SeaWorld Theme Parks Book Record Revenue, Earnings

August 4, 2022, 10:45 AM · The SeaWorld theme parks this morning reported record revenue and earnings for the second quarter of 2022. As with Cedar Fair, which reported its earnings yesterday, higher guest spending drove the increases at the SeaWorld and Busch Gardens theme parks.

SeaWorld posted revenue of $504.8 million in the three month period ending June 30, 2002 - a 14.8% increase from the second quarter of 2021 and up 24.3% from the same period in 2019, before the pandemic affected the parks. Adjusted EBITDA also was a record for the quarter, at $234.4 million, up 7.1% from the second quarter of 2021 and 56.6% from the same period in 2019.

Net income was $116.6 million, which was down 8.7% from the second quarter of 2021, though it remains the second-highest amount recorded by the company for a second quarter. In-park guest spending increased 8.2% to a record $36.61 per person, coupled with a 5.0% increase in admission revenue per capita, to a record $43.98. That put total revenue per visitor at a record $80.59, up 6.4% from a year ago.

Attendance for the quarter was 6.3 million guests, an increase 7.8% from the same period last year, but down 3.1% from the same period in 2019. SeaWorld blamed lower international visitation and group sales for decline, noting that non-group domestic attendance was up approximately 3.3% in the quarter over the same period in 2019.

"We are pleased to report our fifth consecutive quarter of record financial results," said SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc. CEO Marc Swanson said. "While we were focused on getting all of our parks open and fully operating during the summer season for the first time since 2019, we could have had more effective cost management during the quarter. We can and will work to do a better job going forward, consistent with what we have been doing for the past several years. We have several new projects and initiatives in flight that we expect will help us work to offset the unusually high inflationary pressures and become a more efficient and profitable operating business."

"We continue to benefit from a very strong financial position," Swanson said. "Given this strong financial position, our clear belief in our go forward prospects and what we believe is an extremely attractive value being offered by the markets, we continued to aggressively repurchase shares during the second quarter and into the third quarter, exhausting the entirety of our prior repurchase authorizations. And today we are announcing a new $250 million buyback authorization."

A quarter billion could pay for some pretty nice attractions that would drive a lot of attendance and guest spending for the company. Or it could lock in wage increases that would stabilize SeaWorld's workforce at levels that would allow the company to become an industry leader in customer service. But, like Cedar Fair yesterday, it looks like propping up the stock price to the benefit of shareholders and management is a bigger priority for the company right now.

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Replies (8)

August 4, 2022 at 10:59 AM

So despite posting record per-cap and in-park spending, Sea World is going to try to suck more blood from the rock by further cutting costs. Does management not understand what is going on? These records are being set off pent-up demand, and there have been clear indications from guests that they are not satisfied with the changes in operations that have been done to reduce costs. Further reducing costs will just bring more guest frustration and will quickly drag down revenues. Then the chain will have to spend even more to gain back that loyalty that Sea World has been rapidly eroding since parks emerged from the pandemic.

You have to spend money to make money, and just because Sea World is sitting on a temporary "golden egg" due to pent up demand, that will eventually dry up meaning that growth will have to occur more organically and through guest satisfaction driving repeat visits. This is one of the most tone deaf reports the industry has produced.

August 4, 2022 at 1:08 PM

/\ I 100% agree and was caught off guard by those comments as well. SWO is one of my local parks and they already open half the park, including the two new additions Ice Breaker and Sesame Street, an hour later than the parks opening time. Which is extremely stupid because half the people are there to rope drop Ice Breaker and the other half are there with their kids to rope drop Sesame Street. It's also frequent for big rides to run one train even sometimes when its busy, which is extremely frustrating especially for an Orlando park. It makes you wonder what he is talking about that is left to cut.

This appears to be a case of "well its working to so lets do more of it," like you said that works...until it doesn't. I used to go to Sea World pretty often, TBH it was one of my favorite parks and was just much more pleasant to visit than Disney or Universal. The past couple years visiting SWO has been not enjoyable and now I go maybe once a year if someone gets me in for free, which is a shame because I used to gladly hand over good money for a SW/BG AP every year. The animal exhibits are still nice but trying to get on rides has become much more frustrating with the limited hours and 1 train ops, and there are also little things like I was there with my daughter and wanted to get a picture with a Sesame Street character and they wouldn't take one with my phone. There was a photo taker and a handler and they both said sorry they are only allowed to take the ones that they sell. Like seriously, who has a policy like that? I don't want to make it sound like I hate their parks or anything, they are still physically nice parks and more well rounded in terms of thrills and family than most other parks out there, but the Spirit Airlines model is aggravating as hell and I definitely have pared down my visits and spending because of it.

