Is theme park attendance up or down this summer?

Summer is typically one of the busiest seasons at most of the big parks. While many of you may have watch the live feed of the Walt Disney World, Magic Kingdom fireworks for the Fourth of July this year and noticed the crowds on Main Street and in front of the castle, the parks never reached any of the levels of capacity that kick the tiered closures into affect as past years. Could this be a reflection of world events, or possibly the hot summer? Robert Niles wrote an interesting article for Theme Park Insider looking at attendance trends an many of the larger parks this summer…..

Is theme park attendance up or down this summer?

July 8, 2016, 11:06 AM · How are the crowds at your favorite theme park this summer? We won’t have any official data until parks’ parent companies start filing quarterly reports later this year, and for Disney and Universal parks, we won’t get any hard attendance numbers until the annual TEA/AECOM estimates come out next spring. But initial reports from fans and from monitoring wait time apps suggest that crowds might be lighter than normal at many top parks.

In my Orange County Register column this week, I write about the relatively small crowd fans encountered at the Disneyland Resort over the Fourth of July weekend, which Theme Park Insider reader Rob McCullough also brought up for discussion here on the site. Visitors to Orlando also seemed to missing the truly overwhelming crowd levels that we’ve see in those parks in the past.

Is that what you’ve seen on your visits to Disney or Universal? We’d love to hear from fans visiting other parks, too. How are the crowds this summer, compared with summers past?

Theme park attendance reflects an almost countless number of variables. The British pound crashing after the Brexit vote has led many would-be visitors from the UK to cancel or scale back their vacation plans to Orlando. Meanwhile, the ongoing mess in Brazil has hurt visitation from that country. Those are two of the Orlando parks’ biggest foreign markets, so the loss of a significant number of visitors from them will show in shorter lines at Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando.

Back here in Southern California, Disneyland’s annual pass price increase might be leading many former Premium annual passholders to downgrade or drop their passes entirely, holding down attendance levels on holidays and summer weekends. And the new variable pricing plans for one-day tickets at Disney and Universal might be dissuading day visitors from coming on previously busy holidays, as well.

Meanwhile, the industry is competitive as ever, with VR coasters at the Six Flags parks, massive improvements at Universal Studios Hollywood, Knott’s celebrating a big anniversary, and big new coasters at SeaWorld, Cedar Point, and Dollywood.

So here are the questions: Is attendance really flat or down this summer at the top parks? If so, does that reflect a general downward trend for theme parks, or are fans just spreading their visits around more evenly, with increases at smaller parks? Or… is attendance still going up, but simply flattening from day to day at the top parks, with previously peak days down but previously slow days busier?

How have your plans for visiting theme parks changed this year? And what are you seeing when you visit the parks?

Read Robert’s Column:

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