- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 25, 2005

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Attendance at North America’s 50 most popular amusement parks rose 4.2 percent this year, powered by strong investment in new rides, the 50th anniversary of Disneyland and a hurricane season that bypassed the theme park capital of Orlando.

An estimated 176 million visitors went to North America’s most popular parks, according to an annual survey to be released today by the trade publication Amusement Business and the research firm Economics Research Associates.

Worldwide, amusement park attendance increased 2.2 percent to 253 million visitors in 2005.

Neither a rainy spring in California nor destructive hurricanes in the Southeast slowed growth in the $10 billion industry, which had strong momentum from last year, the first year attendance had increased since the September 11 terrorist attacks hobbled the U.S. tourism and travel industry.

Most major parks don’t release their attendance figures, but the Amusement Business numbers are considered the most reliable estimates in the industry.

Parks that acquired new rides saw their investments pay off while parks that had an off-year in their capital investment cycle, for the most part, experienced attendance dips, said James Zoltak, editor of Amusement Business.

Universal’s two parks in Orlando, Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, each saw declines of 8 percent, while Universal Studios Hollywood had an attendance dip of 6 percent.

All three parks came off strong attendance increases in 2004, and the parks in 2005 didn’t introduce an excitement-generating thrill ride comparable to 2004’s Revenge of the Mummy ride.

“There was an appetite and sometimes you don’t want to miss out on that when there is that appetite, if you’re in a rebound kind of year,” Mr. Zoltak said. “Universal was left a little flat-footed because they did their big Revenge of the Mummy rollout the year before.”



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