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Zachary

Administrator
Sep 23, 2009
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#1
This seems like odd timing but someone asked me about attendance at BGW in the wake of Tempesto and I realized something: I am years late updating what was once my yearly chart of TEA/AECOM's attendance reports. So, time to play catch-up.

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First off, TEA/AECOM's yearly attendance estimates for BGW alongside important events or additions that could have impacted attendance for that season. If you believe I've missed a milestone or event in the list below, please let me know and I'll consider adding it.

  • 2016: Unknown[sup]1[/sup] [N/A] (All for One)
  • 2015: 2,780,000 [+3%] (Tempesto)
  • 2014: 2,699,000 [-1%] (London Rocks, Star Spangled Nights)
  • 2013: 2,726,000 [-4.5%] (Food & Wine Festival)
  • 2012: 2,854,000 [+4%] (Verbolten, Entwined)
  • 2011: 2,744,000 [-2%] (Mach Tower, Mix it Up)
  • 2010: 2,800,000 [-3.4%] (Europe in the Air, IllumiNights, Celtic Fyre)
  • 2009: 2,900,000 [-6.2%] (Sesame Street Forest of Fun, Christmas Town)
  • 2008: 3,094,000 [-2%]
  • 2007: 3,157,000 [+12.5%] (Griffon, Jamestown's 400th Anniversary)
  • 2006: 2,762,000

[sup]1[/sup] Busch Gardens Williamsburg fell out of TEA/AECOM's attendance report in 2016 after losing its status as one of North America's top 25 highest attended amusement parks. All we know is that BGW's estimated attendance was less than that of Six Flags Great America (2,950,000) which took the 25th spot on the list.

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Secondly, below I've calculated the average attendance per operating day for each of the years for which I have data:

  • 2015: 14,632 [+3%] (190 Operating Days)
  • 2014: 14,205 [-1.5%] (190 Operating Days)
  • 2013: 14,423 [-7%] (189 Operating Days)
  • 2012: 15,511 [+2.9%] (184 Operating Days)
  • 2011: 15,077 [-2%] (182 Operating Days)
  • 2010: 15,385 [-3.4%] (182 Operating Days)
  • 2009: 15,934 [-17.1%] (182 Operating Days)
  • 2008: 19,217 [-0.2%] (161 Operating Days)
  • 2007: 19,250 [+15%] (164 Operating Days)
  • 2006: 16,739 (165 Operating Days)
 

Zimmy

Nessie thinks it is not polite to ask her age!
Sep 28, 2013
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#2
wow...  That is a heck of a downward trend.  I would do some fun math with it, but clearly the numbers have to many independent variables for any back of the napkin stat useful.  The biggest drop really co-insides with comment the other day about the 2008 crash.  Ave attendance down 17% from 2008 to 2009.
 

Zachary

Administrator
Sep 23, 2009
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#3
The 2009 drop in guests per day adverage is somewhat expected since it was the first season of Christmas Town. All of those new, considerably lower capacity days likely really impacted the adverage.

That said, the fact that there were that many new operating days and the park still dropped 6.2% in total attendance is, naturally, very alarming.

For me, the fact that attendance continued to drop throughout 2010 and 2011 is really damning though. Adverage guests per day dropped notably both of those seasons despite new attraction additions and the popularity of the park's Christmas event skyrocketing.
 
Apr 29, 2011
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#4
Zachary said:
For me, the fact that attendance continued to drop throughout 2010 and 2011 is really damning though. Average guests per day dropped notably both of those seasons despite new attraction additions and the popularity of the park's Christmas event skyrocketing.
I would credit the removal of BBW for a lot of that attendance drop. The removal of a beloved coaster that had a minimum 42-inch height requirement left a big void for many.
 

Zimmy

Nessie thinks it is not polite to ask her age!
Sep 28, 2013
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#5
I don't think you can ignore the loss of personal wealth in late 2008. People were freaking out over the housing bubble and suddenly things like family trips to Williamsburg were being replaced with new thing, the "Staycation." BGW was hardly the only place that felt the hit. I would need to look it up, but I recall either Disney or Universal had problems that year too.
 
