top of page
  • Writer's pictureGotta Go Orlando

Be Afraid Disney: Universal Orlando Is Making Huge Gains On Walt Disney World Theme Parks

Be afraid Disney, be very afraid.

Is Walt Disney World loosing its grip on tourists visiting Orlando to its closest competitor, Universal Orlando? Well, the answer to that question appears to be yes!

Be Afraid Disney: Universal Orlando Making Huge Gains On Walt Disney World Theme Parks!

Since opening in 1971, Walt Disney World has held a very tight grip on the Orlando tourism market, here in Central Florida, Disney has always been King, every other theme park and attraction has lived in Mickey's massive shadow.

Yes Orlando has Walt Disney World to thank for its unique place in world tourism, transforming the area from cattle fields to the worlds number one tourist destination, BUT, for years now the resort has been coasting, living off of former glories, putting in the minimum effort for maximum rewards.

Even this week the Disney company continue to squeeze its Orlando theme parks for every last cent while falling to reinvest significantly.

For years tourists have visited Walt Disney World, not really Orlando, every other theme park and attraction is only in Orlando thanks to Disney, feeding on the leftovers from the mouses plate.

First and foremost the majority of visitors came for Mickey Mouse, spending the majority of their time in Walt Disney World, venturing outside the Disney bubble for a day or two visiting Universal mostly, but also SeaWorld and the area's attractions, restaurants and discount malls.

But, the time being spend off Disney property is now increasing, and increasing a lot!

People are increasingly turning away from Disney due to the cost of visiting in the face of constant price increases, and a lack of new attractions, we only need to look at the lacklustre 50th celebrations to see proof that Disney are not spending money in Orlando,

Even their headliner new attraction for the 50th, Tron has failed to open yet and will probably still not be open when the 50th celebrations end, for a company of Disney's size that's pathetic!

This ground shift started back when Universal Studios Florida added its second park, but in reality the big change was thanks to a certain Harry Potter, make no mistake Universal have a lot to thank the boy wizard for.

Universal was failing in Orlando before Harry came along and cast a spell over Orlando, even selling price theme park expansion land to bring cash into the business.

Now thanks to the massive success of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Universal Orlando is enjoying the benefits of investment in its Orlando parks at the expense of Walt Disney World, so much so that in the latest theme park attendance figures for 2021, released this week by the Themed Entertainment Association, Universal Orlando Resorts attendance is now actually outpacing 3 out of the 4 Disney World theme parks!

This is a major ground change in Orlando, proving that Universal Orlando really is making a play for Disney's crown as the king of Orlando theme parks, and to think this is before Universal opens it's new third theme park, Epic Universe.

Disney really should be afraid, they need to invest in Walt Disney World now if they want to remain the number one tourist destination in Central Florida.

They have to improve their neglected Orlando parks at the very least, and what about announcing the much rumoured with theme park? Sadly Disney are not saying much, and doing even less other than increasing prices.

Yes Walt Disney World is still the busiest, its still drawing huge crowds and is busier than ever BUT you can only live of past glories for so long, and when you squeeze ever last piece of profit out of something without putting any money back in, you are going to have serious problems sooner rather than later, and we're afraid for Walt Disney World, we really are!

Be Afraid Disney: Universal Orlando Making Huge Gains On Walt Disney World Theme Parks!

The annual report from Themed Entertainment Association continued to see park attendance throughout the country begin to recover, though not back to its pre-pandemic levels.

The report, which contains estimated attendance figures, is regarded as the industry standard on attendance when many theme park operators don’t release such figures.

In the report Magic Kingdom has retained its crown as the most-visited theme park in the world with an estimated 12,691,000 visitors. That’s up 80 percent from 2020, but down from the nearly 21 million estimated in 2019.

But the major change for Orlando, and what should be seen as very worrying for Walt Disney World was the huge news that Universal Orlando’s two theme parks are now beating three of Disney World’s parks in attendance, for the first time ever!

