Walt Disney World is still the king of the tourism jungle when it comes to visitation, but Universal Orlando Resort is starting to carve out its own territory and SeaWorld stayed positive while entering uncharted waters.
Last year, the Orlando home of Mickey Mouse welcomed a whopping near-54 million visitors through the turnstiles of Magic Kingdom (20.4 million visitors), Epcot (11.7 million), Disney’s Animal Kingdom (10.9 million) and Disney’s Hollywood Studios (10.8 million) combined, said the Themed Entertainment Association and Aecom’s Theme Index, an annual research report that calculates attendance.
Each of Walt Disney World’s parks saw attendance increase, ranging between 4 percent to 6 percent last year — the biggest jumps being seen at the Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. Those figures will surely change as Disney continues to add new experiences opening this year, as well as the long-awaited additions of the new Star Wars and Toy Story lands coming to Hollywood Studios and Avatar to Animal Kingdom.
Universal Orlando Resort also fared well last year, welcoming more than 24 million visitors to itsUniversal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure parks, combined. Universal Studios saw a jump in visitation to 9.58 million, up 16 percent from 8.26 million reported in 2014. Islands of Adventure also saw an 8 percent jump to 8.79 million visitors compared to 8.14 million in 2014.
Universal has been riding the wave of success created from the Wizarding World of Harry Potter attractions, but it has continued to invest in the parks with the new Skull Island: Reign of Kong ride opening this summer and the future additions of rides based on franchises like Fast & Furious andThe Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. Also, there’s still future potential in what Universal can do with more than 450 acres of land it now has in its possession off Universal Boulevard near theOrange County Convention Center.
SeaWorld Orlando also had a fairly strong 2015, despite trying to overcome sluggish financial quarters and the ongoing public relations battle over its killer whales. The marine theme park saw a 2 percent increase in visitation to 4.77 million through its Orlando turnstiles compared to 4.68 million in 2014.
SeaWorld is starting to finally navigate out of the public image storm it has suffered for years and has invested in new attractions to help it. Its new roller coaster, Mako, is set to open this June and will be Orlando’s longest, tallest and fastest coaster. Also, the company is beginning to phase out its killer whale shows and is making long-term plans to no longer house killer whales.
The water parks also remained strong in Orlando with Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach welcoming 2.29 million and 2.1 million visitors, respectively — both were increases of 5 percent from 2014. In addition, SeaWorld’s Aquatica saw 1.6 million visitors, up 2 percent from 1.56 million in 2014. Also, Universal’s Wet ‘n Wild welcomed 1.3 million visitors, a 2 percent uptick from 1.28 million in 2014.