Unique Visitors and Type of Pass Utilized at Universal Orlando

Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort officially welcomes its first guests large

Have you ever wanted to know how annual attendance numbers at a theme park is distributed? Do attendance numbers include one person going twice or two people going once? What is the unduplicated attendance? If so, read on …

In 2003, Universal Orlando Resort filed a prospectus with the SEC that included detailed data on the two theme parks located on the property. As in all fillings of this type, the amount of detailed statistical data is overwhelming. This particular document however, provided an analysis I found extremely interesting and hope that you will too.

The specific section of this prospectus I am referring to analyzes Pass Sales for Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure. As it is not relevant for this Blog, I have omitted pricing and revenue data from the following table.

passes and attendance at universal studios

What this analysis shows is that a total of 7.1 million visitors frequented the parks an average of 1.45 times, thereby creating the number we see reported – 10.4 million. It is interesting to note that the vast majority of the attendance was comprised of one-day guests and the annual pass holder frequented the park an average of 4.03 times a year.



  1. Reflects effect of “Third Day Free” promotion
  2. Orlando FlexTicket entitled a guest to visit both theme parks over two weeks. The Orlando FlexTicket could be used over those same two weeks at Wet ‘n Wild® and Sea World® Orlando. There was also a five-park Orlando FlexTicket which included Bush Gardens.
  3. Primarily includes VIP tour tickets and length of stay tickets sold at on-site hotels
  4. Reflects weighted average

Image credit : Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort officially welcomes its first guests. © 2014 Universal Orlando Resort. All rights reserved.

A look at OLC’s IR Presentation and Fact Book for Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea

tokyo Disneyland

Did you know that Oriental Land’s (Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea) market share of the domestic theme park market is approximately 50 percent? Or, that the 5-year anniversary celebrations are responsible for a jump in attendance?

If not, look no further than the following two documents: Oriental Land Co.’s Annual Presentation Materials and OLC’s Annual Factbook.

Skimming through Oriental Land Co’s Annual Presentation Materials makes me feel like I have just won the data lottery. This document not only has detailed information on the Business Overview (operations and performance) of Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo Disney Sea, but a large section of the report is dedicated to the 2013 Medium-Term Plan, which ends in March 2014.

Of all the fantastic statistical data that can be found in this report, Trend in Theme Park Attendance is one graph I appreciate most. This graph looks at annual attendance over the years and how these numbers correlate with key events, such as anniversaries or park opening. Changes in ticket price over the various years are also provided.

OLC Theme Park Attendance Trends 2013

It’s interesting to note how each of the five-year anniversary celebrations are key to the attendance growth.

While not illustrated in this Blog, the annual presentation materials also include details on the following:

  • Breakdown of Guests by Region (Note: Guests from Tokyo Metropolitan area make up about 70 percent of the theme park attendance);
  • Breakdown of Guests by Age (Note: Approximately 50 percent of attendance is comprised of adults aged 18 to 39);
  • Theme Park Segment Results for FY Ended 3/13 (¥ billion) was 329.8 and October Forecast for FY Ending 3/14 (¥ billion) is 378.7; and
  • Operating Income (Note: Operating income is estimated to hit a new record for the sixth consecutive year)

The other document mentioned is Oriental Land’s Annual Factbook. Excluding the Medium-Term Plan, much of the same information contained in the reference document is found here. However, perhaps my favorite graphs of all – Annual Attendance and New Attractions/Shows are available only here. The graph for Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo Disney Sea (pages 10 and 11) illustrates how attendance has been affected by new attractions and shows since 1984. This illustration is followed by two charts – one showing the one-day adult ticket price and the other showing the length of stay.

OLC attendance and with new attractions


OLC Factbook attendance v new attractions

I realize that factors other than key anniversary celebrations or new attractions and shows that play a part in the overall attendance picture, however, I do find these graphs rather interesting.

While this blog has given me the opportunity of pointing out the graphs and charts I find the most interesting, please feel free to take a look at the attached links for the complete reports.

For OLC’s Reference Document, 2013, read more here: http://www.olc.co.jp/en/ir/pdf/olc.pdf and OLCs Fact Book, 2013, is available here: http://www.olc.co.jp/en/ir/factbook.html

UK Government Rejects Proposal to cut VAT for the Tourism & Hospitality Sector from 20% to 5%.

madagascar live at cwoa 600

UK Treasury minister David Gauke has rejected a call for tourism VAT to be cut to 5 per cent, despite MPs from all parties gathering to support the measure during a parliamentary debate on 11th February.

