Attractions Review 2018: May
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Attractions Review 2018: May

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In a year of ups, downs, loops and scoops, Attractions Management looks back at some of the biggest stories to hit the headlines, giving possible indicators at what’s still to come in the year ahead.

The month of May marked the release of the TEA/AECOM annual Theme and Museum Index, which showed the top players for the previous year in the theme park, waterpark and museums sectors. Also in May, plans were revealed for the tallest observation wheel in Europe, while Europa Park suffered after a fire destroyed one of its historic rides.

Theme and Museum Index

A collaboration of the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) and the economics practice at AECOM, the 12th TEA/AECOM Theme and Museum Index is an annual study of global attractions attendance, looking at theme parks, theme park groups, waterparks and museums.

The latest results showed Disney reigning supreme in the theme park world, with the operator gaining close to 10 million additional visitors through the year – 84 million ahead of its nearest rival.

Disney saw a 6.8 per cent increase in visitors – up to 150 million in 2017 from 140.4 million in the previous year.

Merlin Entertainments came a distant second, upping its visitation year-on-year to 66 million visitors – a 7.8 per cent or 5 million visitor increase.

Waterpark attendance for the first time broke 30 million visitors among the world's top 20, with a particularly strong performance from some of Europe's top waterparks.

Chimelong in Guangzhou, China, retains the title of the world’s most-attended waterpark, with a 6 per cent increase year-on-year, up from 2.5 million visitors in 2016 to 2.7 million in 2017. Making its debut on the list is Orlando's Volcano Bay, as the Universal waterpark ranked sixth with 1.5 million visitors in its first year. The largest attendance rise came for 16th-ranked Siam Park on the Canary Islands, which recorded a 20.9 per cent, 200,000 visitor rise to 1.2 million visitors in 2017.

Across the world’s top 20 most-visited waterparks, attendance increased 1.6 per cent between 2016 and 2017 – breaking the 30 million visitor barrier for the first time in the report's history.

For museum's, those in France showed significant recovery following a tumultuous 2016, with the Louvre reclaiming top spot as the world's most visited/

Tourist numbers in Paris and wider France suffered in 2016 in the wake of multiple terrorist attacks, with attendance at the Louvre dropping by 1.3 million visitors to 7.4 million, with the world-famous institution falling behind the top-ranked National Museum of China in Beijing and the National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC.

Reflecting the recovery of its tourism sector in 2017, the Louvre enjoyed a 9.5 per cent increase in visitor numbers, rising by 500,000 visitors to 8.1 million. Similarly, the Musee D'Orsay – which last year experienced a double digit drop in attendance to 3 million visitors – experienced significant recovery, with a 5.9 per cent increase in visitation to 3.2 million people. There were also rises in Paris for the Centre Pompidou, which increased visitation 2.2 per cent to 3.4 million, and the Cite des Sciences et de L'Industrie, which saw its numbers jump 11.7 per cent to 2.4 million visitors.

Attendance across the top 20 museums remained relatively flat – up 0.2 per cent from 107.8 million to 180 million. Regionally, however, the report says that museums had a strong year with 5 per cent growth fed by new entries and strong performance in Asia.

The Whey Eye

Newcastle’s ‘Whey Aye’ was revealed, with the towering observation wheel set to outdo its southern sibling – the London Eye – by becoming the tallest in Europe.

The 140-metre-tall (459-foot) attraction, which will be located at the east end of the city’s Quayside and offer 30-minute "flights", will be five metres taller than the London Eye and takes its nickname from the oft-heard Geordie phrase, "Whey aye, man".

Around the observation wheel – which is expected to welcome 800,000 guests in its first year – a pedestrianised area with bars, restaurants and a brand new visitor attraction will be built. The attraction, Giants of the North Experience, will use state-of-the-art technology to tell the stories of some of the northeast’s greatest citizens, including sports stars, musicians and artists, and pioneers of industry.

"This is without a doubt, one of the most exciting investment and regeneration projects in the UK, if not the world," said Phil Lynagh, CEO of World Wheel Company’s Newcastle operation.

"Representing an overall investment of more than £100m (US$134m, €114m), it will create up to 550 local jobs and deliver local building contracts worth in excess of £20m (US$27m, €23m). The developments will attract continued investment through more visitors spending an increased amount of time in the city and the region."

Europa Park fire

A major fire broke out at Germany's Europa Park in May, destroying a historic ride and consuming a large chunk of the park's Scandinavia and Norway-themed areas.

Starting on the Pirates of Batavia water dark ride, the fire started in a backstage storage area, creating a huge plume of smoke that could be seen for miles. Firefighters tackling the blaze used water from the Fjord-Rafting and the Dschungel-Floßfahrt rides to combat the fire.

During the fire, seven firefighters were slightly injured and were treated for smoke inhalation. No park visitors or employees were injured during the event, with more than 25,000 people safely evacuated during the fire.

Providing an update to Attractions Management later in the year, Europa Park founder, Roland Mack, said: "Our hotel and waterpark are both coming along nicely and we hope to have those open in 2019. At the same time, we're rebuilding our Norwegian village, the Dutch village and our wonderful Batavia ride following the fire.

"There's a lot going on in Europa Park. There's not another family-owned park in the world doing as much as we are right now. It's incredible."

Check back with Attractions Management tomorrow for a look back at the highlights from June

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The month of May marked the release of the TEA/AECOM annual Theme and Museum Index, which showed the top players for the previous year in the theme park, waterpark and museums sectors. Also in May, plans were revealed for the tallest observation wheel in Europe, while Europa Park suffered after a fire destroyed one of its historic rides.

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