U-T San Diego writer Lori Weisberg ran a very interesting story on Wed., May 14 filled with news from SeaWorld – one of the U-T’s favorite anchors for San Diego tourism. While not mentioning boss Papa Doug Manchester’s enthusiasm for tourists to have reasons to fill his hotels, Weisberg wastes no time in getting to the real news from the company that owns 11 sea-theme parks across the country. Attendance was down the first quarter of this year by a whooping 13%. Weisberg reported:
“the company’s quarterly earnings report … revealed, as expected, that attendance at SeaWorld’s 11 theme parks dropped 13 percent, to a little more than 3 million visitors, …”
This bad news for the company is accompanied by the concurrent news that revenues were also down by 11%. As Weisberg reported:
For the first quarter of 2014, SeaWorld said it generated revenues of $212.3 million, down from $238.6 million the same quarter a year ago.
Overall, SeaWorld said its net losses after expenses were $49.4 million, about $9 million more than the losses incurred a year earlier. SeaWorld’ stock price fell nearly 2 percent to $29.34 at the close of trading on Wednesday.
The official reasons for the negative changes? Easter. That’s right. Because Easter fell during the second quarter – it caused a “shift” in students’ spring break period, and attendance dropped and overall revenues also fell. And the cold weather. The company said that monies they take in are lower during the early months of the year because some of the parks close due to cold weather. SeaWorld stated:
“Attendance was also impacted by adverse weather, particularly above average precipitation in the Florida market as well as below average temperatures in the Texas market for the first quarter of 2014,”
But the really “big” news from the water park? SeaWorld is planning on opening multiple new parks in the Middle East. It announced that the company is working on a deal for the parks with an un-named partner. Again, Weisberg:
While not disclosing its partner in the multi-park deal, SeaWorld said it “has an established track record of opening and operating world-class attractions.”
The company added, “We have worked diligently with our partner to identify the best theme park concepts and potential locations in the region and are moving forward into the next stage of the project.”
The potential for an overseas development has been alluded to in the past but Wednesday’s announcement was the most specific to date. Still, despite efforts by analysts to learn more about the project, SeaWorld executives said they could reveal no more. Chances are, however, something firm will materialize from the memorandum of understanding that SeaWorld has entered into, they added.
“We wouldn’t have discussed the deal in our earnings call if we didn’t like the chances of getting something done,” said Jim Heaney, chief financial officer for SeaWorld.
Perhaps we’re all supposed to get real excited about the plans for overseas parks. Or perhaps it’s all part of the subterfuge. SeaWorld will admit that it’s fighting bad publicity due to the campaigns against their Orcas in captivity, but of course that’s not the reason for the drop in attendance and revenues. A spokesperson stated:
“We acknowledge that negative publicity for your brand is never good but we feel good about our efforts through our truth campaign and social media to really set the story straight as to our care for animals.”
And by the way, SeaWorld proudly disclosed that it has set a new record – it is now squeezing more money out of each visitor – as ” per capita revenue of $69.72, [was] up 2.2 percent, … a new record.” Here’s the original.