SeaWorld attendance slowly improves, as company continues to find itself


Tuesday SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment held the second quarter performance conference call, and the news was rather mixed. CEO Joel Manby and newly appointed CFO Marc Swanson briefed investors on the second quarter. Manby continued to stress the importance of the five point plan, which has seen both positive and negative changes. Manby also stressed how they were going to re-evaluate the plan and work on the parts that just aren't working.

The biggest question, of course, is how is attendance fairing. Surprisingly the second quarter saw a 2.3 increase in attendance, which is a huge improvement over the huge decrease in the first quarter of the year. Overall the company is down for the first part of the year, but the company does look like the third quarter is strong. The biggest declines in the company came from SeaWorld San Diego and SeaWorld Orlando. The declines in San Diego came from public perception of the park being low. This was most likely because of the closing of One Ocean, and the lack of a formal whale show for most of the quarter.
From what guests at the park have told us, many general guests were not aware that there was a whale show happening in the park during that time. The perception was that the whales were gone. Now that a regular show is back in the rotation, that park should see improvement. Though Manby expressed a lot of disappointment with the performance of the new attractions in San Diego.

The decrease in Orlando was blamed on strong competition from Disney and Universal. Those parks saw huge new attractions and shows in April and May. But moving forward, SeaWorld should see huge improvements thanks to Electric Ocean, Dolphin Nursery and Kraken Unleashed. The other solution that was floated was a much lower admission price than parks like Universal and Disney.

Busch Gardens in Tampa and Williamsburg as well as SeaWorld San Antonio saw really strong attendance, with two of those seeing new attractions.
The focus continues to be on getting away from the image of being just an animal based park chain to a brand that mixes family based attractions, thrill attractions and animal attractions to bring a broader appeal.

The company will continue to push advertising and cut costs in other areas to bring the debt down.
Looking forward, the parks are hitting home runs with Kraken Unleashed and Electric Ocean. Guests can expect to see more of those types of attractions and shows, especially the shows like Electric Ocean and festivals. Plus, Orlando's new Sesame Street expansion is expected to bring in more families.

There's still a lot of room for improvement in attendance and spending, but the increase in attendance and passholders are a positive sign that things are starting to work in most of the parks.

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