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World's top theme parks

travel Updated: Mar 15, 2012 12:40 IST
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Next month, Disneyland Paris will kick off celebrations for its 20th anniversary, proving that with enough time and money, even the most ardent skeptics of US-style amusement parks can be won over.

It was by no means certain that the fancy parades, fast rides and multitude of food outlets would prove as popular outside America as they did in Florida and California, but with Disneyland Paris now one of Europe's top tourist attractions, it seems the world just can't resist a good theme park -- even in China, where Disneyland is building in Shanghai and Universal is thought to be close behind.

The most recent global figures on the world's top theme parks conducted by the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) suggested that 189.1 million of us clicked through the turnstiles of the world's major parks in 2010, an increase of 1.9 percent on 2009.

That's the best performance in half a decade, with steady growth being helped by a surge in the popularity of parks in Asia, particularly in Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan, home to major parks from Disney, Universal and Ocean Park.

"Thanks to the economy rebounding and a surge of visitors from mainland China, fueled by a change in tourist visa policies, Asian theme parks had a strong year in 2010," TEA noted, adding that overall, "the 2010 performance figures portray the resurgence of destination parks."

So whether it's Disneyland Hong Kong or Universal Studios Florida, it seems global theme parks are riding high after a tricky few years, when tough economic conditions forced would-be theme park-goers to reconsider their trips in favor of something cheaper.

With people now on the move again, part of that resurgence in attendance is being helped by new competition between parks to build new rides and an increasing experimentation with high-tech experiences, industry veteran and editor Robert Niles told Relaxnews.

"When theme parks get competitive, fans get new rides, better service and wonderful new environments to enjoy," he said.

"Parks are reacting to video games by adding more interactive and visitor-driven elements in their attractions, whether they be arcade-style rides like Universal's Men in Black or even live, massive multiplayer games like Disney World's Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom. Technology is enabling parks to roll out high-definition 3D movie attractions with unprecedented clarity."

That's helping to raise the level of excitement among fans, Niles adds: "We've been seeing a much more engaged and enthusiastic fan community online, even in the face of a continuing weak economy. People are talking about the new attractions at Universal, Disney and the other big theme park chains, even if they have to pinch pennies at home in order to afford a trip."

Some analysts, referring to the boom in new rides and high-tech attractions, have even talked of the 'theme park 2.0', heralding a new 'golden age' of theme park visitation which will see the biggest boom in building and visitors since the original destination park craze in the 1970s.

And with technology progressing faster than ever before, it seems that there is no end in sight for the stream of innovation -- or visitors -- to the world's theme parks.