San Diego

SeaWorld Parent Reports Rough First Half Despite New Attraction Openings

Still struggling with attendance issues, the parent company of SeaWorld San Diego reported a slight gain from a year ago in revenue for its second quarter ending June 30, but posted a net loss for both the second quarter and first half of 2017.

Officials of Orlando, Fla.-based SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. said in a statement that attendance at its Mission Bay park saw improving attendance from a year ago in the second quarter, thanks to new rides and attractions that opened during that period.

SeaWorld Entertainment reported total revenue of $373.8 million for the second quarter, up 1 percent from a year ago. The net loss for the quarter was $175.9 million, compared with net income of $17.8 million in the year-ago quarter.

For the six months ending June 30, the company posted total revenue of $560.1 million, down 5 percent from the same period of 2016. The net loss for the first half was $237 million, compared with a net loss of $66.3 million in the year-ago period.

While nationwide attendance at its 12 U.S. parks rose by 138,000 in the second quarter, the company said attendance for the first half was down by approximately 353,000 compared with a year ago. Company leaders cited impacts including “reduced national spending and competitive pressures.”

Officials said attendance in San Diego was further impacted by “public perception issues which have resurfaced since the company reduced marketing spend on its reputation campaign.”

The reference is to local protests and other national backlash still facing the company following the 2013 documentary “Blackfish,” which raised questions about the treatment of captive orcas. Recent struggles come even after the company discontinued performing whale shows at its three SeaWorld parks, starting earlier this year in San Diego.

Also in the local market, SeaWorld recently opened new research and education-focused attractions, including a revised Orca Encounter habitat.

“While we are making progress in key areas of our plan, we are not satisfied with our results for the quarter,” said SeaWorld Entertainment President and CEO Joel Manby in the statement. “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,” Manby said. “We will offset this increased advertising with additional cost reductions.”

Officials said the company expects to achieve its targeted $40 million in net cost savings by the end of 2018, and is identifying an additional $25 million in potential savings.

In addition to SeaWorld parks in San Diego, Orlando and San Antonio, SeaWorld Entertainment’s holdings also include the Aquatica waterpark in Chula Vista.

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