By Sabine Lehmann

The Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) in conjunction with AECOM (economics research consultancy) has released their latest global attractions report for 2018. The 46 page report makes for very interesting reading for all in the local attractions industry.


The report looks at global attendance figures from theme parks, water parks, museums (and a new category) observation experiences. There are two criteria for including an attraction as part of the study:

There must be a gated entry (i.e. a ticket is required, free or paid)

the site must be focussed on the visitor experience

Being included in the benchmark report has become a measure of success for many operators. This makes it even more disappointing that not a single attraction from Africa was included. The report calls itself global and refers to data from EMEA (Europe Middle East and Africa) yet no data is presented from Africa at all. AAVEA will seek to engage TEA to change this for the coming years.

The index provides some interesting insights for our industry.

The report highlights (again) that all attractions compete for the same thing – the visitors’ time, attention and discretionary spend out of the home. Successful attractions “Have the resources to create and deliver experiences that people can’t get at home”. Whether your attraction is a museum or observation deck, you need to create shared, real- world, immersive experiences. For smaller attractions, focusing on hyperlocal (i.e. the flavours of your own region) has proven to be a successful differentiator.

The global benchmark states that crucial to the success of attractions is “good operations, wise management and upgraded guest experiences”. The upcoming 2019 AAVEA conference and IAM event in Cape Town this August provides opportunities to sharpen your skills in all these areas. Register here and experience them for yourselves.

Here are the 8 key learnings to take from the TEA Global Attractions Report:

are the 8 key learnings to take from the TEA Global Attractions Report:

Museums and theme parks can learn from each other: Again, we see that themed entertainment and museums are able to find themselves in the same report. Waterparks, themed attractions and museums all vie for the visitors’ time, attendance and discretionary spend. Whilst all these entertainment options do have their own niche issues, it is also true that we can and should learn from each other as the visitor moves across all boundaries seamlessly.At our AAVEA conference, we will be looking at what museums can learn from attractions and vice versa. See the full programme here.

Theme parks are visitor honey pots: The top 10 theme park groups in the world (eg Merlin, Disney) recorded half a billion people through their gates. When will Africa be ready for theme parks?

Locals are the main target market for theme parks: Theme parks in Latin America and Mexico cater mainly to domestic tourists and local residents. What can Africa and South Africa learn from these emerging economies? We will be watching KidZania closely as they open their first franchise in Africa in JHB.

Understand your market: Success comes from understanding those markets and serving them with unique, tailored experiences that play to the regions unique culture.

Water parks make the grade: Were UShaka Marine World to have been included in the statistics for water parks in the EMEA region it would have been listed as 6th in terms of visitor numbers. Ushaka Marine World recorded 895 000 visitors in 2015/2016. Be sure to catch Ushaka’s talk on the changing nature of retail at attractions at our AAVEA conference.

The rise of FECs: Family Entertainment centres are being engaged as a strategy to revitalise shopping centres as retail centres tend to be located in the same markets that are suitable for successful FEC’s. (Kidzania at Fourways Mall is a case in point).

The growth of museums: Whilst average attendance at museums was flat, some museums record growth (25% at the Louvre, Natural History Museums in London, 17%) and others reported negative growth. Museums, more than other attractions need to refresh and provide new drawcards annually.

A new driver of attendance to museums seems to be the successful use of social engagement via social media

There is also a rise of pop-up museums designed to be highly Instagrammable. It may be debatable whether these are museums or family entertainment facilities, but they are becoming successful visitor attractions offering both entertainment and education. Regardless of what you call them, they are competing with traditional museums for leisure time and discretionary spend.

Observation Experiences is a sub-category introduced for the first time. This speciality attraction type is a growing, and highly profitable niche. The trend is being driven by urbanisation, technology and changing building restrictions. It often results in an iconic highly visible site that quickly becomes a must-do on the list of attractions in a city.

Observation experiences include purpose built viewing towers, multi- use sites (such as roof decks on hotels), giant Ferriss wheels and rides (e.g. cable cars). The top three observation experiences in the world in 2018 were:  Tokyo Sky tree – (tower) at 6,4 million, and the Eiffel Tower (Tower) at  6,2 million followed by the London Eye (wheel) with 3.9 million.

Interestingly the Sugarloaf Cable Car in Brazil comes in at number 20, with 1.2 million visitors which is comparable to Table Mountain Aerial Cableway’s 1.1 million visitors.

These are the starting points for some fascinating conversations with your teams and attractions industry peers. Let us know what your thoughts are by tweeting them to us @Attractions_Afr on Twitter.