Orlando-based SeaWorld Entertainment kept its now seven-quarter streak of record-setting numbers going Tuesday as higher prices helped boost guest spending at its theme parks, but concerns about lagging visitor numbers and staffing persist.
CEO Marc Swanson said the company’s fourth-quarter revenue of $390.5 million and its adjusted earnings of $153.7 million hit new highs, and SeaWorld also set revenue, net income and adjusted earnings records in its 2022 fiscal year.
Though attendance of 21.9 million guests in the fiscal year topped 2021′s figure, lagging international visitor totals and bad weather kept SeaWorld from reaching pre-pandemic 2019 numbers, he said in an earnings call.
SeaWorld beefed up theme park staffing throughout 2022 but it remains at “less-than-optimal levels,” particularly in food and beverage services, said Swanson and interim CFO and Treasurer Jim Forrester.
The company is looking at ways to manage its labor force as part of its new growth strategy that included an executive reshuffling in January.
Swanson said SeaWorld is eyeing additional international expansion as it plans to open its first park outside the U.S., SeaWorld Abu Dhabi, later this year. It is also moving forward with plans to build hotels at its U.S. theme parks and hopes to open its first one in 2025. He did not say which park would get it.
“We have a strong and resilient business model, and we believe that we have significant opportunities to continue to improve and meaningfully grow our revenue and profitability,” Swanson said. “… We are pleased with the start to 2023 and looking forward, we are very excited about our plans with an exceptional lineup of new rides, attractions, events and new and improved in-park venues and offerings.”
SeaWorld’s total revenue reached a record $1.73 billion in 2022, up by $227.5 million from 2021 and $333 million from 2019. Increased admission, food and beverage and merchandise prices meant guests spent more in the parks last year.
Total attendance at the company’s theme parks increased by 1.7 million from 2021 but was 700,000 below 2019′s tally.
Around 4.9 million people visited SeaWorld’s parks in the quarter that ended Dec. 31, but that number could have been about 249,000 visitors higher if not for the impacts of Hurricane Ian and Hurricane Nicole at SeaWorld’s Florida parks and winter storms at its northern properties, Swanson said.
The company is adding a new feature to each of its parks annually to help attract visitors. Universal Parks & Resorts recently said it is using a similar strategy to recover international tourist numbers.
SeaWorld Orlando’s newest attraction, Pipeline: The Surf Coaster, is set to open later this spring. The ride simulates the experience of surfing by putting riders in a standing position and sending them through curves and a “’wave curl inversion” at a top speed of 60 mph.
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