Mar 16, 2016
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#6
Zimmy said:
I don't think you can ignore the loss of personal wealth in late 2008.  People were freaking out over the housing bubble and suddenly things like family trips to Williamsburg were being replaced with new thing, the "Staycation."  BGW was hardly the only place that felt the hit.  I would need to look it up, but I recall either Disney or Universal had problems that year too.
Hersheypark saw a big hit that year too. I think that was a bad year for the industry as a whole, and overall the tourism industry has been down since then.

That's why when I look at those numbers, I'm interested in what the trend industry wide (minus Disney and Universal parks), and what the economy looked like.
 
Mar 9, 2010
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#7
Wonderful report!!  I, myself, monitor and review numbers like these for all the SEAS parks, and I am very interested to learn SWO and BGT's new numbers, if they fall in the top 25 for attendance this year.
 

Zimmy

Nessie thinks it is not polite to ask her age!
Sep 28, 2013
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#8
warfelg said:
That's why when I look at those numbers, I'm interested in what the trend industry wide (minus Disney and Universal parks), and what the economy looked like.
I think I may not have been clear.  This was exactly what I was getting at.  

That was the year the housing market crash hit bottom.  
For those who are not old enough to remember a bit of history...  Sorry to everyone who knows this stuff I do not mean to sound condescending...
In the early 2000s interest rates were at all time lows, and the stock market was very high.  As a result banks were offering very good terms on very risky mortgages.  Notably what is called a 30/70.  Without getting into the weeds, in these type of loans you pay an increased rate after a few years.  In and around 2008 many of these loans shifted rates and many people found they could no longer afford the terms resulting in record breaking foreclosure numbers.  This of course meant less money for the lenders, a glut in the market, and a quick devalue of homes.  Compounding this a few years before the crash many people who were less than 15 years into their loans suddenly found their property was as much as 2 to 3 times (or more) its original value and their interest rate of 10% from the late 80s or early 90s were silly.  Refinancing, taking out equity buying more property, or other wise spending the new found wealth became the new order of the day. Flash to 2007 - 2009 the bubble market corrected, home values slid suddenly downward, much of the country was deep in debt, and people simply did not have the expendable income they had a few years before.  People were not buying cars, going on trips, you name it.  This was when GM and Chrysler filled for bankruptcy.  It is also when the airlines really started to merge to avoid or come out of bankruptcy.  The economy sucked especially the housing market.  My condo for example lost over 40% over 6 months fortunately in 2007.  Just now I am coming close to the break even point and when I purchased it was slightly below market and I put down 20%.  (I say this not to complain but as an example)
The thing was when our economy burps it is felt world wide.  Even Dubai felt the pinch.  They had to stop building the world island and Abu Dabi had to bail out the tower.  So international tourism was way down.
Oh yeah, the banks...  some went belly up, many merged.  I could go on, but suffice to say, it made being a MBA student in 2009 a very interesting proposition.  (Kind of like being an international relations major during the end of the Cold War I expect.)

All this to say, that yeah, the economic shift in that year was... unprecedented...  except for perhaps the great depression.  This is why I say, when looking at the 2009 season numbers you have to consider the big ass elephant in the room.  Sure BGW may have done stupid things, but that became noise when a non-trivial % of the American population lost their homes in a matter of months.  (and two of the largest manufactures went belly up, and the cost of everything went up, and all the other cascading issues that honestly we are still feeling today.)
 
Aug 9, 2017
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#9
Unagi said:
Zachary said:
For me, the fact that attendance continued to drop throughout 2010 and 2011 is really damning though. Average guests per day dropped notably both of those seasons despite new attraction additions and the popularity of the park's Christmas event skyrocketing.
I would credit the removal of BBW for a lot of that attendance drop.  The removal of a beloved coaster that had a minimum 42-inch height requirement left a big void for many.
I can't resist pointing out that Verbolten failed to bring attendance back to the same level as when BBW was still around. Tempesto was probably more bang-for-buck, looking at the similar attendance increase, and the fact that a Sky Rocket II is definitely not 50 million.
 
