Harry Potter gives Universal’s Islands of Adventure park huge attendance boost in 2010 – but numbers still don’t rival Disney’s

in Disney, Islands of Adventure, Theme Parks, Universal Orlando, Walt Disney World

As one of the most highly-anticipated theme park attractions in history, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter has brought as large boost in attendance to Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure theme park. But even with Potter’s magic, it will be a while before Universal topples the Disney giant down the road.

Recent articles (such as this one) are quick to point out that Islands of Adventure saw an influx of new visitors following the Wizarding World opening. Here’s an excerpt:

“In the quarter after the attraction opened, crowds at Universal parks swelled by 36 percent over the same stretch last year, while attendance at Disney’s Orlando parks stayed roughly the same.”

But what these articles fail to mention is that in 2009, prior to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter premiering, Islands of Adventure had dropped 13.8% in attendance from 2008, down to a mere 4.5 million visitors for the year. That’s just a hair more than a 1/4th of the number of guests who visited Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom in the same year, at 17.2 million visitors.

So while an increase of 36% is certainly a step in the right direction for Universal, overcoming a 17th-place finish in the top 25 most-attended theme parks worldwide for 2009 is a tough battle to face. Even if that trend continues and gives Islands of Adventure a 36% boost for the whole year, that would still only bring their attendance to 6.12 million guests, on par with Disney’s least popular United States theme park, Disney California Adventure (which is currently receiving a $1 billion+ renovation to boost its attendance). Likewise, if Disney’s attendance remains flat in 2010 when compared to 2009, that will still leave its Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Animal Kingdom parks in Orlando with significantly higher attendance than Islands of Adventure, even with Potter’s influence.

Rumors suggest a Wizarding World expansion is in planning stages for Islands of Adventure and with one more Harry Potter film still yet to hit theaters, there will likely be many more attendance increase for the park in the coming years. But even the finest wizards and witches of Hogwarts School can’t likely bring the park the 400% attendance increase it would need to surpass the attendance level of Disney’s Magic Kingdom, the most popular theme park in the world.


  1. Triggernel

    You say that even with adding an addition to the WWoHP, they might not bring in the attendance levels to rival Disney, but what about a Twilight land? As much as most of us would hate it, a comparable Twilight land might close the attendance gap. I am willing to bet with the success of WWoHP, the Uni execs have had at least a talk with the Steph Meyer about the brand.

    1. Kim

      there is a Twilight world it called Forks, Washington…. It’s a real place so there is no way it would be an exciting attraction

  2. Andrew

    Disney is just the best and the others will always be playing catch up.

  3. Yes as Universal wont surpass Disney at any time soon, this potter success mean the entire park benefits from earnings. So this is how Triceratops Discovery Trail and other attractions get refurbished or re-themed. Money makes money and Disney has had a great amount for a while maybe its Universals turn for some of that.

  4. Wild Ol' Dan

    Howdy Pards,

    Well, of course, Islands of Adventure’s attendance went up! My gosh, Harry Potter is one of the most beloved stories…one of the most beloved adventures…of all time! Who among us who have read those stories or seen those movies wouldn’t want to visit at least once? To my way of thinkin’ however, the true question is, will those Harry Potter fans return? The answer to that is not quite as easy. While Hogsmeade and Hogwarts are indeed enchanting, there are factors that may cause attendance to decline after the initial novelty of the first visit wears off. One is, a good many people could not ride on the “Forbidden Journey” adventure because it was forbidden… they could not fit in the seat. An even bigger reason is that almost everything in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is grossly over priced…from Butter Beer to
    Pumpkin Juice to Chocolate Frogs to a small box of Bernie Botts Every Flavored Beans. Single day admission to Islands of Adventure exceeds $80 per person! That is $160 a couple plus $15 to just park your car. Now, everyone is going to want a wand, of course…
    is $30 for a stick in a small cardboard box a fair price? Maybe…but, how many times are you gonna wanna do that again? In short, unless, like Harry, you have a vault full of gold at Gringotts…you may think twice about a return to Hogsmeade… Universal’s image is far more like P.T. Barnum’s (There’s a sucker born every minute) than Uncle Walt’s.
    Walt Disney captured our hearts long, long ago…and the Magic Kingdom truly is a Magic Kingdom…not to mention all the other wonderful stuff at Walt Disney World…boats and monorails and fireworks over the castle and Mickey Mouse Waffles and a million other things.
    If Universal lowered their prices some they would stand a much better chance of getting a share of the tourist dollar…but $175 dollars per couple just to park your car and get in the gate for one day may be out of the reach of normal muggles no matter how much they love the works of J.K. Rowling…you could buy the whole set of Harry Potter Hardcover books for less than the cost of one day’s admission for a couple at Islands of Adventure…and have enough left over to buy all the Potter movies at Walmart! Still…I’m hooked on Butter Beer and Pumpkin Juice…there is no denyin’ that. Adios for now. Talk to ya on down the trail. Wild Ol’ Dan

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