15 Sep 2019 Attractions Management Handbook

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Attractions Management Handbook - World view

Analysis and Trends

World view

AECOM’s Jodie Lock and Margreet Papamichael summarise a buoyant year for the waterpark sector, striking performances within the Asian museums market, and the evolution of theme parks into destination resorts and brands

Universal Studios Japan – a top 10 global park
The waterpark market is growing rapidly. HereYas Waterworld, Abu Dhabi
China rising: Chimelong Ocean Kingdom - the biggest aquarium in the world
The Louvre remains head and shoulders above the rest of the museum market in terms of visitor numbers at 9.3 million visitors a year
Seaworld may be developing theme park concepts within the Middle East Photo: © shutterstock/irina silvestrova
A museum cluster is opening in the UAE
Legoland is coming to Dubai
TABLE 3: Economic Growth Vs Attendance Growth 2013

Global Picture: Still on the up
Once again, attendance at the top 25 global theme parks reached an all-time high of 215 million visits in 2013, an increase of 4.3 per cent year-on-year (see Table 1). The top of the chart is dominated by Disney, with Universal Studios Japan the only non-Disney park to break into the top 10.

Particularly strong performance was witnessed at parks situated in Asia, most notably Tokyo Disneyland in Japan and Lotte World in South Korea; both of which experienced commendable attendance jumps of 15.9 per cent in 2013. This is indicative of a shift in focus for theme park development towards the East, which has come to the forefront in recent years.

The gap in attendance between the top 20 North American parks and the top 20 Asian parks is narrowing further, falling from a difference of 22.9 million people in 2012 to 18.3 million in 2013. New openings remain focused in Asia, as well as in emerging markets like the Middle East.

Despite experiencing another challenging year of flat growth, the European theme park market did see some success stories. Parks located in northern Europe generally outperformed those in southern Europe, with Merlin’s attractions performing particularly well. For example, attendance at Merlin-operated Chessington World of Adventures in the UK jumped by 15.4 per cent in 2013 to 1.5 million due to the addition of the new Zufari: Ride into Africa! off-road safari trail.

The global top 20 waterparks also had a great year, witnessing year-on-year growth of 7.1 per cent. Half of these parks are located in Asia, with Aquaventure in the UAE still being the only top water-based attraction in the EMEA region; with the rest being based in the Americas.

Europe still dominates the global museum market in terms of visitation; however, the National Museum of China experienced an incredible leap in attendance of 38.7 per cent, moving it into third place internationally. This strong growth reflects not only the change to free entry but also the significant redevelopment that has recently taken place at this museum, where the focus has shifted from local history to national history, while numerous attractive international exhibitions have been introduced to boost attendance.

Operator performance: Disney rules
The global top 10 attractions operators benefited from another successful year, seeing attendance increases of 5.4 per cent to the groups’ attractions in 2013. Disney led the way again, achieving an aggregate attendance level of 132.5 million, a growth of 4.8 per cent – primarily due to the incredibly strong performance of its Asian parks. Tokyo Disneyland, Tokyo DisneySea and Hong Kong Disneyland all posted double-digit growth in 2013, as a result of significant reinvestment in new rides and park expansions.

Building on remarkable growth of 16 per cent in 2012, Merlin cemented its silver medal position by posting yet another year of attendance growth; 11 per cent for 2013. A new addition to the top 10 global operator list is Fantawild Group. The Chinese chain registered incredible growth of 43 per cent in 2013, entering the chart for the first time at number nine, more than three million visits ahead of Haichang Group, which slipped back to number 10.

European Picture: North – South Divide
Overall, attendance at the top 20 European theme parks dropped slightly from 57.9 million to 57.8 million in 2013, a decline of 0.1 per cent (see Table 2). A key reason was the relatively poor performance of the two Disney parks situated near Paris: Disneyland Park and Walt Disney Studios Park.

From a geographical perspective, one quarter of the top 20 theme parks are located in France, while one fifth are situated in the UK. The strongest increases in attendance were experienced in the UK (7.3 per cent), followed by Denmark (5.6 per cent) and Germany (5.2 per cent). Unsurprisingly these countries’ economies performed far better than those of the other European countries with parks in the top 20.

Generally speaking, there seems to be a correlation between the GDP of a particular country and its attractions sector’s attendance dynamics. When looking at the top 20 European parks as a whole, attendance has declined following the economic recession. On comparing GDP growth by country with the attendance growth of theme parks located within each country, economies boasting positive changes in GDP also experienced positive growth in attendance to theme parks. The sole anomaly was France (French GDP rose by 0.3 per cent in 2013 but attendance to French parks in the top 20 fell by 6.3 per cent), although GDP did exceed expectations and the positive economic picture was only achieved towards the latter half of the year. Perhaps it is actually perceived economic performance that matters more, an indicator very difficult to measure with any degree of accuracy (see Table 3).

Weather: Does It Really Matter?
Poor weather is often to blame for poor attendance levels at visitor attractions with a dominant outdoor component. The UK market is a good focal point for understanding the relationship between the two, given that the country’s weather is so often a subject of heavy discussion! Year-on-year change in rainfall (mm) over the last five years shows a link between attendance and weather. More rain leads to drops in attendance; less rain, growth. In 2011, there was significantly more rainfall than in 2010 (99 per cent more) and theme park attendance in this year fell by 0.6 per cent. In 2010, there was significantly less rainfall than in 2009, and theme park attendance grew by 2.1 per cent.

