As it continues to reinvent itself, SeaWorld sees major jumps in attendance and revenue

click to enlarge As it continues to reinvent itself, SeaWorld sees major jumps in attendance and revenue
Photo via SeaWorld
SeaWorld’s quarterly earnings reports have long been a point of negative publicity for the struggling company. In more recent quarters, the numbers have begun looking up, though there was still some worry.

With a delayed opening for SeaWorld Orlando’s 2018 attraction, Infinity Falls, and with the weather continuing to be a concern for the company 2018’s first nine months, investors were anxious ahead of Monday’s earnings call, but SeaWorld quickly proved some apprehension to be unnecessary with both earnings and revenue topped estimates.

Innovative new ticketing options, including Florida Resident season passes that begin at $9.99, and significant investments in new rides proved successful for the Orlando-based theme park company.

Across the company’s dozen water and theme parks attendance was up 9.7 percent, or 0.7 million more guests than the year before, with 8.3 million guests visiting during the quarter. Revenues were also well above estimates with a total revenue increase of $45.5 million, or 10.4 percent, from the third quarter of 2017 with revenue for 2018 Q3 at $483.2 million.

Interim CEO John Reilly pointed to the increased spending per visitor thanks to new in-park upgrades and a focus on improved culinary offerings while also continuing the effort began by the former CEO to bring in more locals via season passes. “We continued to see a double-digit increase in season pass sales revenue this quarter, further underscoring the effectiveness of our strategies. Third quarter attendance and revenue growth demonstrated continued strength during our peak summer season. Our increase in total revenue per capita was driven by a 7.4 percent increase in in-park per capita spending that was attributable to our improved culinary and merchandise offerings and other in-park offerings including our front of the line pass Quick Queue.”

Overall, the year is shaping up to be a positive one for the chain with the first nine months of 2018 seeing revenue growth of 9.5 percent, causing the company to already top over a billion dollars in revenue ($1.09B) for this year alone. Despite delays in opening Infinity Falls at SeaWorld Orlando the company still saw 1.4 million more guests, an 8.7 percent increase, than the first nine months of the previous year.

These increases and improved outlook come just as the company begins a multi-year investment across the board with $150 million earmarked every year for new attractions. Major new additions have already been announced for Busch Gardens Tampa, Busch Gardens Williamsburg, SeaWorld San Antonio, SeaWorld San Diego, and nearly all of the company’s water parks. Next year will also see the opening of the much-anticipated Sesame Street land at SeaWorld Orlando with that being announced months ahead of the other new attractions. Leaked documents that the company has confirmed are legitimate point to new roller coasters being added at four of the five theme parks by 2020.
click to enlarge Sesame Street at SeaWorld Orlando - Photo via SeaWorld
Photo via SeaWorld
Sesame Street at SeaWorld Orlando
On top of the new attractions, there has also been a company-wide focus on seasonal events. Earlier this year SeaWorld confirmed it had retained the theme park rights to Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer through 2023. An innovative high-energy summer event, Electric Ocean, has brought in huge summer attendance at all three of the SeaWorld parks. New beer and food festivals fill the calendar at all the parks. Even the water parks are getting in on the festivals with a Latin-focused one, Fiesta Aquatica, debuting at Aquatica Orlando this past September.

After waves of layoffs and cost-cutting, the animal-focused themed entertainment company now looks to be finally on a trajectory towards a stable financial future. Interim CEO Reilly pointed to that in his statements that were released with the results. “2019 will feature what I believe is our best line up ever of new rides, attractions and events with a new ride, attraction or event in almost every one of our 12 parks. We are looking forward to the many brand new thrilling experiences coming to our parks next year. We are also enthusiastic about our new season pass program.”…”We have significant scope to improve our pass base and to increase loyalty among our guests and the predictability and recurring nature of our revenues.”

With major competition expected from new Disney, Universal, Legoland, and SeaLife attractions, 2019 might be harder than many expect for SeaWorld though so far the company has proven that a focus on value conscience locals might be a better play in the long run. The question now is, ‘for how long will that remain true?’


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