SeaWorld cuts 350 jobs to invest in marketing and new rides

SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. is to cut 350 jobs and invest in marketing and new rides to try to revive its flagging performance.

SeaWorld’s half year results, announced in August, showed a net loss of $237.0 million.  A reduced marketing spend on its reputation campaign was seen as a significant factor in a decline in domestic attendance.

The company noted that it was on target to achieve $40 million in net cost savings by the end of 2018, and was actively looking for additional areas for cost reduction.

Joel Manby, President and Chief Executive Officer of SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. said at the time, “While we are making progress in key areas of our plan, we are not satisfied with our results for the quarter.  This quarter provided us with an understanding of what is working and where we need to make adjustments. We are increasing our investment in national advertising to generate sufficient awareness of our brand attributes and strong new rides and attractions, developing a new national marketing campaign emphasizing our distinct experiences, and reinvesting in our reputation messaging to target perceptions in key markets, particularly California. We will offset this increased advertising with additional cost reductions.

“In the first half of 2017, attendance increased from guests within 300 miles of our Orlando, Tampa, and San Antonio markets, and season pass sales to date for all major markets outside of California are up – which we believe is due to the favorable reception of our new attractions and demonstrates our strong appeal with the guests most familiar with our brand, our mission and our attractions. We are committed to our capital investment strategy and will continue to invest in new rides, attractions, and festivals across our parks. At the same time, we are maintaining our rigorous cost discipline, and while we are on schedule to achieve our targeted $40 million in net cost savings by the end of 2018, we are identifying an additional $25 million in potential savings, which we believe could be saved outright or reinvested in our marketing efforts. We believe our plan, with the changes we are making, is the right one and we are committed to working tirelessly to achieve our goals.”

The latest round of job cuts is part of the additional $25 million cost saving exercise and are expected to be completed by the end of the year, reports Bloomberg.  Areas likely to be targeted are administrative head office functions and the San Diego park.  SeaWorld has around 5,000 full-time employees and 8,300 part-time employees.  Late last year, SeaWorld cut 320 jobs across its 12 locations to end duplication of functions.

The savings will be reinvested in marketing and new rides.

Meanwhile unconfirmed rumours of a takeover have been rife with both Parques Reunidos and Merlin Entertainments reported as potential bidders for all or part of the attraction portfolio.

SeaWorld operates seven theme parks and five water parks in the United States.  It went public in 2013 while under the ownership of the Blackstone Group.

The documentary Blackfish (2013), accusing SeaWorld of mistreating its killer whales, severely damaged the company’s reputation. Attendance figures plummeted.  SeaWorld responded by replacing large segments of its management and board.  CEO of two years, Joel Manby has ended orca breeding and is spearheading the redesign of animals shows and addition of new attractions that are not dependent on live animals.

In a recent interview with Blooloop SeaWorld’s Brian Morrow spoke optimistically about  the company’s future.

SeaWorld is to partner with Miral to open SeaWorld Abu Dhabi on Yas Island by 2022.

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