Field Reports: The 2013 Theme and Museum Index Released

Posted by Elizabeth Alton on Monday, June 16th, 2014

The Themed Entertainment Association has released the TEA/AECOM 2013 Theme Index & Museum Index in partnership with AECOM. The publication is considered to be the industry’s definitive attendance study, looking at both theme parks and museums. This year’s report highlights an exciting surge in attendance, new trends emerging, and unexpected venues such as water parks leading the pack in global growth. Here’s a closer look at the report and what you need to know.

The Entertainment Design Field is Growing

The report highlights an overall trend for growth in the entertainment field, ranging from its increasing cultural influence to the rapid development of new venues globally.

“I believe there is a global rise in the importance of leisure as a driving influence in culture and economies. In the U.S., the leisure industry is now the number two producer of jobs in the private sector after health care. In China, India, and increasingly in Latin America, this industry is growing at a rapid rate as middle class markets emerge. And, barring major economic or social disruptions, this should continue into the future,” says John Robinett, Senior Vice President of Economics at AECOM in an illuminating interview featured in the report.

Water parks see 7.2% growth

Every Venue Type is Growing – But Unexpected Venues and Markets Lead the Way

The statistics from the last year show massive growth across categories. The top ten theme park groups globally saw an average growth rate of 5.4%. 377.3 million people around the globe visited properties belonging to these holding companies, which include players such as Disney, Universal Studios, Merlin Entertainments, and Six Flags. The top five parks, in terms of attendance, were all Disney properties that were primarily in Florida but also includes Tokyo Disneyland which holds the number two spot.

As a market, Asia is leading the way in growth with a 7.2% increase in attendance at theme parks and a staggering 27.6% increase at its top 20 museums. Visits at the world’s top 20 water parks also increased more than 7%. Globally, museums also saw an increase in excess of 7% across the top 20 institutions. The level of growth shown here underscores that entertainment is becoming increasingly important around the world.

Ollivander's Wand Shop, Universal Studios Florida

It’s All about the Visitor Experience

Ongoing improvements in the visitor experience and tying entertainment venues to other content franchises that park goers love is key. One of the report’s authors, Brian Sands, Vice President of Economics Americas, highlights five factors that influenced record growth in North America. He eloquently answers the question ‘what are some keys to this resilience and growth?’ with “The ability to provide ever more compelling experiences due to creativity and technology.” He also emphasized the power of branding, shared experiences, reinvestment, and smart operations. Disney’s MyMagic + program and Universal’s upcoming Diagon Alley expansion personify these recommendations.

Robinett goes on to say, “We’re seeing a new level of attention being paid to intellectual properties and international brands in our attractions. Many of the most successful new rides and shows are themed around popular media products, in addition to which many of the global media companies are actively pursuing major projects around the world.”

Europa Park

Parks are Becoming Destinations

Guests are increasingly expecting theming throughout the park experience, from surrounding hotels to themed retail locations. For example, Universal Studios’ decision to bring to life selected retail shops from the Harry Potter series was an inspired choice. “I think a final trend to keep an eye on is the transformation of theme parks into destination resorts by the addition of themed hotels, second and third gates, and retail, dining, and entertainment developments. This has a profound impact on the economics of these attractions. Europa Park is a great example of this transformation,” says Robinett.

This year’s Theme Park Index is good news for those of us that closely follow the industry. Innovation is increasing, and with it, public interest and attendance in the fantasy worlds that we create. We look forward to exploring some of these trends more closely in the year ahead. To read the entire report, download it from the Themed Entertainment Association website.

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