SeaWorld today reported a $56.5 million loss in the first quarter of 2020, due to the closure of its theme parks on March 16. The company said that it was on pace for record attendance and revenue in the first two months of 2020, only to have the novel coronavirus to freeze that momentum.
Attendance increased 9 percent to a record 1.9 million guests with revenue up 12 percent to a record $120.6 million from the first two months of the year, before the March closures resulted in a net decline of one million guests and a decrease of $67 million in revenue for the quarter when compared with the first three months of 2019.
The SeaWorld and Busch Gardens theme parks were going all-in on new roller coasters to boost attendance in 2020, with new rides coming to the chain's top five theme parks. Only the Texas Stingray coaster at SeaWorld San Antonio had opened before the parks were forced to close, though Busch Gardens' Iron Gwazi was testing and close to opening.
"Depending on when we are allowed to reopen, we will make a decision as to whether or not the unfinished projects are completed for the 2020 season, or pushed into 2021," Interim CEO Marc Swanson said.
Swanson said SeaWorld soon will be announcing enhanced health and safety protocols for guests returning to its parks. To that end, Swanson sold SeaWorld's lower attendance versus rivals Disney and Universal as a plus.
"Our parks also typically have significant excess capacity and have landscaped and well manicured open outdoor space with room for people to safely socially distance, while still enjoying the sights and experiences, our parks offer," he said.
"We're used to operating in an environment when we do much less than a non-peak day," Swanson said. "If you look in Orlando where SeaWorld Orlando where on a peak day might be upper 20,000 to 30,000 in attendance, a day in January or February might be 5,000, so that gives you some order of magnitude there of how how low the attendance can go and we still feel good about operating."
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