Ever since 2012, the hits have kept on coming for SeaWorld. Despite the fact that SeaWorld Orlando is currently the least expensive major theme park to visit in central Florida, has an annual passholder program with serious perks, and offers some truly aggressive deals and discounts, SeaWorld has not bounced back from its attendance lows in 2014 and 2015 and has confirmed this week what many have long suspected: this park's recovery is not going to plan at all.
Earlier this year, it was revealed that SeaWorld's biggest investor, Blackstone Group, wanted out of the pool, and their shares were being bought by a Chinese company with designs on making a Chinese SeaWorld park in the future. However, while that might have sounded like an OK plan for the future, right now things are getting worse before they are getting better. Much, MUCH worse.
Attendance is down by huge amounts year over year
SeaWorld Orlando has been in an attendance slump for the past half a decade, and though it was looking like the park was going to turn things around under new CEO Joel Manby, that unfortunately did not happen in 2016, and its looking like things are getting worse in 2017. Earlier this year it was reported that attendance at all of SeaWorld's parks (including San Diego, San Antonio, and the flagship Orlando park) attendance has dropped 14.9 percent (approximately 491,000 visitors) during the first quarter of 2017. And even though SeaWorld reported that its theme parks had a 2.3 percent increase in attendance during the second quarter of the year (which included the Easter holiday in 2017), when we factor out holiday timing and take the first half of the year as a whole, things look pretty bad as attendance across the board dropped 3.8% from last year to 8.93 million, a truly staggering low.
Though SeaWorld didn't provide a breakdown of the per-park attendance drops, they did say that most of the bleeding has been coming from Orlando and San Diego, which are the largest and most-attended parks to bear SeaWorld's name. The downturn at SeaWorld Orlando is especially disappointing, as this park has unveiled a streak of new attractions over the past year, including the Mako roller coaster in 2016, plus the Krakken VR coaster this year, and even several new summertime shows that were designed to boost attendance during this typically busy season. However, it seems like despite all their best efforts, guest levels are still on the decline at this park.
Unfortunately, this attendance drop is simply a continuation of SeaWorld's very bad 2016 and 2017, and has resulted in another problem which is of particular importance to investors...
SeaWorld's revenue losing streak continues
As you might expect given the dismal attendance reports coming out of SeaWorld theme parks, the publicly traded company reported a net loss of $175.9 million for the second quarter as revenue fell $340 million for the first half this year compared to $361 million from the same period last year, which is almost a 6 percent decline from some already depressed figures.
In addition, it was reported that spending was down among the guests who are visiting SeaWorld, as in-park spending per visitor also fell 0.7% in the first half of the year. However, even though there was plenty of bad news to go around in SeaWorld's most recent financial results, there was at least one small bright spot...