We are hugely disappointed by this outcome and agree strongly with Intercontinental Hotel group’s COO (UK & Ireland), Stephen McCall who noted that the VAT rate on visitor accommodation was undermining the hospitality sector’s ability to compete.

In the debate itself, Members of Parliament supporting the proposal pointed out that the UK’s tourism sector, which produces more than 10% of GDP and supports over 2 million jobs, has been hit particularly hard by the rises in VAT introduced by the coalition government as part of their austerity package and contrasted the situation in the UK with that in other EU countries where sector specific cuts to VAT (Ireland for example has a rate of 5% for the hospitality sector , including visitor attractions and restaurants) have helped to stimulate business and competiveness. Indeed, damningly, the UK is now ranked 138th out of 140 countries for price competitiveness for tourism by the World Economic Forum. The UK is one of only 4 EU countries that hasn’t taken advantage of a reduced rate.

In our view at Petersham Group, not only would this measure increase the competitiveness of the UK as a tourist destination, both for incoming tourists and for UK tourists, but it would stimulate the economy in rural and coastal areas that are not sharing the London-led UK economic recovery, supporting the vital SME sector into which so many leisure, tourism and hospitality businesses fall. It is estimated that the measure could boost GDP by £4 billion per annum, create and secure up to 80,000 jobs and deliver £2.6 billion additional net revenue back to the Treasury. Moreover, 44% of those employed in the sector are aged under 30, so it’s a measure that would very positively impact on youth unemployment. There is all-party support for this and it is not an issue that should be allowed to be swept under the carpet.

Much more information about the debate can be obtained via the ‘Cut Tourism VAT’ campaign.

Image Madagascar Live at CWOA, kind courtesy Merlin Entertainments.

The Smithsonian reports 30 million “visits” for 2013. How does that equate to unique individual visitors?

Once again Smithsonian releases their year-end statistics, as they have since 2001.

Since the Smithsonian museums are free, visit counts are not based on tickets sold. Smithsonian guards use hand clickers to count the number of persons entering each museum. If a person visits more than one museum they will be count more than once. Therefore, the numbers shown below are considered “visits” and not individual visitors.

Smithsonian Museums Attendance 2013

The question regarding “unique individual visitors” takes me the following study:,Visitors to the Smithsonian Institution Some Observations by Zahava D. Doering and Andrew J. Pekarik Instutional Studies Office Smithsonian Institution.

smithsonian logoDuring the year of the study, the Smithsonian recorded 26 million visits and the number of unique individual visitors was estimated to be between nine to ten million individuals.

The following abstracts are some of the key “Observations” used to derive that calculation.

  • Visitors who came to the Smithsonian from outside the local area are likely to attend several museums on the Mall during their stay in Washington and many who live in the local area will return on or more times within the same year (Doering and Bickford, 1994);
  • Overall, approximately 79 percent of Smithsonian audiences consist of people who are visiting Washington from elsewhere and 60 percent are coming for the first time

The full report can be found here.

Who else gets excited when they see the words “Year End Charts”?

billboard logo

Whilst not all of these charts directly pertain to our industry, some definitely do. And, since I appreciate anything having to do with statical data, I thought I would share this one with you.

Are you aware that Billboard generates an annual “Charts-Year End” and offers this data back to 2002, on their website? The categories for these charts include: Hot 100, Top 200 Albums, Current Albums, Independent, Digital Albums, Internet, Tastemakers, Soundtracks, Compilations, Catalog, Hot Digital Songs, Social / Streaming, Songwriters & Publishers, Pop / Adult, Country, R&B / Hip-Ho, Rap, Latin, Rock, Dance / Electronic, Rhythmic, Bluegrass, Christian, Gospel, Christian / Gospel, Classical, Jazz, New Age, World, Blues, Reggae, Folk. Cast, Kids, Comedy, Ringtones, Video, Japan, K-Pop, Canadian, and Boxscore.

Boxscore may be single category that offers the most information for this industry – sub-categories include Top 10 Venues, Top 10 Stadiums, Top 10 Amphitheaters, Top 10 Festivals . To show the level of detail for each subcategory, I have included two of the above four:

Top 10 Amphitheater

Billboard top 10 amphitheaters

Top 10 Festivals

Billboard top 10 festivals

While Boxscore is the category that received special attention in this Blog, please, don’t miss what can be found in some of the other categories. . For instance, if your working on a country themed attraction check out category on “Country” to find out everything from the Top Country Artists, Songs and Albums and more.