Despite finding some evidence of a possible causal relationship between weather patterns and attendance levels, numerous other factors contribute significantly to the performance of the attractions market, such as economic conditions; reinvestment; strength of marketing campaigns; special offers or strategic linkages between parks (eg Merlin’s two-for-one deal); expansion of the park; and the addition of other components to the destination (eg accommodation).

Museums: Second Year in the Theme Index
Museums are a recent addition to the Global Theme Index – 2013 marks their second year of inclusion. The Asian market showed the most striking performance, with attendance rising by 27.8 per cent in 2013, largely owing to the Chinese initiative of free entry to all public museums, which was rolled out to around two-thirds of their museums during 2013.

Europe dominates the museum market on a global scale, benefiting from a mature market and a large number of collections with free entry. Whereas theme park attendance fell across Europe in 2013, museum attendance grew by 4.5 per cent from 71.5 to 74.8 million visitors in 2013.

Remaining at the top of the chart is the Louvre: head and shoulders above the rest of the global museum market with 9.3 million visitors vs 8 million at the Natural History Museum of Washington DC, in second place. This isn’t merely an interesting fact, but a true feat of force, as the Louvre levies an entry fee, whereas the Natural History Museum has free entry. Furthermore, the previous year was a record year for the Louvre, with the Da Vinci and Raphael exhibitions helping to significantly boost attendance in 2012. Despite a decline of half a million visitors in 2013, attendance at the museum remained the strongest globally at 9.3 million.

Unsurprisingly, given the prevailing economic uncertainty in Europe, free entry museums outperformed paid museums, registering 5.8 per cent and 2.1 per cent growth respectively. French museums, for example, underperformed relative to museums elsewhere in Europe – all French museums in the top 20 charge an admission fee to visitors, and consequently French museum attendance performance was negative overall (-3.1 per cent) for this year; also perceived and expected to be a bad year for the French economy.

Museum attendance was mixed in the UK when looking at individual museum performance, but the overall picture is positive, with the industry achieving 6.7 per cent growth in 2013. This rise in attendance has been attributed to the success and strength of ‘Brand London’ in the wake of the Olympics, which provided a spotlight on the UK’s attractions and the city as a tourist destination. This strong performance has also been boosted by the string of popular exhibitions such as ‘Pompeii and Herculaneum’, which received around 471,000 visitors at the British Museum alone. This is a good example of how museums rely on new exhibitions to drive attendance, much like theme parks investing in new rides.

Outlook: Focus on Emerging Markets
Key trends to watch out for this year include the evolution of theme parks into destination resorts (by adding second gates, mixed-use developments and accommodation options) and a rise in the number of branded attractions and rides.

The results of this year’s Theme Index point towards continued growth globally, particularly in Asia. Despite another year of relative stability at theme parks across Europe, growth in museum attendance is a positive indicator for this region’s attractions market. Further recovery in the European theme parks will likely be tied to economic recovery in southern Europe.

A large number of exciting projects are in the pipeline in the Middle East – a region likely to feature heavily in the Index in years to come. Pre-recession plans are resurfacing, with the development of a new museum cluster on UAE’s Saadiyat Island and Warner Bros’ Park on Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island. Whilst development in the UAE has been focused on waterfparks (with the exception of Ferrari World), a broader range of visitor attractions are either in the pipeline or due to open shortly.

Internationally recognised IP providers are rapidly gaining interest in the Middle East, with Walt Disney announcing negotiations with partners in Doha, Dubai and Kuwait in a bid to attract the regions’ high-spenders to its resorts. Merlin (Legoland Dubai) and Universal Studios are considering developing a theme park as part of the multi-park Dubailand development. We also understand that Seaworld is currently undertaking studies assessing the potential for developing theme park concepts in the Middle East region.

The museum industry looks set for further growth in Asia, with China’s free museums initiative, its push to open more facilities to increase the ratio of museums to people, and its ‘museumification’ strategy – the construction of state-run museums as well as facilities to support corporate and private interests. Building so many museums in such quick succession could result in a vast over supply of new collections. However, ‘build it and they will come’ is often a popular phase used by developers and if recent attendance figures are anything to go by, China’s appetite for museums is very strong.

- 214.7 million visits to the world’s top 25 theme parks in 2013; a 4.3 per cent rise

- 377.3 million visits to attractions by top 10 operating groups in 2013; a 4.3 per cent rise

- 135.1 million visits to top 20 North American theme parks in 2013; a 2.7 per cent rise

- 13.7 million visits to top 10 L. American theme parks in 2013; a 3.8 per cent rise

- 116.8 million visits to top 20 Asian theme parks in 2013; a 7.5 per cent rise

- 57.8 million visits to top 20 European theme parks in 2013; a 0.1 per cent fall

- 26.9 million visits to the world’s top 20 waterparks in 2013; a 7.1 per cent rise

- 15.0 million visits to top 20 North American waterparks in 2013; a 2.3 per cent rise

- 57.7 million visits to top 20 North American museums in 2013; a 1.6 per cent rise

- 53.0 million visits to top 20 Asian museums in 2013; a 27.6 per cent rise

- 74.8 million visits to top 20 European museums in 2013; a 4.6 per cent rise

Margreet Papamichael is the director of economics and Jodie Lock is a senior analyst at AECOM.

[email protected],
[email protected], www.aecom.com

Originally published in Attractions Handbook 2014 edition

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