LAKE BUENA VISTA — There are theme parks all over the world, and one of them has to rank at the top, as the No. 1 most frequently visited.
And the one that attracts more visitors than any other just happens to be in Central Florida.
Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom got that title, according to a new report by the Themed Entertainment Association. Magic Kingdom held the No. 1 spot, attracting more than 17.5 million people in 2012. That’s up 2.3 percent from 2011.
The Themed Entertainment Association is an international non-profit association representing the world’s leading creators, developers, designers and producers of theme parks, museums, zoos, casinos and other leading entertainment venues around the world. The association publishes The Global Attractions Attendance Report, which is considered the definitive annual attendance study for the theme entertainment industry.
The “big picture,” according to the report, is that the entire industry experienced a very strong year in 2012. John Robinett, the association’s senior vice president of economics, wrote that a key reason was that the parks — particularly the ones in the Orlando area — keep expanding and finding new ways to attract visitors. The Magic Kingdom, for example, is undergoing a major expansion of its Fantasyland area.
The New Fantasyland Expansion includes two new themed areas, Enchanted Forest and Storybook Circus, and more additions will continue through 2014. When the renovations have been completed, Fantasyland will nearly double in size, making this the largest expansion in the history of the Magic Kingdom park.
Those additions keep bringing visitors back, Robinett reported.
“The market in North America was, this year as last year, driven by major reinvestment at major operators’ parks,” Robinett wrote. “Last year, Orlando led the way with The Wizardening World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Florida. This year, it was Southern California, with substantial increases at Disney California Adventure, (where additions included cars) as well as Universal Studios Hollywood (which added Transformers: the ride 3-D).”
The top ten theme parks in the world are Walt Disney Attractions (where attendance was up 4.7 percent from 2011 to 2012); Merlin Entertainments Group — which operates Legoland Florida in Winter Haven (up 16.4 percent); Universal Studios Recreation Group (up 7.9 percent), Parques Reunidos; Six Flags Inc.; SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment; Cedar Fair Entertainment Company; Oct Park China; Haichang Group; and Compagnie Des Alpes.
In a sign of just how dominant Central Florida is within this industry, Florida is home to eight of the top 25 theme parks worldwide, followed by four in California and Japan, two each in France, Hong Kong, and South Korea, and one in China.
The top Central Florida theme parks, and how they rank in this attendance report, are the Magic Kingdom at No. 1, Epcot (No. 6), Disney’s Animal Kingdom (No. 7), Disney’s Hollywood Studios (No. 8), Island’s of Adventure at Universal Orlando (No. 10), Universal Studios Orlando (No. 16), SeaWorld (No. 19), and Busch Gardens in Tampa (No. 23).
“Overall growth in the North American theme park market was substantial in 2012, with 131.6 million visits to the top 20 theme parks, equal to 4.6 million more visits or 3.6 percent higher than 2011,” noted Brian Sands, the association’s vice president of economics for North and South America. “This is the second consecutive year recently with growth of around 3 percent.”
The North American theme park market was up by 9 million visits, a 7 percent increase, the report notes.
While Central Florida ranks high among the world’s theme parks, the region also offers the top four most highly visited water parks in this country: Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach at Disney World, Aquatica at SeaWorld, and Wet ‘n Wild Orlando.
Tourism is the Sunshine State’s No. 1 industry. VISIT Florida, the state’s official tourism marketing corporation, reports that the tourism industry was responsible for attracting 91.4 million visitors in 2012 who spent $71.8 billion in the state. That money alone generated 23 percent of the state’s sales tax revenue.
Tourism also employs more than one million Floridians.
To read the full report, visit Attendance Report.
Contact Freeline Media at FreelineOrlando@Gmail.com.