The website can be found here: Charts – Year End | Billboard

Creating Inherited Memories: Can We Make Thrill Seeking Hereditary?

cherry blossom

Scientists have found experimental evidence that mice whose father or grandfather had learned to associate the smell of cherry blossom with an electric shock exhibited nervous tendencies when they smelled the same odour. (New Scientist article “Fear of a smell can be passed down several generations” based on research by Brian Dias at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta)

The research points to a biological mechanism which allows memories to be inherited and is backed up by previous studies suggesting that stressful events can affect the emotional behaviour of future generations. The theory is that a process, known as epigenetic inheritance, can make chemical changes to DNA in response to emotional responses.

Although the theories have not been definitively proved, and smell is unusual among the senses in that the genes controlling the body’s response to it can be relatively easily identified, extrapolating the theory (in a wildly unscientific manner) could have interesting relevance for the experience economy.

To what extent can we influence the emotional reactions of our descendants through our own experiences? By seeking out and enjoying thrill rides will we produce children and grandchildren who will be more inclined to be rollercoaster nuts? Similarly could a scare on a coaster at an impressionable age mean that our progeny will shy away from adrenaline fuelled rides?

It is the goal of most visitor attractions to provide guests with happy memories in order to generate customer loyalty and of course repeat visits. Perhaps the positive experiences of individuals could actually create a propensity for brand loyalty from a whole family for future generations!

It certainly gives a rather longer term meaning to Herschend Family Entertainment’s vision: “Creating Memories Worth Repeating®”!

Who is Maryland Sea World Industries Limited?

Journey to the West

Yesterday morning Reuters ran a translated abstract reporting “REFILE-BRIEF-China’s Greattown to invest 180 mln yuan to set up unit for Lanzhou theme park project”.

Well this got me curious – just who is China Greattown and what is this “theme park project”?

Would this just turn out to be another example of how the term “theme park” is misleadingly used?

I had to find out …

Well, I was not able to find the China’s Greattown site, or at least one that I was able to open; however, Bloomberg describes the group, which is listed on the Shanghai Stock Exchange, as follows: GREATTOWN HOLDINGS LTD. is principally engaged in the development, operation and distribution of real estates. The Company primarily provides residential buildings, hotels, commercial buildings and parking lots, among others. The Company mainly operates its business in Fuzhou, Fujian province, China.

One report led to another and I finally ended up translating the source that was used to generate all this buzz, and here it is. I thought that you might be interested too.  (Please forgive the translation of the announcement – the original is here.)

Overview of investment projects

According to the company’s Science and Technology Park in eastern Maryland master plan, the company intends to invest in Lanzhou 18,000 million to set up a wholly-owned subsidiary of Maryland Sea World Industrial Co., Ltd., a company in West Development of cultural tourism in Northern theme park project, the main building and managing operations.
After the fifth session of the thirty-second session of the Board to nine votes in favor, 0 against Abstention votes, agreed to by the company 100% funded the establishment of Maryland Sea World Industries Limited Division.The funding decision-making authority belongs to the company board of directors, without the approval of the shareholders’ meeting. The Funding does not involve related party transactions.

Second, the basic situation of the subsidiary to be established

1, the proposed investment company name: Maryland Sea World Industries Limited.(The name is already Commerce and Industry Pre-approval of the administrative department, Trade and Industry approved the final name registration. )
2, the proposed investment company registered address: Lanzhou Yuzhong county towns (eventually registered address Industry and Commerce approved the registration date)
3, plans to invest Registered capital: RMB 18,000 million.
4, shareholders and financial contributions are as follows: The Company contributed RMB 18,000 million, representing 100% of the registered capital, funded by: Monetary funds invested way.
5, Business: The business scope: aquarium construction, operation, management, Management-related service facilities (including biological and environmental simulation show); catering services; Services and management; parking; marine investment and development; project investment; architectural decoration installation works; matter Business management; building materials sales; Landscaping (over the operating range of the registration authorities to prevail).
6, business type: limited liability company.
7, investment contracts Content: The contribution of investment to set up a wholly-owned subsidiary, investment.  A wholly owned subsidiary matters will be established by the agreement made “Articles” in without signing Foreign investment contracts.

Third, the purpose of investment, sources of funding and the impact on the company’s

1 Investment Objective:
According to the master plan company in eastern Maryland Science and Technology Park, the establishment of these subsidiaries, as a company in the future development of the Northwest regional cultural tourism theme park project, construction and management body operations.
2, sources of funding:
The company’s own funds, currency funds in the form of investment.
3, the impact on the company’s
The contribution by the company’s own capital investment, investment accounting for the Company’s latest audited 5.10% of net assets, no material impact on the company’s current financial position, the proposed establishment of a fully owned subsidiary will enter the Company’s consolidated financial accounting reporting units.The contribution does not involve personnel arrangements.”

