Press Release

May 22, 2019

AECOM and TEA’s definitive global report shows attendance at themed attractions has exceeded a half billion visits for the first time in history


2018 TEA/AECOM Theme Index and Museum Index reveals world’s most popular theme parks, water parks and museums

LOS ANGELES (MAY 22, 2019) — The Economics practice at AECOM and Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) have released the 2018 TEA/AECOM Theme Index and Museum Index. This annual, calendar-year report tracks growth and evolution in the global themed entertainment industry and tourism destination development.

The complete 2018 TEA/AECOM Theme Index and Museum Index is available to download free of charge from the TEA website and AECOM website. It is published first in English, followed shortly by a Chinese-language version.

The 2018 TEA/AECOM Theme Index and Museum Index charts attendance numbers showing the performance of the world’s most-visited theme parks, water parks and museums. The tables are accompanied by analysis from industry specialists in the Economics practice at AECOM. The report studies the sector by region (The Americas, Asia-Pacific, EMEA), the global market as a whole and the top operators (Disney, Merlin, Universal, OCT, Fantawild, Chimelong, etc.)

A team from AECOM and TEA will give a presentation based on the new 2018 Theme Index at IAAPA Expo Asia in Shanghai (June 2019), where Chinese-language copies will be available.

John Robinett, Senior Vice President – Economics, AECOM, said, “Our figures show that attendance at themed attractions at the major operators has exceeded a half billion visits for the first time in history. This is equivalent to almost 7% of the world population. Factors that have led to this strong performance include the addition of second gates, the continued leveraging of blockbuster intellectual property (IP), and the building of resort hotels adjacent to park properties.”

Regionally and internationally, Disney has readily maintained its position at the top of the list. In the United States an increase of more than six million visits at the top North American parks in 2018 was led by Disney, Universal and SeaWorld.


Brian Sands, Vice President / Director – Economics, Americas, AECOM, said, “The biggest growth is IP-driven. The big players are in a position to command the big IP – and have full awareness of the power of these franchises and what they can do in a storytelling environment, with innovative experiences and rides, made immersive with state-of-the-art technology.”

Kathleen LaClair, Associate Principal – Americas, AECOM, added, “We saw particularly good performance in 2018 from Disney’s Animal Kingdom, SeaWorld Orlando and SeaWorld San Diego, Disney Hollywood Studios, and Universal Studios in Florida.”


Disney parks across Asia had a very strong year in 2018, including properties in Tokyo, Hong Kong and the newest, Shanghai Disneyland. Other leading operators in China include OCT, Fantawild and Chimelong.

Chris Yoshii, Vice President – Economics, Asia-Pacific, AECOM, said, “In the two years since it opened, Shanghai Disneyland has quickly become a standard-bearer for Asia. Its influence has led other parks to upgrade their offerings and guest experience.”

Beth Chang, Executive Director – Economics, Asia-Pacific, AECOM, said, “The Asia-Pacific sector is doing very well, and the big parks are getting bigger. To make it onto our Asian Top 20, a park needs a minimum of 3.1 million in annual attendance, which is substantial.”


The 2018 data reveals that theme parks in Europe are increasing attendance by building up their properties into destination resorts. Another trend is acquiring and overhauling smaller, underperforming parks.

Jodie Lock, Associate – Economics, Asia-Pacific and EMEA, AECOM, said, “It’s all about expanding guests’ options and promoting a longer stay like adding a second (or third) gate, hotel, FEC, adventure park, seasonal event or other experience. Disney remains the top European operator, with other leading European parks making their way up the charts. Europa-Park (Germany), Efteling (Netherlands), Tivoli (Denmark), Gardaland (Italy), Parque Warner (Spain) and Alton Towers (UK) are among those that did well.”


The Louvre in Paris retained its position as the world’s most-attended museum, and several other museums saw record-breaking attendance, including the Natural History Museum and the Victoria & Albert Museum, both in London.

In Washington, DC, attendance at most Smithsonian museums was down or flat, with the exception of the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC). In addition, there was record attendance at the Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture driven by the exhibition of the new portraits of President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.

In the Asia-Pacific region, the National Museum of China held its position in the top spot, and the re-imagined Hunan Museum zoomed into the Top 20 in its first year after reopening.

Global trends in museums include pop-ups, immersion and “Instagrammable” photo ops.

