New name and declining numbers at United Parks

February 28, 2024, 12:20 PM · The former SeaWorld Parks today reported that attendance at its theme parks declined slightly in 2023, though those numbers improved in the final three months of the year.

Now rebranded as United Parks & Resorts, the company reported 21.6 million guests in 2023, down 1.5% from 2022. Total revenue per capita rose 1.3%, to a record $79.91, on higher prices, but that could not keep overall revenue from falling slightly, to $1.727 billion for the year. Net income was down 19.6%, to $234.2 million, while Adjusted EBITDA [earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization] was down 2%, to $713.5 million.

In the final three months of 2023, attendance did rise, up 23,000 guests from the same period in 2022, to a record 5.0 million guests for the quarter. But revenue, revenue per capita, net income, and Adjusted EBITDA all declined during the quarter.

However, the board has voted to spend $500 million... on buying back the company's shares.

CEO Marc Swanson cited weather for attendance challenges, especially in Florida.

"We estimate that weather related and calendar shift impacts reduced attendance by approximately 75,000 visits in the fourth quarter and that weather related impacts reduced attendance by over 370,000 visits for the full year," Swanson said.

"Our attendance levels for fiscal 2023 were still below levels achieved in 2019, primarily due to a decline in international and group attendance which we are confident will recover to and surpass pre-Covid levels. We are also still more than 3 million visitors below our historical high attendance of approximately 25 million guests achieved in 2008."

United Parks & Resorts comprises SeaWorld, Busch Gardens, Sesame Place, Discovery Cove, Aquatica, and other water park brands across the United States. It also licenses the new SeaWorld Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, which is owned and operated by Miral.

"We are excited about our plans for 2024, including an incredible line-up of new, one-of-a kind rides, attractions and events, improved in park venues and offerings across our parks," Swanson said. [For a list of what is coming to United as well as other companies' parks, please see our theme park rides under construction page.]

"Our clear opportunity to drive meaningfully more attendance to our parks combined with our demonstrated ability to continue to grow total per capita spending, manage and reduce costs and achieve strong returns on our investments give us high confidence in our ability to continue to deliver operational and financial improvements that will lead to meaningful increases in shareholder value," Swanson said.

* * *
To keep up to date with more theme park news, please sign up for Theme Park Insider's weekly newsletter.

And to help support Theme Park Insider while saving money on discounted theme park tickets, please follow the ticket icon links our Theme Park visitors guides.

Replies (5)

February 28, 2024 at 1:16 PM

"We are also still more than 3 million visitors below our historical high attendance of approximately 25 million guests achieved in 2008"

What is this supposed to do, cut the company off at the kneecaps?

I can't believe brainless CEOs continue to blame the weather for poor performance. Sure, weather is an easy scapegoat, and is probably the cause for some changes in attendance patterns, but it's by no means unpredictable or impossible to mitigate its impacts. Swanson used this excuse last quarter, but has yet to provide a solution. How/why do shareholders accept this line??

Also, what in the world are "calendar shift impacts"? Is this moron trying to blame lower attendance on the fact that Christmas and New Year's Day were on Mondays?? If so, this has got to be the lamest excuse I've ever heard.

Finally, for a company that touted renewed investments in the guest experience last year, a massive stock buyback certainly doesn't indicate a chain that wants to continually invest in its product. $500 million could finance new attractions through the rest of the decade, where two of the company's biggest parks will face increasing competition from Epic Universe. Way to go Mr. Swanson, cut off the lifeblood of your 2 most attended properties just before a brand new theme park entices Central Florida visitors to take a day or 2 of their already limited vacation at EU, days that were probably spent at YOUR parks.

February 28, 2024 at 1:13 PM

Russell, spot on. This company is doomed.

February 28, 2024 at 2:33 PM

Ya with Epic Universe in the mix we definitely have 0 interest in going to Sea World. There will be plenty to do just at Universal. We may still one day go back to Busch Gardens in Tampa that was a pretty cool park but probably not until 2026 or even further depending how much we can get done at Epic in 2025.

February 29, 2024 at 6:02 AM

United Parks (great name lol ) and the old shareholder value note, they should try putting money back into their embarrassingly run down parks and improve the atmosphere and animal exhibits instead of the worn down paths leading from one coaster to another (you’d think creative teams could come up with something other than another coaster)

February 29, 2024 at 6:12 AM

How about ANOTHER food festival?

This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.

Park tickets

Weekly newsletter

New attraction reviews

News archive