Here were the top ten most-attended U.S. theme parks in 2021:

1. Magic Kingdom: 12,691,000

2. Universal’s Islands of Adventure: 9,077,000

3. Universal Studios Florida: 8,987,000

4. Disney’s Hollywood Studios: 8,589,000

5. Disneyland Park: 8,573,000

6. Epcot: 7,752,000

7. Disney’s Animal Kingdom: 7,194,000

8. Universal Studios Hollywood: 5,505,000

9. Disney California Adventure: 4,977,000

10. Knott’s Berry Farm: 3,681,000

Yes, Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom remained the world's most attended theme park in 2021, but the big winner here has to be Universal Orlando, whose parks passed three of the four Walt Disney World Resort theme parks in estimated 2021 attendance.

This really is great news for Universal, but surly the news should have Disney rushing to splash the cash on ensuring Walt Disney World remains king in Orlando?

Be Afraid Disney: Universal Orlando Making Huge Gains On Walt Disney World Theme Parks!

We're not writing this article to simply bash Disney, we love Walt Disney World, we are genuinely worried about the future of the resort.

Disney has been neglecting Walt Disney for years now, cutting back on almost every department in the resort, including a lack of maintenance, poor cleanliness, and most importantly a lack of investment, plus where Disney were always at the forefront of theme park innovation that's simply not the case now.

Just look at Walt Disney's latest coaster Guardians Of The Galaxy Cosmic Rewind compared to Universal's latest, Veocicoaster.

Cosmic Rewind offered so much, but was for the most part a let down, while over at Universal, Velocicoaster is a breathtaking ride deserving of a world class attraction.

Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge was Disney's answer to Harry Potter at Universal, but despite the money that Disney threw at the project it's still a poor second to The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter.

The biggest embarrassment for Disney right now is Tron, announced as the highlight of Walt Disney World's 50th Anniversary celebrations, yet now its still not finished and almost certain to miss the party altogether, this is not acceptable, yet Disney seems to not care one little bit..

Be Afraid Disney: Universal Orlando Making Huge Gains On Walt Disney World Theme Parks!

Now please don't think that we're simply bashing Disney for the sake of it, Universal have made mistakes too...

Fast & Furious – Supercharged anyone?

Fast And The Furious Supercharged Universal Studios Florida

We genuinely hope that Disney sees sense and start to repair the damage they are causing Walt Disney World before it's too late.

We say this as Universal Orlando is moving full steam ahead into the future with a very strong play by building it's brand new Epic Universe theme park.

Yes, recently at D23 we saw Disney announced Blue Sky concepts for a re-theme of DinoLand USA at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and an expansion of Frontierland "beyond Big thunder" at Magic Kingdom, but those back of a napkin ideas in now way add up to a brand new theme park.

an expansion of Frontierland "beyond Big thunder" at Magic Kingdom

Now, with these latest attendance figures, the question is: does attendance matter?

Simply put, Disney doesn’t seem to want a lot of people in their theme parks. Revenue is very impressive, per-guest spending is through the roof, and with the latest price increases that is going to increase again.

Disney is making an art out of making more money from fewer guests. they are actually proud of it, making, more money from fewer guests is their strategy and we’re seeing that play out in these attendance figures.

So, does it really matter? the simple answer is YES!

Yes, of course these attendance figures matter, even if Disney is able to make more money from fewer guests, that sadly means that fewer guests are making memories at Walt Disney World, fewer visitors are spending time in the resort, and even with diehard fans who will always visit Disney no matter what, the next generation will not have the same emotional attachment as families are now being forced to look at other options besides Disney.

Many visitors who would have happily spent their entire Orlando vacation in Walt Disney World are choosing to go to Universal now, this is a massive change and should bot be underestimated.

The clear winner here is Universal, and with Epic Universe currently under construction, Universal Orlando is poised to make a grab for Disney's Orlando crown.

In the years ahead we think that these attendance figures will become the new normal as Disney forfeits it's rein as King of Orlando, unless it starts making changes now.



bottom of page