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Zachary

Administrator
Sep 23, 2009
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#10
To be fair to Verbolten, it may have increased attendance in what would have otherwise been yet another freeall year for the park.

It appears that the freefall began to slow in 2014 when the park's attendance only dropped about 1% despite not seeing any real noteworthy additions.

In other words, Verbolten may have been picking up a lot of slack that we just can't see from the numbers above.
 
Jul 5, 2017
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#11
This is a fun read for me since my boss tries to tell me that kids rides affect park attendance better than large coasters. If that were the case no way would a park ever spend $25 million plus on a coaster.
 
Dec 13, 2013
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#12
CoasterChase said:
This is a fun read for me since my boss tries to tell me that kids rides affect park attendance better than large coasters.  If that were the case no way would a park ever spend $25 million plus on a coaster.
While Apollo may mean more to the park's attendance than Grover's Alpine Express, it is very much worth noting the last few posts. The state of the economy is no small part of the attendance figures - for any park. If even 2% of Americans lost their homes in those two years, it's a wakeup to the rest of the populace to control non-trivial spending. You still need gas and milk, but suddenly a new car vacation payment doesn't look as easy to make if your company has a reduction in force layoff due to slower sales of their widgets due to the overall economy slowing down.

The only way you can take these numbers at face value is if the economy as perfectly stable, foreign relations were perfectly stable, overall weather patterns were unchanged (two hurricanes in one year vs zero in another has an impact), etc.

Of course if someone can show that WDW and Universal Orlando had up attendance in 2008, 2009 2010, that may soften the economy-driven argument with BGW. Still a different demographic (destination vacation vs. weekend vacation).

I'm only a high school graduate, never went to college much less studied business, economy, etc. I've just lived it for a while is all.
 

Alf33

Silver Donor
Jun 8, 2013
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#13
Another item is that it took a lot of people anywhere from 2-5 years after the economy started its recovery before they started to have a lot of free spending cash again. So those down years from '08-'11 reflect this. People who would have come to the park to visit just didn't have the extra money to do so.
 

Zimmy

Nessie thinks it is not polite to ask her age!
Sep 28, 2013
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#14
whanna said:
Of course if someone can show that WDW and Universal Orlando had up attendance in 2008, 2009 2010, that may soften the economy-driven argument with BGW. Still a different demographic (destination vacation vs. weekend vacation).
As I mentioned I seem to recall one or both also felt the pinch in a big way during the "bad years."
I am certain if you could really look at the their numbers you would be able to see a dip. Those events impacted every person in this country and the country in a very fundamental way. At the very least they helped to define if not partially decide a presidency.
 
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Dec 13, 2013
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#16
Zimmy said:
As I mentioned I seem to recall one or both also felt the pinch in a big way during the "bad years."
I am certain if you could really look at the their numbers you would be able to see a dip.  Those events impacted every person in this country and the country in a very fundamental way.  At the very least they helped to define if not partially decide a presidency.
I just didn't feel like looking for the numbers - I'm supposed to be working. :)

Nicole said:
I want to point out that Orlando sees a lot of overseas guests.  While SWO could benefit from that, most SEAS parks don't.  So, an economic downturn in the US could be mitigated for Uni and Disney by foreign customers.
That's what I meant by 'destination vacation' in my post. They are certainly not recession-proof, but they are a little more recession-resistant than more regional venues such as Hersheypark and BGW.
Judging by their non-stop ticket price climb in recent years, they are confident in their business models.
 