Linda Cheu, Vice President – Economics, Americas, AECOM, said, “Temporary exhibitions and geopolitical stability continue to serve as key attendance drivers for museums in Europe, the global market leader. Museums in China performed very well overall. A key direction being seen all over the world is the ‘mediafication’ of exhibits. Visual moments that can be posted to Instragram are being incorporated at museums to engage those active on social media platforms. Art is being blended into interactive exhibits, allowing visitors to step into, touch, and move through the artwork – and, of course, capture all of this on camera.”


The 2018 TEA/AECOM Theme Index and Museum Index includes a special section on observation experiences, a type of specialty attraction proliferating across the globe. This category is comprised mostly of observation decks in purpose-built towers and in multi-use buildings, wheels, and cable car attractions.

Together, the top 20 observation experiences worldwide had attendance of 53 million, surpassing by a wide margin the total for the top 20 water parks worldwide, though it is approximately one-half of the total for the top 20 museums worldwide. The Tokyo Tree is the most-attended observation experience globally, which would place it near the middle of the most attended theme parks globally.

Brian Sands, Vice President / Director of Economics, Americas, AECOM, said, “With the right combination of factors in major urban markets, these attractions can generate strong attendance and significant revenue, as well as contribute to destination branding.”


More details (including figures) on the performance and trends concerning theme parks, waterparks and museums in each geographic region can be found in the full report: the 2018 TEA/AECOM Theme Index and Museum Index. The AECOM website and TEA website are the official sources to view and download the latest version of the report, as well as past reports dating to 2006, free of charge.

AECOM and TEA have collaborated to produce and publish the Theme Index since 2006, and to make the report available free as a service to the international attractions industry. It is available in PDF format in English and Chinese versions, on the AECOM and TEA websites, and in a limited print edition.


“The TEA/AECOM Theme Index and Museum Index is an important aspect of how our global membership association serves the global industry with information and resources,” said TEA International Board President Michael Mercadante of Main Street Design. “TEA values its continuing partnership with AECOM.”

“TEA is delighted to continue its longstanding collaboration with AECOM to produce the TEA/AECOM Theme Index and Museum Index every year,” said Jennie Nevin, TEA Chief Operating Officer. “The Theme Index helps TEA in its mission to educate and enrich the industry and promote best practices that lead to success and innovation.”

“The TEA/AECOM Theme Index and Museum Index stands as an invaluable and meticulously researched business and educational resource. Members of the media, researchers, analysts, students and many others turn to it again and again throughout the year. Published now for well over a decade, it shares a wealth of historical and current information,” said Judith Rubin, editor of the report and director of publications for TEA.

TEA/AECOM collaboration

Since 2006, TEA and AECOM have collaborated to produce and publish the annual TEA/AECOM Theme Index and make the report available free as a resource and reference for business and education. It was expanded to include the Museum Index in 2012. The TEA/AECOM Theme Index and Museum Index is a definitive and widely cited global resource benefiting the international attractions industry and many other sectors including financial, real estate, education, hospitality, retail, travel and tourism. It is a vital reference for the media. It is published in PDF format in English and Chinese language versions, on the TEA and AECOM websites, and in a limited print edition.

 About AECOM
AECOM is built to deliver a better world. We design, build, finance and operate critical infrastructure assets for governments, businesses and organizations. As a fully integrated firm, we connect knowledge and experience across our global network of experts to help clients solve their most complex challenges. From high-performance buildings and infrastructure, to resilient communities and environments, to stable and secure nations, our work is transformative, differentiated and vital. A Fortune 500 firm, AECOM had revenue of approximately $20.2 billion during fiscal year 2018. See how we deliver what others can only imagine at and @AECOM.

About the Themed Entertainment Association

The Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) is an international, nonprofit membership association founded in 1991 and based in Burbank, CA USA. TEA’s 1700+ member companies encompass some 16,000 creative specialists working in 52 different countries. TEA presents the prestigious, annual TEA Thea Awards and the TEA Summit, and the TEA SATE conferences on Experience Design. TEA produces a variety of print and electronic publications and is pleased to collaborate with AECOM every year on the TEA/AECOM Theme Index and Museum Index. Visit TEA online at and on LinkedIn and Facebook. On Twitter: @tea_connect. #TEAthemeindex

Media Contact:
Michael Chee
Director, External Communications, DCS Americas