SeaWorld Entertainment, the parent company of Tampa's Busch Gardens is reporting a second quarter net loss of $175 million. SeaWorld executives told investors Tuesday that fewer people are attending the company’s theme parks in San Diego and Orlando.
Attendance for the first half of 2017 was down by about 350,000 from 2016.
Chief executive Joel Manby said SeaWorld Orlando faces pressure from rival attractions at Disney and Universal.
“We believe the decline results partly from lower national media spending this year compared to 2016, combined with substantially increased competitive pressures in Orlando from major new attractions like Pandora and Volcano Bay Water Park,” said Manby.
He said SeaWorld also faces “public perception issues” in Southern California. The company has been waging a PR campaign since the 2013 documentary Blackfish, which criticized SeaWorld’s treatment of captive killer whales.
Chief financial officer Marc Swanson said SeaWorld had adjusted its expected earnings down for 2017 by about $50 million.
“Roughly 30 million is from continued softness in California,” Swanson says.
“Another roughly 30 million is from continued US domestic and international softness primarily in Florida. Partly offsetting this combined 60 million dollar shortfall is 10 million of additional cost savings”
Manby says he expects attendance to pick up in the fall.
“It would be unprecedented based on the last four years for the rest of the year to get worst not better, and having said that we certainly monitor it every week. We will take all the appropriate steps possible, and we’re watching it very, very closely.”
Manby says while he’s not satisfied with the second quarter results, he believes SeaWorld is still on the right track. The company is investing more in advertising, and it will continue to invest in new rides and festivals, and find ways to cut costs.
One improvement was attendance from visitors within a 300 mile radius of SeaWorld’s parks in Orlando, Tampa and San Antonio.
And Manby says there’s been “incredible social response” to the introduction of virtual reality headsets on the Kraken Unleashed coaster.
“If there’s any issue it’s just getting the capacity we need,” Manby says.
“For everyone in the industry that’s the downside of Virtual Reality. Of course we knew that going in, and of course we planned for it. But our only issue is getting enough people through to please them.”