August 4, 2022 at 1:40 PM

I wonder how much of this has to do with paying down pandemic related debt (as opposed to “we’ve already got these suckers money). Ultimately, I’m not sure what the distinction matters when people decide they’re tired of being jerked around.

…except they’re being jerked around everywhere. So, now what? Does someone choose to be the exception to the rule? It seems people around here are pretty satisfied with Universal — does that jive with rank and file guests? Do guests recalibrate their expectations? Or do they take their wallets and go home?

August 4, 2022 at 1:55 PM

@Jacob - I think most visitors to Orlando have a routine, and adjust that routine on return trips based on previous experiences. Sea World might be doing great now because people are basing their decision to visit on previous experiences (pre-pandemic), but 3-5 years from now, those guests that weren't happy with time they spent at SW in 2021/22 might replace that with a day at Epic Universe or an extra day at another park.

That's why I don't understand this absurd short term thinking from park executives when reporting financial results to Wall Street. Theme park visitors are immensely loyal, and will keep returning if you given them a good experience and reasons for a return visit (new attractions and experiences). If Sea World is just looking at the last 18 months and then projecting that they can generating 10% more profit by cutting costs further, that might work for another year or 2, but 5 years from now, Sea World is going to be in a world of hurt trying to earn those customers back.

The Orlando market is super competitive, and I think we can all agree that SWO drives the bus for the company, so if they chase the guests away that come every year or 2 as part of their routine, that 8% attendance decline from 2019 will seem mild, and won't be compensated for with any level of cost cutting or revenue enhancements they can come up with.

August 4, 2022 at 5:00 PM

I tend to agree, especially because it seems Sea World appears to be relying on the Orlando crowd than its competitors. If anyone is going to sour on this approach first, you'd think it'd be the locals.

August 5, 2022 at 10:19 AM

This has been an unprecedented year. The whole of humanity has flooded into Florida to visit the parks .... or that's what it seems like from a local perspective. I have never seen anything like it. Usually by now SWO is starting to slow down, especially with the kids back to school next week, but it's still full bore, day in day out. The pent up frustration of being unable to go on vacation these past 2 years, exploded exponentially and Orlando is the place where everybody has headed for.

In other words, I would take any figures or numbers about huge rises in spending and attendance with the proverbial grain of salt. The true test will be this time next year. Although, there will be some residue, but I don't see it being as insane as the last 12 months has been. It's been non stop since last Sept/Oct. Even my friends who work at the Publix grocery stores in the tourist areas say the same.

Right now it's the Brits and Europeans that are flooding over. Somedays it's hard to hear anything other than an English accent. And hey, I'm OK with that, but to the extent I'm seeing that these days is, again, nothing like I've ever seen before.

It'll be interesting to see if we get the usual lull after Labor Day ?? Time will tell.

August 5, 2022 at 1:00 PM

Sea World is in an interesting spot. I visited SWO last year and had a great time. I didn't see the 1 train operating on the coasters but when they do, shame on them or any other theme park that does that (Disneyland back in the day in the early mornings with Big Thunder comes to mind). Perhaps if enough people complain about that and lets them know that, "yes we do notice," Sea World parks will begin to be more conscious about it.

Nevertheless as I was saying I still greatly enjoy the Sea World parks. What's also worth mentioning and I don't think anyone else has said it here yet is that Sea World is constantly bombarding folks with specials and deals through email. Discounts are also more easily accessible on websites such as the one on this site. Some of these specials are quite significant and can be a solid value. When they are charging 55-70% of their competitors in Central Florida and Southern California then maybe that makes the lack of theming on attractions a bit more bearable. Maybe.

August 6, 2022 at 7:39 AM

Wow! Not hard to make lots of money when you have 25 employees running the entire park. The security was a joke. I definitely did not feel safe there. After visiting in July I definitely will not be going back. Those cheap annual passes brings a “different” customer. It felt like a bunch of people hanging out at the local mall.

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