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European theme park attendance 2018: great weather and a popular pig make for a steady year

efteling Symbolica european theme park attendance 2018

A review of European theme park attendance for 2018 reveals a steady year for Europe’s major theme parks. Great weather, annual passes and popular IPs all had an impact.

  • Disneyland Paris breaks the 10 million barrier.
  • Europa-Park had another good year (despite the fire)
  • Gardaland and Heide Park both benefitted not only from a long summer season with great weather but also from the addition of a certain pig.
  • Parque Warner excelled on the back of annual passes and longer than usual lovely weather throughout the ‘shoulder’ seasons.

Margreet Papamichael CLEAR Associates blooloopBy Margreet Papamichael, CLEAR Associates

Market information is crucial in both in the evaluation of the potential of new theme park developments and in how an individual park is performing.

For a wider understanding of how the market behaves, I have gathered attendance figures for the major theme parks in the Europe and Middle East region.  Where possible, these numbers reflect the information provided by the park itself. Otherwise, the data is a result of a careful estimate based on published information on the parks and on drivers of the local markets.

European-theme-parks attendance 2018 BlooloopAll data sourced by CLEAR Associates, with the exception of those marked * which were reported in the TEA/AECOM Theme Index 2017.

Lots to celebrate for Europe’s theme parks

It has been quite a year for our region with a number of new parks opening to much fanfare and thus lots to celebrate.

Overall the 2018 Top 20 has grown 3% compared to the same parks’ performance for 2017*.  Not bad, but not outrageously fantastic either.  This was despite a great and long summer.  I had been hoping one of the Theme Parks in the Middle East might inch its way into the Top 20, but so far their performance still sits below the threshold.

Here are a few key highlights in the Top 20 theme parks for EME.

Disneyland Paris managed to break the 10 million barrier for 2018. This is quite a milestone! With its eye on further expansion and large investment over the coming years, the future certainly looks bright for both Disneyland Paris and Walt Disney Studios in France.

disneyland paris marvel hotel
Disneyland Paris Marvel Hotel concept art

In May 2018 Europa-Park suffered a fire that catastrophically tore through the Scandinavia area of the park, destroying the Pirates of Batavia ride and the area surrounding it.  Top notch crisis management ensured nobody was hurt and the well-oiled machine that is Europa-Park dealt with the PR and in-park management tremendously well.

amanda thompson tweet blackpool pleasure beach europa-park

There was a great outpouring of sympathy for Europa-Park. Both the industry and the park’s huge fan-base pulled together and showed their support.  Amazingly, the park didn’t close for a single day.  So although Europa-Park might have posted significant growth had it not been for the fire, the wonderful long summer surely provided a counterbalance.

De Efteling continues to grow and the addition of further accommodation will have driven at least part of this growth.  There are big plans ahead over the next two to three years for this park and we look forward to ongoing growth and success stories.

PortAventura has not posted growth over the last three years. However, it is important to realise that the park is a part of the wider PortAventura Resort. This also contains a water park as a second gate and the recently opened Ferrari Land as a third gate.  Overall visitor numbers to the Resort are up, albeit steady for the main gate.

Liseberg has been posting stable numbers for the past few years.  Its attendance in the summer period was lower than in previous years. This was as a result of direct competition from the nearby lakes and beaches.  It was offset to a degree by growth in attendance over Halloween and Christmas.

Gardaland had a much better year than in 2017. There were no mudslides and the weather was great. Furthermore, the addition of Peppa Pig was a significant driver of this growth.

legoland windsor haunted house ride

The numbers for the LEGOLAND parks have all changed a bit upon review of the published annual accounts for Merlin Entertainments.  LEGOLAND Windsor and Deutschland have both done well with the long, warm weather season. However, Billund may have suffered from competition from the nearby beach.

Parque Warner had a very good year. I understand that has been due to the success of its annual passes. Another factor was the longer, warmer weather that boosted the ‘shoulder’ seasons.  The park has convincingly gone through the 2 million barrier.

Parc Asterix also had a strong year. This was boosted by some new rides and investment in accommodation from operator Compagnie des Alpes.

Alton Towers and Thorpe Park must have also benefited from the great long summer season, supplemented with the addition of Wicker Man for Alton Towers.  Heide Park, also run by Merlin, like Gardaland, benefitted not only from the weather but also the addition of a Peppa Pig land, a great addition to Merlin’s IP stable.

European theme park attendance 2018 – what’s with the weather?

So, what is it with that weather?  Although parks frequently blame inclement weather for poor attendance, it seems that great weather doesn’t necessarily work for them either.  This is especially the case for those parks located near bodies of water.

For some parks competition from water-based and beach activities was felt. It put a dampener on what was otherwise a great year.  In some cases, the shoulder seasons nearly turned into peak seasons and boosted their performance. This was the case for those parks that rely more on visits from nearby residents than from tourists.

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margreet papamichael

margreet papamichael

Margreet Papamichael, Director, CLEAR Associates is a specialist in economics with a focus on themed entertainment. She has 20+ years of consulting experience in the leisure and tourism, real estate and hotel sectors.

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