Does Winter have to be a Dead Zone at the Zoo?

siberian tiger mother with cub at buffalo zoo in the snow

The snow day! It’s luxuriating in the extra hours of winter sleep snuggled under a pile of thick blankets.

It’s waking up at noon and pulling on my snow pants over my pjs, my moon boots over my thick wool socks, and squeezing my snowflake hat over my tangled mess of hair, then venturing out with my sister and neighborhood compadres to build a mazelike snow fort through the front yard.

And only after pelting each other with compacted snowballs until Timmy’s red, snowy face gives way to tired tears, do we succumb to the cold and go back inside to lay our soaked mittens, hats and scarves on the wood stove and warm up with a cup of hot cocoa. Ah, the snow day!

As a zoo professional, snow days have a deeper meaning to me now. They’re a zoo-born Siberian tiger in Tennessee who’s never seen snow before. They’re the beaver in the Minnesota Zoo who’s hidden inside his iced over dam, cuddled up next to (hopefully) the guest viewing window. They’re the polar bear luxuriating in the extra hours of winter sleep snuggled under a pile of thick, white snow.

They’re the experiences people forget to experience at the zoo.

So What if Winter wasn’t the Dead Zone for Zoos?

giant panda in smithsonian zoo in snow

Winter is not prime time for most temperate zoos. Winter is in fact the lost season. The dredges. The figurative Atlantis. The time for zoos to get projects done since no one is at the zoo anyway. But what if winter wasn’t the dead zone for zoos? Can we make winter exciting for guests, and profitable for zoos?

We’ve been asking this question recently with several of our clients ( at architecture firm PGAV destinations). Winter, for many zoos, means essentially shutting down half the zoo. No food or drink carts can be found. No Dippin’ Dots, no popcorn stands. Most of the restaurants and satellite retail shops are shut down, too. Not to mention the rides, and the shows.

They do this, they say, because most January and February days see only a lowly 15 people–up to 100 on a good day. And this makes sense. In this way, they keep the operating costs down while maintaining the animals’ health.

But what if we didn’t need to shut down most of the zoo? What if we made an attempt to get guests to show up, even on a snowy cold day? What if snow day meant Zoo Day?
To understand the state of the industry, we’ve done a quick survey of zoo websites to see if anyone out there is making a big deal out of winter. Generally speaking, most zoos are not.

Mapping out a Winter Experience

red panda in the snow at a zoo

Some zoos do market special themed weekends with unique activities like ice sculpture carving and music and dance presentations. Toledo Zoo used to give it a cute name…Frozentoesen—although it seems this year Frozentoesen is no more. Some zoos, like Toledo, have also added more indoor activities like a kids’ zone with bouncy houses and climbing equipment.

But what I’ve found to be missing from all zoo websites is an actual campaign to show visitors what a great day they can have at the zoo during the winter. What about mapping out a winter experience route that not only highlights the indoor experiences and the shortest routes between them, but also stops at exhibits where animals will be more active and happy in the winter, like the polar bears? What if along this route, temporary spaces for warming are erected seasonally? What if these warm zones had changing activities, like enrichment creation stations or animal interactions? What if some of these zones supported unique revenue makers like s’mores or gourmet flavored hot cocoa?

If zoos marketed this specific route, told people how long a walk it was between indoor activities, and maybe went the extra mile to provide enclosed transport from the furthest points, maybe we’d see an increase in attendance. We know people are willing to come to the zoo in the winter, as witnessed by the prevalence of holiday lights programs at zoos across the country. But what is it that keeps these folks from coming during the daytime hours?

I think it’s a simple lack of understanding that the zoo is just as good a winter experience (and sometimes better) than a summer experience.

Marketing and Strategy in the Snow

baby polar bear at smithsonian zoo

Of course, we could also do as the Minnesota Zoo does, and physically plan the zoo to have a continuous linkage between indoor zoo experiences thus providing a wholly indoor wintertime zoo. But for those who aren’t ready, willing, or able to go down that road, why not just first try with simple marketing campaigns and guest experience strategies. Why not just first try. Why not just…try?

And if it fails, don’t just give up. Examine why it failed. Could you do something different? Humans are fickle and sometimes unpredictable, but if you get it right, they will come.

Even on a snow day.

