Interview Synopsis

SeaWorld Entertainment – park reopenings challenges & long-term outlook

  • Multi Asset
  • Consumer
  • North America

The COVID-19 rollercoaster has slowed, but there is no end yet in sight. Theme and amusement parks in the US face myriad challenges as they try to make money while adhering to new operating restrictions.

How SeaWorld is staying afloat during COVID-19

Third Bridge Forum spoke to a former SVP at SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment Inc to understand how the business is keeping its head above today’s choppy waters, with a focus on the Florida market. 

COVID-19 protocols mean fewer visitors are allowed in parks at once, along with reduced ride capacity, extra costs to ensure social distancing is possible, and enhanced hygiene controls. Until normal attendance patterns resume, spending on food and drink, merchandise and tours are the biggest sources of revenue. Additionally, the Florida market has become more dependent on visitors from the local/drive-in market. Although the company has been able to boost revenue on a per capita basis, there remains a considerable gap owing to attendance shortfalls. 

The Interview considered how each of the industry players are positioned to cope with the challenges of the pandemic, including SeaWorld, Animal Kingdom, Busch Gardens, Universal Studios and Disney Parks. “One of the things that Disney has going for it is it just opened a major new attraction,” the expert said. “SeaWorld and Busch Gardens have minor attractions, but they also have very large pass bases that like to visit frequently.” Other factors at play include the fixed costs of animal components, operating costs and capacity constraints. 

“Rides are manufactured to hold up to 32 people at a time, or more in some cases, depending on what ride you’re talking about, and now you’re only able to run them at 10 or 15 people per dispatch,” the specialist said. “You’ve got a much lower capacity and a higher cost to disinfect and run those rides with probably more labour and more equipment.”

The outlook for players operating in the state of Virginia, where there is currently a 1,000-person occupancy cap across theme parks, was also discussed. Overall, the expert believes that the likes of SeaWorld and Busch Gardens will “show good growth”, although to a lesser extent than Disney and Universal, which have hotel offerings as part of their armoury. 

Other topics explored in the Interview included recent news that SeaWorld security guards are potentially unionising, commentary on CEO turnover, and the impact of Blackfish.

To access all the insights in Third Bridge Forum’s SeaWorld Entertainment – park reopenings challenges & long-term outlook Interview, click here to access the full transcript. 

The information used in compiling this document has been obtained by Third Bridge from experts participating in Forum Interviews. Third Bridge does not warrant the accuracy of the information and has not independently verified it. It should not be regarded as a trade recommendation or form the basis of any investment decision.

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