Mar 16, 2016
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#17
Zimmy said:
All this to say, that yeah, the economic shift in that year was... unprecedented...  except for perhaps the great depression.  This is why I say, when looking at the 2009 season numbers you have to consider the big ass elephant in the room.  Sure BGW may have done stupid things, but that became noise when a non-trivial % of the American population lost their homes in a matter of months.  (and two of the largest manufactures went belly up, and the cost of everything went up, and all the other cascading issues that honestly we are still feeling today.)
I wanted to talk about this last bit and it's impact on everything else with BGW.

Yea that shift was quite something, and the entertainment business hasn't recovered as a whole. Movies are down, TV has been declining, parks are still trying to come back. It's hard to recover something like that. And you hit on something with Staycations, but I think the other part is 'cheapcations'. I can say with my friends it's becoming more popular to just travel somewhere you know someone, stay with them, and see the city.

Last vacation I took, I went to a friends house in Savannah Georgia. Cost me $140 to fly round trip. Spend about $300 in my weekend on food and stuff. Saw the town. Went to the beach. Less than $500 I saw a cool place I've never seen. Mo other option was to go BGT or SWO. With my Membership I should get in for free, but the flight was $175 from BWI, which means having to drive rather than Uber (meaning paying parking). Pay for the hotel, with a nice one being $140 a night. Food in the parks, souvenirs, Ubers, night life, likely time at Universal City Walk....By the time I added it all up I would need $1200-1500 for a trip to Orlando/Tampa.

I think stuff like that is hitting BGW. It's not in an area where there's extended stay items. So people looking for a few day trip might be inclined to do the cheaper OCMD, VB, or visiting family.

And something you added at the end there. The price of raw materials. So much yes. Now coasters cost so much. Mako and Apollo are so similar in stats, but I would bet Mako cost so much more because of the inflation rate, even if you did a inflation study to Apollo. So now Mako was a much higher cost to add a similar thrill, so it takes the park that much more to recover from that investment.

Now not saying you don't invest in the parks because you need to, but now it's about making smart investments.

Like a 300 foot coaster in BGW might be a good investment. Especially if you get a B&M giving a very different experience from I-305. Now you might pull some people from KD because of that thrill. The proposed Sesame Place gives you a kids park, that can stretch a visit out over a few days is another good investment for this group.

I actually don't think that a SP park would have a negative impact on BGW when it comes to attendance. I think it would be a huge boom having the 3rd gate. Now there's reason to stay there and visit.
 
Mar 16, 2016
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#19
Nicole said:
I wonder what impact the proposed trade tariffs would have.
Huge. That impact on the steel prices will be big, because that cost is going to be passed from the steel company, to B&M/Mack/Intamin, to BGW, to us (unfortunately).

25% tariff rate would likely mean (and this is if the steel is imported), about a 10-15% raise in the price of the coaster.
 
Apr 29, 2011
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#20
whanna said:
Nicole said:
I want to point out that Orlando sees a lot of overseas guests.  While SWO could benefit from that, most SEAS parks don't.  So, an economic downturn in the US could be mitigated for Uni and Disney by foreign customers.
That's what I meant by 'destination vacation' in my post. They are certainly not recession-proof, but they are a little more recession-resistant than more regional venues such as Hersheypark and BGW.
Judging by their non-stop ticket price climb in recent years, they are confident in their business models.
This is exactly what happened for Disney and Universal in Orlando when the recession hit.  

While WDW saw a slight drop in attendance from 2009 to 2010 (Magic Kingdom down 2.1%) both resorts benefitted from an enormous influx of South American tourists (mostly from Brazil) that kept the parks busy and attendance has been increasing ever since.  Many of them even migrated and bought homes and set up shops and restaurants in the Orlando area as there is now a "Little Brazil" located about half a mile south of Fun Spot on I-Drive and Kirkman Rd.

Also for Universal, they were pretty much recession proof as the timing of opening the Wizarding World of Harry Potter not only kept them busy but shattered attendance records for the resort.  IOA saw a whopping 1.725 million attendance increase from 2010 to 2011.  The opening of Diagon Alley a few years after kept that attendance growing and both parks are now pushing the 10 million mark for annual attendance.
 
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