Image credits: Tigers and Polar Bear courtesy Buffalo Zoo,  Giant Panda and Red Panda courtesy Smithsonian’s National Zoo

Proof of a Maxim: Safety and Attendance

Who said that parks have no motivation to keep their rides safe? Have you seen the recent news from Six Flags? Company executives admit that attendance and revenue at Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington declined after the July death of Rosa Esparza after she fell from the Texas Giant Roller Coaster.

(See Attendance, revenue down at Six Flags after woman’s death on Texas Giant)

six flags over texas 600

Amusement and theme park business people have long stated that if amusement rides are not safe, people will stay away from that park or operator so it is in the best interests of the park or operators to have its rides operate as safely as possible. Now there exists documented proof for the maxim. Six Flags Over Texas was the only Six Flags park that saw a decline in attendance the last quarter as patrons became apprehensive of attending the park, especially right after the accident. According to the comments of Jim Reid-Anderson, he stated the there clearly was an impact on attendance due to the accident and that Six Flags have seen steady attendance improvement as time has gone on.

Safety first is not just an empty mantra for the amusement industry but it can and does have a powerful effect on the bottom line of your business. Park and ride patrons become hesitant to conduct business with you if you are unable to provide them safe entertainment for the money they spend. In addition to the initial drop in attendance, you may need to spend unplanned time and money in legal strategies and legal costs. Dealing with accidents does nothing but take your eyes off of the reason why you are in business, provide people a fun time while making a living. Don’t take my word for it, but take the word of one of the largest amusement chains in the world.

A Different Animal Entirely


Walking back to the hotel after what felt like a celebratory dinner at the AZA National Conference this year, several of my colleagues and I engaged in a discussion about one of the many complex issues related to zoo and aquarium design: What is ‘wild’?

Depending on your bias, your perceptions, and your actual knowledge, ‘wild’ can be a minefield.

What brought about this conversation was the recent decision by the Costa Rican government regarding their zoos. They’re closing them. They’re releasing the captive animals back into the ‘wild’ (and in many cases, back to ‘rescue centers’ which bear remarkable resemblance to the zoos from which the animals are being rescued). Their decision is in response to having ‘wild’ animals in captivity.

There’s that darn ‘wild’ word again. Twice.

Let’s play the Webster’s dictionary game. {Below from Dictionary.com}
1. living in a state of nature; not tamed or domesticated: a wild animal; wild geese.
2. growing or produced without cultivation or the care of humans,as plants, flowers, fruit, or honey: wild cherries.
3. uncultivated, uninhabited, or waste: wild country.

‘Wild’ at zoos is encountered in two ways as I hinted above; but, in both cases, the definitions indicate a clear absence of human intervention or inhabitation. Sending ‘wild’ animals back to the ‘wild’ would indicate these animals have never been around humans and will be going back to a place where humans do not exist. Any animal, at a zoo or a sanctuary, fails this ‘wild’ test. What’s more, any place where humans exist is no longer wild. By definition, there are very few wild places left on this earth. In fact, this is essentially the problem.
giant pandaLook at any animal facing extinction. Ninety-nine percent of the time, human interaction is the root cause. Deforestation, pollution, poaching, competition for resources. The reality of our situation is that the Wild is no longer truly ‘wild’. Animals living in the ‘wild’ today are highly protected and managed, or face daily threats and stressors that severely cut their lifespans. This romantic notion that animals are “better off” in the wild desperately needs a reality check.

Beyond this, the ‘wild’ animals in zoos are not truly wild. Don’t get me wrong. They are not truly domesticated either. But the majority of animals in captivity have been in captivity all of their lives and, more than that, have been in captivity for generations. Gone are the days where animal collectors go forth into habitats and return with cages filled with jaguars and killer whales. Yes, there are exceptions—in cases where a species’ survival is dependent upon captive breeding (which is, in fact, a controversial topic even within the industry); in cases of fish, insects, and some birds; and of course there is (and will probably always be) illegal or unscrupulous collectors (and, yes, to me this includes the Taiji dolphin hunts in Japan).

Because zoo animals are not ‘wild’, is it really fair to compare them to their counterparts living non-captive lives? Their motivations are different. Their needs are different. Their stressors are far different. Are they truly becoming different animals entirely? Should we be talking about how these animals are different—based on their habitats? Should we be designing their captive habitats differently since their needs are so different? Should we be talking about how humanity’s own struggle to survive is impacting these animals, and how really, when we get honest with ourselves, no animal outside of captivity is equipped for longevity unless they adapt to us.