Theme park ranks over ten years

I’m interested in understanding the competitive landscape of theme parks, and showing their ranks from year to year is a good way of seeing this. The best way I know of is to use everybody’s favourite chart – the bumps chart!

What’s a bumps chart?

This was invented in Cambridge to keep track of one of the most mental sporting events you’ll ever see – the May Bumps.

may-bumps-2010
The May Bumps (credit Selwyn College)

In true Cambridge style, the May Bumps are a rowing race held every June. Apart from their timing, the series of races involves all the college rowing teams (usually around 20 of them at once) racing down the river Cam at high speeds trying desperately to run into (or ‘bump’) each other. If a crew catches up to the one in front, both crews pull over and in the next race they swap positions for the start. This means that over a week a crew can move from the front to the back of the race, and this tells a story of that year’s Bumps. The original bumps chart hangs in the Cambridge University Union building.

bumps
A bumps chart of a May Bumps series, showing Oriel winning the competition.

Results

The bumps chart I created was based on the Theme Entertainment Association reports published online each year since 2006. The data were read into R, and I used the ggplot2 package to draw a line plot of visitor numbers over the years. The directlabels package was used for the labels.

bumps

BLACKPOOL PLEASURE BEACH BLPB NAGASHIMA SPA LAND NASL
BUSCH GARDENS BUSG OCEAN PARK OCEP
CHIMELONG OCEAN KINGDOM CHOK OCT EAST OCTE
DE EFTELING DEEF PLEASURE BEACH PLEB
DISNEY ANIMAL KINGDOM DIAK PORT AVENTURA PORA
DISNEY CALIFORNIA ADVENTURE DICA SEAWORLD SEAW
DISNEY HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS DIHS SEAWORLD FL SEAF
DISNEYLAND DISN SONGCHENG PARK SONP
DISNEYLAND PARIS DISP SONGCHENG ROMANCE PARK SORP
EPCOT EPCO TIVOLI GARDENS TIVG
EUROPA PARK EURP TOKYO DISNEY SEA TODS
EVERLAND EVER TOKYO DISNEYLAND TOKD
HONG KONG DISNEYLAND HOKD UNIVERSAL STUDIOS FL UNSF
ISLANDS OF ADVENTURE ISOA UNIVERSAL STUDIOS HOLLYWOOD UNSH
KNOTTS BERRY FARM KNBF UNIVERSAL STUDIOS JAPAN UNSJ
LOTTE WORLD LOTW WALT DISNEY STUDIOS PARK AT DISNEYLAND PARIS WDSPADP
MAGIC KINGDOM MAGK YOKOHAMA HAKKEIJIMA SEA PARADISE YHSP

There are a few really noticeable things when we plot out the ranks of parks this way. This first is that Disney dominates the industry, and they keep a tight ship. Their parks don’t compete with each other for audience, and they don’t tend to move up and down relative to each other.

The second noticeable thing about the plot is the recent rise of Universal through the ranks, to finally crack the Disney lockout. This probably explains the buzz within Comcast (Universal’s owners) at the moment, and all their talk about an aggressive growth strategy.

Finally we can see really clearly here that the Asian parks, particularly the Chinese ones, are making a claim in the industry as mega players. Particularly Songcheng and Chimelong mega parks are growing at an incredible rate and are showing no signs of stopping. If the trend continues, it is very possible that our children will be pleading us to take them to China for the rides.

Future stuff

There are a whole lot of problems here around missing data. In particular we only get the top 20 – 25 parks each year and TEA only recently started publishing year-to-year figures recently, so the data are really patchy for some parks. On the other hand, in the true spirit of Data Science, the missingness could probably be used to tell us something as well if we could derive any meaning from the patterns of dropping in and out of the top 25.

I’d also be really interested to aggregate the data in different ways to see other patterns in the rankings. We could aggregate parks by location to see which areas are most popular at the moment, or we could aggregate by owner to look at who’s actually performing the best on a budget level. Looking at ownership companies brings forward whole new dimensions to the data – for example none of the Merlin Entertainment parks feature in the top 25, yet they have appeared in the top ten entertainment companies in income for the last ten years.

Do you think Universal can continue its rise? Will the Chinese parks continue to grow to be larger than the might Magic Kingdom, or will Disney retain it’s seat as the unchallenged leader?

One thought on “Theme park ranks over ten years

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