SeaWorld Orlando’s parent company reported another strong quarter of attendance, revenue and income growth to wrap up 2018, making the year one of the company’s best in the post-”Blackfish” era.
That 2013 documentary, which criticized the use of captive killer whales in SeaWorld parks, led to years of slumping attendance at the Orlando park. But the company’s fortunes changed in 2013, as it reported positive results in each quarter.
Overall, the theme park chain’s attendance and revenue both increased by 8.6 percent and a net loss of more than $202 million turned into net income of $44.8 million in 2018.
“We believe that these results were driven primarily by our new pricing strategies, new marketing and communications initiatives and the positive reception of our new rides, attractions and events,” said John Reilly, chief operating officer of SeaWorld Entertainment who served as the company’s interim CEO throughout 2018.
The company also promoted its animal rescue efforts, saying it helped rescue and rehabilitate 2,600 animals over the course of the year.
SeaWorld could see a dip in year-over-year measures of its financial success in the next quarterly report. In 2018, the busier Easter holiday season overlapped the first and second quarters, but it will be deeper in the second quarter this year, likely providing an unfavorable comparison.
Otherwise, SeaWorld has a sunny outlook on 2019 thanks largely to the new attractions it has lined up. In Central Florida, these will include the Tigris coaster at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, the KareKare Curl slide at Aquatica Orlando and the Sesame Street area opening this spring at SeaWorld Orlando.
“I believe this is our best line up ever with a new ride, attraction or event in almost every one of our 12 parks,” Reilly said.
The earnings call was the first for new SeaWorld Entertainment CEO Gus Antorcha, who assumed the role on Feb. 18. A former executive with Carnival Cruise Lines, Antorcha said he’s confident about the company’s direction.
“Let me reiterate, our strategy is unchanged,” he said. “We have an exceptional business model.”
The company remains a frequent target of criticism animal rights activists. Referencing the death of a 30-year female orca at SeaWorld Orlando last month, animal rights group PETA said in a press release that the company’s latest earnings show it should focus on roller coasters and release its whales and dolphins to sanctuaries.