Universal Orlando was the only major Central Florida theme park that saw attendance growth in 2016, according to a theme park industry report released Thursday.
- Universal Studios saw attendance gains
- Attendance down at all Disney World parks
- RELATED: Orlando welcomed record 68 million visitors
Universal Studios drew 9.9 million visitors last year, a 4.3 percent increase from 2015, according to estimates from the Themed Entertainment Association and AECOM.
Much of that growth is attributed to the continued draw of Harry Potter. Universal Studios didn't open any major attractions last year. Attendance at Universal's Islands of Adventure was up 6.5 percent with 9.4 million. The park opened two new attractions last year--Skull Island: Reign of Kong and a revamped Incredible Hulk coaster.
Universal also opened Sapphire Falls Resort, which added 1,000 hotel rooms.
Meanwhile, all Walt Disney World parks saw attendance declines.
Disney’s Magic Kingdom remains the world’s most-visited theme park with 20.3 million visitors in 2016, but attendance fell 0.5 percent from 20.5 million the year before.
Epcot and Disney’s Animal Kingdom both decreased 0.7 percent with 11.7 million and 10.84 million visitors, respectively. Disney’s Hollywood Studios dropped 0.5 percent to 10.78 million.
SeaWorld’s attendance — at 4.4 million, down 7.9 percent from 2015 — plunged. In recent years, the theme park has struggled as it shifts away from killer whale shows following negative publicity. Busch Gardens Tampa, which is also owned by SeaWorld Entertainment, was down 2 percent. Both parks opened new attractions in 2016: Mako at SeaWorld Orlando and Cobra's Curse at Busch Gardens.
Some tourism experts were concerned that the Pulse shooting and Hurricane Matthew would have a negative impact on the industry.
“Following record-setting numbers in 2015, attendance results in 2016 were more modest but still reflective of a healthy, growing industry,” said John Robinett, senior vice president of economics at AECOM. “The major theme park operators continued their positive performance, and most markets saw slow, steady growth, while weather, tourism and political issues contributed to minor declines in others.”
Attendance at Orlando’s water parks also declined. Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon — the second-most visited water park in the world — dropped 0.7 percent at 2.3 million; Disney’s Blizzard Beach fell 0.8 percent.
The theme park attendance estimates come on the heels of Orlando’s record-breaking visitation numbers. Early last month, Visit Orlando announced that 68 million people visited the area last year, surpassing the 66 million who visited in 2015.
On the West Coast, Universal Studios Hollywood’s attendance increased 13.9 percent with 8 million. The addition of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter last April has been attributed to that growth.
Disneyland — which remained the second-most visited theme park in the world — saw a 1.8 percent decline with 17.9 million.
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