The Most Popular Theme Parks in the World

Hint: The top of the list has mouse ears all over it.

Seth McNew
Bradley Seth McNew
Jun 13, 2015 at 10:02AM
Consumer Goods

All over the world, theme parks have seen incredible growth in recent years. According to a report by the Themepark Entertainment Association (TEA), there were 223 million visits to the top 25 parks worldwide last year. While the U.S. destinations did well with a 2.2% visitor increase over 2013, Asia posted the largest growth, up 5% for the year. Below is a list of the top theme parks as ranked by attendance. Read on to learn how The Walt Disney Co. (NYSE:DIS), Comcast(NASDAQ:CMCSA) owned Universal Studios, and others are faring.  

The top 20 theme parks in the world:


Theme Park Location


% Change from 2013
1 DisneyWorld's Magic Kingdom FL, U.S.A. 19,332,000 4.0
2 Tokyo Disneyland Tokyo, Japan 17,300,000 0.5
3 Disneyland CA, U.S.A. 16,769,000 3.5
4 Tokyo DisneySea Tokyo, Japan 14,100,000 0.1
5 Universal Studios Japan Osaka, Japan 11,800,000 16.8
6 DisneyWorld's Epcot FL, U.S.A. 11,454,000 2.0
7 DisneyWorld's Animal Kingdom FL, U.S.A. 10,402,000 2.0
8 DisneyWorld's Hollywood Studios FL, U.S.A. 10,312,000 2.0
9 Disneyland Paris France 9,940,000 (4.7)
10 Disney's CA Adventure CA, U.S.A. 8,769,000 3.0
11 Universal Studios Island of Adventure FL, U.S.A. 8,263,000 17.0
12 Universal Studios Orlando FL, U.S.A. 8,141,000 -
13 Ocean Park Hong Kong 7,792,000 4.2
14 Lotte World Seoul, South Korea 7,606,000 2.8
15 Hong Kong Disneyland Hong Kong 7,500,000 1.4
16 Everland Gyeonggi-Do, South Korea 7,381,000 1.1
17 Universal Studios Hollywood CA, U.S.A. 6,824,000 11.0
18 SongCheng Park Hangzhou, China 5,810,000 38.3
19 Nagashimi Spa Land Kuwana, Japa 5,630,000 (3.6)
20 Chimelong Ocean Kingdom Hengqin, China 5,504,000 New

Disney vs. Universal Studios
 did not quite make the list, coming in at number 22, and Six Flags had no parks anywhere near the top of the global rankings, though it does come in the top 20 U.S. destinations. Instead, the only two companies battling over the bulk of this industry are Disney and Universal Studios. 

Disney's Magic Kingdom. Source: Disney

The Magic Kingdom tops the list once again. In 2014, the park hosted more than 19 million visitors and continues to grow. Even more amazing is that Disney owned theme parks make up nine of the top 10 parks worldwide. 

However, Universal Studios has also had an amazing showing in 2014, not for claiming as many spots but for enjoying some of the strongest growth. Both its locations in Orlando and Japan enjoyed a 17% jump in attendance, while Universal Studios Hollywood was up 11%. Though it may be just a fraction of the size of Disney, Universal Studios is proving to be a park with growing popularity both in the U.S. and abroad. 

What to expect in the next few years?
The biggest changes coming to this industry and what will likely shake up the rankings more than anything else in recent years is theme park growth in China. New parks are opening there every year and logging high attendance right off the bat. The new Chimelong Ocean Kingdom park in Hengqin made the top 20 in its first year of operation. 

Both Disney and Universal are preparing their own theme parks in the region. Universal Studios only recently broke ground in May on what will be Universal Studios Beijing, expected to open around 2019. However, Disney's new park near Shanghai is going to make a splash much sooner.

The Shanghai Disney Resort will cover nearly 1,000 acres and is planned to feature Shanghai Disneyland, a Magic Kingdom-style theme park; two themed hotels; a large retail, dining, and entertainment venue; a Broadway-style theater; and outdoor recreation areas.  

This massive resort will be the first Disney location in mainland China with doors opening in February 2016. Amazingly, this new destination is expected to replace the Magic Kingdom as the most popular park in the world with an expected 25 million visitors in its first full year of operations. 

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Source: Company Filings

Foolish takeaways
The new opportunities in this industry are promising, but just how much of an impact do theme parks have for huge companies like Disney and Comcast? In 2014, the theme park and resort segment made up nearly a third of total revenue at Disney. Major resort openings like in Shanghai should contribute nicely to the company's bottom line.

For Universal Studios, however, theme parks made up less than 2% of total Comcast revenue in 2014. That rapid growth in attendance is an exciting development, but as a part of the broader business, it is just a drop in the bucket and not compelling enough by itself to invest in Comcast.

With nine of the top 10 most popular theme parks around the world, Disney continues to lead the way in an industry that makes up a significant portion of its overall portfolio.