. So, its attendance that year was artificially deflated.
Even in 2022, Disneyland’s first quarter of the year wasn’t the best due to some restraints still in place.
So, it’ll expand even more with 2023 attendance, barring something unforeseen.
Still, Disneyland Park claims the title of the second-most attended theme park in the world for the eighth time in ten years. And the other two years were due to the pandemic.
The Other Disney Parks in America
Disney California Adventure demonstrated similar behavior to its twin sibling, Disneyland Park.
DCA increased its attendance to 81 percent in 2022. Its total of nine million takes the park back to 2015 tourism levels.
With Disneyland, 16.9 million falls in that same range in that it’s better than the park’s 2014 attendance but not quite as good as 2015.
That’s a fair summary of how the pandemic has impacted all American theme parks. Most of them are at the levels they were at 8-10 years ago.
For example, Disney’s Hollywood Studios earned 10.9 million guests last year. That’s slightly more than its 2017 total of 10.7 million.
However, the other two Walt Disney World parks will still need more time to recover fully.
Arguably, EPCOT has suffered the worst. The park claimed ten million guests during calendar 2022. That’s an increase of 29 percent from 2021.
However, before the pandemic, EPCOT had earned attendance of at least 10.8 million for every year since 2009. COVID-19 really hurt it.
Similarly, Disney’s Animal Kingdom managed attendance of nine million, an increase of 25 percent year-over-year.
Before the pandemic, this park had hosted at least 9.6 million guests every year since 2009.
So, Disney’s American parks are still feeling the aftershock of COVID-19. But the picture is bright on the whole.
Including the 27 percent increase at Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World’s four theme parks averaged 29 percent higher attendance last year.
At Disneyland Resort, the news was even better, with an average of 89 percent.
These numbers reflect the healthy recovery of Disney in the pandemic’s aftermath.
Disney’s international parks were all over the place in their recovery.
For example, Disneyland Paris increased its attendance by 184 percent (!) to 9.9 million.
Walt Disney Studios Park, its twin, also gained 183 percent to 5.3 million.
Contrast that to Shanghai Disneyland, which somehow managed to fall 38 percent to 5.3 million.
That’s what happens when a park randomly closes and reopens repeatedly. Shutting in guests overnight to test them for COVID doesn’t help, either.
Hong Kong Disneyland technically went up 21 percent, but its attendance is still only 3.4 million. In 2018, the park had reached 6.7 million.
Obviously, there’s plenty of work needing to be done here, and little of it is on Disney’s end.
On the plus side, Tokyo Disney Resort strongly recovered in 2022.
Tokyo Disneyland spiked its attendance 90 percent to 12 million, while Tokyo DisneySea increased 74 percent to 10.1 million.
By the end of this year, these parks should join Disneyland and Walt Disney World in being basically back to normal.
Disneyland Park in Paris is winning this race, though. This park has already surpassed its 2019 attendance.
That statement comes with an asterisk that this place had trended downward since 2015, but it’s still a huge positive in the greater scheme.
Every quarter, Disney theme parks report record revenue, and that behavior appears likely to continue for the rest of the year and well into 2024!
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