The Most Popular Amusement & Theme Parks In The World, From The Group That Would Know

by SharonKurheg

The list of the most popular theme and amusement parks in 2018 was recently released by the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA), which is an international non-profit association representing the world’s leading creators, developers, designers and producers of compelling places and experiences, worldwide. Their 1,600 members are designers, producers, consultants, vendors/supplies, developers, owners/operators etc., in/for theme parks, water parks, museums, zoos, corporate visitor centers, casinos, restaurants, branded experiences, multimedia spectaculars, retail spaces, resorts and hospitality, destination attractions and more.

But we’re just going to talk about theme parks today, since the13th annual TEA/AECOM 2018 Theme Index and Museum Index: The Global Attractions Attendance Report was just released. I think you’ll see that some of the results are pretty “same old, same old” (spoilers: Disney parks), but others give a good idea of theme parks and other attractions you might want to visit in the future, if they’re that popular and well attended.

You can access the 46-page full color report here. Heads up that the link is a PDF.


2018 was a banner year for theme parks – for the first time in history, attendance at themed attractions was over half a billion people. Not surprisingly, almost a third of them (157,311,000, which was a 4.9% increase over 2017) were at Walt Disney Attractions. Second most popular, with 67,000,000 visitors – a 1.5% increase – was Merlin Entertainment Group (they own over 120 attractions [Legoland, the Dungeons, The Eye, Madame Tussauds, etc.], in 25 countries). Third place was Universal Parks & Resorts, which had 50,068,000 visitors (which was a 1.2% increase) to their parks in 2018.

The report lists the top 25 amusement/theme parks’ attendance in 2018. Not surprisingly, Disney parks were in 12 of the positions, including the 4 of the Top 5:

  1. Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom
  2. Disneyland Park at Disneyland
  3. Tokyo Disneyland
  4. Tokyo DisneySea
  5. Universal Studios Japan

The top water parks were from all over the world, including the U.S.A. (all 4 major water parks in Central Florida were in the Top 10), Brazil and Europe. However the #1 spot, with 2,740,000 visitors in 2018, went to Chimelong Water Park, located in Guangzhou, China.

The report also breaks down the statistics based on location in the world (i.e. North America, Latin America, Asia-Pacific, EMEA (Europe, the Middle East & Africa – I’m not ashamed to admit I had to look it up). These lists tend to be quite different from “most popular in the world,” since they’re competing with a small pool.

Case in point, we’ve often mentioned our favorite water park, Schlitterbahn, in New Braunfels, TX (here’s why we like it so much). It wasn’t in the list for TEA/AECOM’s Top 20 Water Parks Worldwide (based on attendance), even though it’s won Amusement Today’s Golden Ticket Award (based on factors beyond attendance) for 20 years straight. However it’s a seasonal park, only open from late spring to early fall, which would greatly affect its attendance. Once you narrow it down to just water parks in North America, Schlitterbahn New Braunfels makes it to #5 (right after the 4 major water parks in Central Florida, of course. Because Central Florida).

The report also goes into great depth about the big picture, how intellectual property and innovation help drive attendance up, the differences of what works (or not) in various worldwide markets, the keys to growth, etc. Overall, it’s a fascinating view of theme parks if you’re a theme park fan. I heartily recommend giving it a look-see.

You can access the 46-page full color report here. Heads up that the link is a PDF.

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary


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