Major additions to other theme parks in and around Orlando won’t hurt SeaWorld, company CEO Gus Antorcha said Tuesday.
On the company’s first quarter earnings call, Antorcha was asked how the park will handle increased competition within the Central Florida market, particularly the August 29 opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Walt Disney World.
“I’m not so worried about other parks opening up lands or opening up rides because we are clearly differentiated, and we’re in a market that as this market grows, we will stand to benefit,” he said. “And so as Universal and Disney add investment into their parks, we will naturally benefit, not just SeaWorld Orlando, but also Discovery Cove and Aquatica.”
Even as the area sets tourism records on an annual basis, Central Florida’s major park operators continue to add new attractions and lands. For 2019, these include Universal’s new “Harry Potter”-themed roller coaster, opening in June and Legoland Florida’s Lego Movie World.
SeaWorld’s major 2019 additions are already entertaining guests ahead of the busy summer season. The new KareKare Curl slide is open at Aquatica, the Tigris launch coaster is up and running at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, and the six-acre Sesame Street is generating positive feedback in SeaWorld Orlando, Antorcha said.
“It’s really compelling experience, and guests are enjoying it every day,” he said. “Satisfaction scores look very positive.”
The land’s success — outside of the unexplained removal of the Count-Around Playground — has sparked rumors that the park is already looking at an expansion, perhaps in the form of a Sesame Street-themed dark ride.
Any bump in attendance from the Sesame Street opening will largely be reflected in the next quarterly report. For the first quarter of 2019, SeaWorld continued its streak of positive results, with revenue up 1.8 percent and attendance up 3.6 percent compared to the first three months of 2018.
“We believe that the improved attendance resulted from a combination of factors, including our improved marketing and communications initiatives, our new pricing strategies and the positive reception of our new rides along with compelling attractions and events, all of which drove increased demand,” said SeaWorld chief financial officer Mark Swanson.
To keep attendance up, company will continue to promote their annual passes and bring back popular promotions, like giving out free beer to guests again beginning in June.
The earnings call comes about three months after Antorcha was hired as the company’s CEO. While financial results have remained positive, there have been significant layoffs throughout the theme park chain, largely affecting animal trainers and ambassadors who educate park guests about wildlife.
The executive ranks have also experienced upheaval, with former interim CEO John Reilly leaving in March and SeaWorld and Aquatica Orlando park president Mark Pauls departing in April, just seven months after taking over the role.
None of those personnel moves came up during Tuesday’s earnings call, with Antorcha giving a sunny assessment of the company three months into his tenure.
“Honestly, I’m more excited than I was looking outside in,” he said. “This is an incredible business with an incredible business model. And there’s no doubt in my mind, there’s significant opportunity ahead of us.”
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