SeaWorld announced some promising news, as the company continues to fight their way through their tough times. The company held it’s quarterly business report on Thursday, and announced that while there’s still a long way to go, things are looking up for the company. While the company is still experiencing losses, it’s not as bad as last year, and attendance was up slightly. All good signs as the park heads into one of the biggest years for the company in recent memory. However, the park also admitted to spying on PETA, which sent waves of criticism towards the park. Is it justly deserved criticism or more hypocrisy?
SeaWorld announced that their fourth quarter of 2015, the company generated revenue of $267.9 million, an increase of $3.3 million, or 1%, versus the fourth quarter of 2014. Overall for the year, the company generated revenue of $1.37 billion, a decrease of $6.8 million, less than 1%, compared to 2014. While it’s still a loss, it’s less of a loss than the company took in 2014, which is proof that the tide is turning, albeit slowly.
“We achieved attendance and revenue growth in the fourth quarter. Additionally, our Adjusted EBITDA for 2015 was within the guidance range we provided in November. These are continued indications that the business is stabilizing,” said Joel Manby, President and Chief Executive Officer of SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc. “Our near term priorities remain clear: execute our strategy with a focus on operational excellence and deliver the consistent and sustainable financial performance expected of our great organization.”
The company looks to be doing just that with some major management shake ups in the parks and in the company. The biggest of which is the removal of long time SeaWorld San Antonio manager, Dan Decker. Decker had been with the company for decades, and worked his way up the ladder. Many employees, and fans of the park (including us) expressed a wave of thanks for the time that Mr. Decker gave to the park.
John Reilly, president of SeaWorld San Diego, is becoming chief parks operations officer, replacing Dan Brown, who is retiring, effective April 1. Marilyn Hannes, vice president of global sales, is now park president of SeaWorld San Diego and Aquatica San Diego. Christopher Dold, vice president of veterinary services, is now chief zoological officer, replacing Brad Andrews, who has will remain zoological director emeritus. Carl Lum, president of Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Water Country USA, is the new president of SeaWorld San Antonio. There’s also a new position created for Resort Development, which is being headed by Steve Iandolo.
“The leadership changes we announced last week are another important step on our roadmap to stabilization and growth. We will continue to take the necessary actions to drive results and shareholder value, as we work to confront the external headwinds that continue to affect the business. Looking ahead, this summer we will open three highly anticipated attractions, including two new roller coasters in Florida and a new dolphin habitat and guest experience in Texas,” Manby added. “Over the course of the year we will continue to focus on our simplified pricing plan and explore opportunities to further develop our resort strategy as we continue to implement the key components of our plan.”
However, any good was overshadowed by the statement that SeaWorld employees did pose as animal activists in such groups as PETA. The company stated that they would discontinue those practices, as they did not adhere to their values and ethical standards.
“We recognize the need to ensure that all of our security and other activities align with our core values and ethical standards. As always, the security and well-being of our employees, customers and animals remain at the forefront of our business practices,” said Joel Manby, President and Chief Executive Officer of SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc.
Naturally, PETA and other animal activist groups (really just PETA) used the chance to pounce on SeaWorld and of course, filed a lawsuit against the Pasadena Police Department for not providing the identity of an alleged “spy from SeaWorld”.
“SeaWorld continually covers up the suffering of orcas in its concrete tanks, and now we wonder if the Pasadena Police Department is covering up the extent to which it has been used by this particular SeaWorld spy,” said Jeffrey Kerr, PETA’s general counsel in a statement. “The State of California guarantees the right of access to government records, and that includes the documents that will tell PETA how much time and taxpayer money the City of Pasadena and the Pasadena Police Department have spent catering to SeaWorld’s interests.”
While the company is suing the City of Pasadena for their involvement with “spies” and criticizing SeaWorld for the use of spies, PETA has a job listing for what they call a “Field Observer”. Click here to see the job on the official PETA website.
What is a Field Observer, and what do they do? From the official job description: “To use a variety of undercover investigative methods to conduct field investigations in PETA’s focus areas, including the use of animals for food, clothing, experimentation, and entertainment”
Among the job duties listed includes “Visit and/or obtain employment in various industries that use animals”.
In other words, spy.
While the company is still facing opposition from the likes of PETA, and struggling to change public opinion, the report is seen as a step in the right direction. Later this year, SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment will open new attractions in it’s parks nationwide, including Mako at SeaWorld Orlando, Cobra’s Curse at Busch Gardens Tampa, Dolphin Cove at SeaWorld San Antonio, as well as a complete revamp of the entrance at that park. Busch Gardens Williamsburg will see new dining options, as well as a new beer options for guests. SeaWorld San Diego will phase out the “theatrical” Orca shows later this year, and will replace them with more educational shows in 2017. No, they are not ending Orca shows altogether.
While the journey is far from over, the park is definitely showing signs of progress, and 2016 looks to be one that could signal even more steps towards that goal.
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