SeaWorld rebound continues with 8.6% growth in attendance

SeaWorld has released its results for 2018, showing growth in attendance and revenue, and a flip from net loss to net income. Is it all down to the free beer?

Improved attendance driving the turnaround has been attributed to pricing strategy, marketing initiatives (including free beer) and new attractions and events.

SeaWorld’s recovery has been ongoing through the year. High profile marketing campaigns included “From Park to Planet”and the company held popular events like Bier Fest at Busch Gardens.

The recovery builds on a multi year restructuring strategy. 350 jobs were cut to enable investment in marketing to improve SeaWorld’s public image following 2013 film BlackFish, and providing new attractions in parks.

Highlights for the year include:

  • Attendance up 8.6 percent to 22.6 million guests.
  • Revenue at $1.37 billion is up 8.6 percent.
  • Net income was $44.8 million. In 2017 the company reported a net loss of $202.4 million, but this included a $269 million goodwill impairment charge.
  • Adjusted EBITDA was $401.3 million which is a 35.0 percent increase on the prior year.
  • SeaWorld helped rescue and rehabilitate over 2,600 animals in 2018.

In a statement, John Reilly, Chief Operating Officer of SeaWorld said, “We are pleased with our strong fourth quarter and full year financial performance. Throughout the fourth quarter and fiscal year, we have been focused on improving our execution with more effective pricing strategies, enhanced marketing and communications initiatives and the introduction of more compelling new rides, attractions and events. These efforts have led to strong attendance and revenue growth on a quarterly and annual basis. Throughout the year, we have also increased our focus and efforts to identify and execute on cost savings initiatives and efficiencies that have contributed to improved margins and increased profitability. We believe there are significant additional opportunities to further improve and enhance our execution and to identify and execute on additional cost savings and efficiencies that will drive strong revenue and profitability in 2019.

compelling new rides, attractions and events

“We have an exciting line-up of new rides, attractions and events across our parks planned for 2019. I believe this is our best line up ever with a new ride, attraction or event in almost every one of our 12 parks. We are also enthusiastic about our new season pass program which we introduced in October. Our new season pass structure and pricing options make enjoying our parks more affordable than ever before with increased flexibility, more variety and some of the best and most valuable benefits we have ever offered. We are encouraged by our season-pass sales so far in 2019 which are showing double-digit increases over the prior year.”

2020 goal of delivering $475 million to $500 million of Adjusted EBITDA

Gus Antorcha, Chief Executive Officer of SeaWorld, who joined the company in February from Carnival Cruise Lines, added, “I am thrilled to have joined this team at such an exciting time for our Company as we close out a strong year and enter into 2019. While we delivered stronger financial results in 2018, we continue to believe there remains significant additional opportunity for improvement. We will continue to focus on improving our pricing strategies and our marketing and communication initiatives, introducing more compelling new rides, attractions and events across our park portfolio each year and reducing unnecessary costs and improving efficiencies across our park portfolio and in the park support center. Our team is committed to continue to drive top-line and bottom-line results and to operating more efficiently than ever before. We remain confident in our ability to achieve our 2020 goal of delivering $475 million to $500 million of Adjusted EBITDA. We are excited about the future and our ability to continue to deliver meaningful operational and financial improvement that should lead to meaningful increased shareholder value.”

New SeaWorld attractions for 2019

  • Busch Gardens Tampa Bay: Tigris – a  triple launch steel coaster.
  • SeaWorld Orlando: Sesame Street new immersive land at SeaWorld Orlando.
  • Aquatica Orlando: KareKare Curl – a family clover-tube ride.
  • SeaWorld San Diego: Tidal Twister – a dueling roller coaster on a tight figure-8 track with a dynamic roll.
  • SeaWorld San Antonio: Turtle Reef – an interactive sea turtle attraction. Sea Swinger – a 180-degree swing ride. Riptide Rescue – a family themed ride.
  • Aquatica San Antonio: Ihu’s Breakaway Falls – a multi-drop tower slide.
  • Busch Gardens Williamsburg: Finnegan’s Flyer – a Screamin’ Swing ride.
  • Water Country USA: Cutback Water Coaster – a Rocket BLAST hybrid water coaster.
  • Sesame Place: A new Sesame Street Neighborhood.