Asian parks draw fewer visitors but HK Disneyland bucks trend
Major theme parks in Asia were hit harder by the financial downturn than their counterparts in America and Europe. A global survey found that total attendance in Asia dropped 3.5 per cent to 65.5 million last year, compared to a 1.3 per cent fall in the Americas and no change in Europe.
Like most leisure travel, theme park holidays are discretionary purchases that consumers are likely to cut back on in lean times.
In Asia, the economic downturn and fears about the spread of human swine flu led many visitors, including mainlanders, to stay home last year, hurting the attendance of every major theme park in the region except Hong Kong Disneyland and Lotte World in Seoul, according to data compiled by the Themed Entertainment Association and the consultancy, AECOM Economics.
Hong Kong Disneyland recorded attendance growth of about 2 per cent to some 4.6 million last year, making it the 16th most visited theme park in the world, up two places. Local rival Ocean Park suffered a 4.6 per cent drop but still managed to attract 4.8 million visitors, ranking it number 14 in the world, up one spot from the previous year's list.
Both parks are embarking on ambitious expansion plans to add more attractions, a move they say is essential to boosting attendance and the bottom line.
Disney's Magic Kingdom in Florida again topped the rankings. Worldwide, Disney parks dominated the top eight spots on the list with Universal Studios Japan coming in at number nine with 8 million visitors, down 3.6 per cent.
The theme park that enjoyed the biggest improvement last year was De Efteling in the Netherlands, up one-quarter to 4 million visitors. Islands of Adventure at Universal Orlando in Florida saw the biggest drop, with attendance down 13.8 per cent to 4.5 million visitors.
The figures in the report are based on the calendar year. Ocean Park's financial year ends on June 30 while Hong Kong Disneyland's ends on September 30. AECOM uses various sources for its numbers.
"Most operators in Asia were cautiously optimistic for the 2009 season, and that caution was justified. The season turned out to be challenging due to the global financial crisis, outbreak of H1N1 and poor weather conditions in some markets in Asia," Christian Aaen, AECOM's regional director in Asia, said.
"Still, new parks opened in China and key markets in Asia have a significant development pipeline compared to anywhere else in the world." The opening of Universal Studios Singapore this year marked the beginning of a decade in which Asia would dominate in terms of growth for the industry, he said.