On Tuesday August 13th, SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment released their Q2 earnings.  In spite of new attractions, the parks experienced a 9% drop in attendance for the quarter. Today, we’ll take a look at why this summer has been tough for SeaWorld, along with the future plans at the aquatic and Busch parks. We’ve got some numbers to crunch.

The 9% Drop in attendance

With SeaWorld’s new Antarctica attraction/land, and the typically busy Summer seasons, folks might be wondering why there has been a drop in attendance.  When you look at the drop of 605,000 visitors in Q2 across 12 parks, there is no one clear-cut answer, but we believe it can be attributed to 4 main causes:

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1.  Pricing:  On June 7th, 2013 SeaWorld Orlando raised it’s 1 Day ticket price to $92 which was 12% higher than last year’s ticket price of $82, Busch Gardens Tampa also raised their tickets from $85 to $89 and what SeaWorld experienced is the ceiling of what consumers were willing to pay.  Going forward SeaWorld will be using Dynamic Pricing, where they coax guests to come and visit during less busy periods with reduced admission prices.  They have already begun this with a $50 Weekday Ticket.

2. Weather: The Florida and Virginia parks experienced a very rainy late Spring/early Summer season.  Most of the days of this year’s Viva La Musica celebration were rained out, leaving days that should have been 20,000+ days at only a few thousand who braved the intense rain storms.  Sadly, there isn’t much SeaWorld can do to prevent rain storms, and since almost all of their attractions and shows are outside, these parks are deeply affected by adverse weather.

3. Early Easter:  Easter and a lot of the Spring Break business feel into Q1 for SeaWorld, so those numbers don’t match up year to year.

With the new Dynamic Pricing that SeaWorld is going to use, and with Antarctica and Aquatica San Diego now open for the rest of the year, SeaWorld is optimistic that attendance will continue to improve.

4. Competition: SeaWorld isn’t in competition with Disney World as much as it is other local attractions, such as Universal Orlando Resort. With new parades and a mega-budget Transformers attraction, many visits likely swayed toward Universal. Especially in light of mixed online reviews of Antarctica.

A Sea Of Surprises is in store for 2014

In 2014 SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment will celebrate the 50th Anniversary of SeaWorld San Diego.  This company-wide celebration will take place in ALL 12 of the company parks.  There will be new shows, surprise squads, street entertainment and giveaways for the 18 month duration of this celebration (does it sound a bit like Disneyland’s successful Year of a Million Dreams?).  While we have heard rumors that some of the budget has been trimmed for this event, we are hopeful that SeaWorld will benefit from the same sort of success Disneyland did in 2005.

New Attractions and Shows for 2014 and 2015

During SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment conference call they shared that capital spending for 2014 and 2015 had been locked and that would not be adjusted.  Which is great news for park fans, with some of the incredible additions that have been announced and that are in the wings.

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SeaWorld San Diego‘s main entrance is currently undergoing an incredible transformation that will give guests the sensation of entering the world of the sea, as they virtually dive under a wave, and are able to experience animal encounters within 30 feet of entering the park. San Diego is also slated for another attraction, while initially it looked like it was going to be a ride free version of Antarctica (penguin exhibit only), it seems that now they are looking into building a unique attraction for San Diego. 

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Busch Gardens Tampa will be opening Falcon’s Fury, which is going to redefine the “Drop Tower” category. Guests will be lifted into the air, their seats will then be rotated 90 degrees forward before they come crashing down face first.

Aquatica Orlando is rumored right now to be finally getting a large expansion, which can’t come soon enough, since most of this past summer Aquatica Orlando closed due to capacity in the early afternoon hours.

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SeaWorld fans have been craving some new shows and in 2014 SeaWorld will deliver on that promise.  What shows might be replaced is still up in the air; however, with a new ruling from a judge in SeaWorld’s favor with their litigation against OSHA, it has begun to open the door for SeaWorld to potentially resume working closer with it’s Killer Whales.  We will be keeping an eye on this story as it develops.

Busch Garden’s future with SeaWorld

A couple of months ago, there were some rumors about whether or not the Busch Gardens parks would stay with the SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment family, and we are happy to say that Busch Gardens Tampa and Williamsburg are here to stay, and that starting this fall SeaWorld will be introducing a new TV series filmed at Busch Gardens Tampa titled “Wildlife Docs” that will feature the over 12,000 animals of Busch Gardens along with their veterinary staff, and will be very conservation focused. This will air Saturdays on ABC right after SeaRescue which will debut it’s 3rd season about how SeaWorld and other organizations work to rescue injured marine life off the coasts for Florida, California and Texas.

Update on SeaWorld’s Conservation efforts

In 2011 SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment made a commitment to remove plastic bags from it’s parks, and this Summer they did just that, preventing more than 4 million plastic bags from entering land fills or polluting our precious forests and coastlines.

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SeaWorld’s pet adoption program Happy Tails announced that in the past year they have found homes for over 37,000 cats and dogs!

SeaWorld also had a couple of incredible firsts, with the C-section of a shark at Discovery Cove in Orlando and the first penguin chicks hatched from artificial insemination – a process which will be able to be used with other critically endangered bird species now by zoos around the world!

While Wall Street might be disappointed with the drop in attendance, SeaWorld’s future is bright, and we can’t wait to see what is next!

For more SeaWorld news, check out the Unofficial SeaWorld Podcast with Eric & Mike as they take you behind the scenes at SeaWorld Orlando’s Antarctica, take you live on location for the release of 4 rehabilitated manatees back into the wild, and take on the documentary BlackFish

The Unofficial SeaWorld Podcast wants to hear from you!  Please feel free to email Eric & Mike at [email protected] or follow them on Twitter at @SeaWorldPodcast or join the discussion here on MiceChat at http://micechat.com/forums/seaworld/