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As they reported continued declines in revenue and attendance Tuesday, SeaWorld Entertainment executives vowed to push for improved financial performance through a combination of new attractions, cost cuts and pricing strategies. “Our...plan and path...

SeaWorld attendance, revenue dip in fourth quarter

As they reported continued declines in revenue and attendance Tuesday, SeaWorld Entertainment executives vowed to push for improved financial performance through a combination of new attractions, cost cuts and pricing strategies. “Our...plan and path...

SeaWorld attendance, revenue dip in fourth quarter

As they reported continued declines in revenue and attendance Tuesday, SeaWorld Entertainment executives vowed to push for improved financial performance through a combination of new attractions, cost cuts and pricing strategies. 

“Our...plan and path forward are very clear and we are moving with urgency on all fronts,” Chief Executive Officer Joel Manby told analysts. 

SeaWorld, which has struggled with declining attendance for several years, is focusing on lower-cost strategies such as festivals and retrofitting rides with virtual reality. This summer, its Kraken roller coaster in Orlando will be equipped with goggles giving riders the illusion of plunging through an underwater landscape. Should that increase attendance, Manby said, virtual reality would be rolled out rapidly to other rides in the company’s theme parks.

SeaWorld is also getting some financial relief from a cost-cutting plan it has in place that included laying off 320 people late last year. The company is also seeking to refinance its debt. 

This year, big new attractions will open at SeaWorld’s two biggest rivals: An Avatar land at Walt Disney World and the Volcano Bay water park at Universal Orlando. 

Manby said he hopes that SeaWorld will benefit from the increased visitors those attractions will lure. Still, the rising tide does not always lift all boats: SeaWorld’s attendance dropped in 2014, the same year Universal opened its second Wizarding World of Harry Potter. 

Manby said he thinks Avatar will be “less impactful” than Potter was. 

Manby said SeaWorld is also carving out a niche for itself as the value-oriented theme park.

“The customer we’re going at after is more value-conscious than some of Disney and Universal’s customers,” he said.

For the most recent quarter, SeaWorld reported a net loss of 14 cents per share compared with 13 cents the previous year. The company’s theme and water parks generated $267.6 million in revenue as fewer people visited. In the same quarter the previous year, they brought in $267.9 million.

SeaWorld blamed the most recent decreases on Hurricane Matthew, which forced Orlando theme parks to close for more than a day, and an expected dip in Latin American visitors.

SeaWorld also reported full-year figures Thursday. Attendance and revenue dropped in 2016, and the company had a net loss of $12.5 million for the year. A greater percentage of guests visited SeaWorld’s water parks, which cost less to get into.

SeaWorld cited weather, a sluggish year for Orlando tourism and competition as reasons its attendance declined 2 percent for 2016 overall.

There are some signs of improvement, executives said. Passholder sales are up in the single digits, for one thing. Passholder attendance at SeaWorld Orlando had declined 18 percent  the first half of last year. It improved 4 percent in the latter part of 2016. 

During the year, guests spent more on food and products such as front-of-the-line Quick Queue access once in the parks. But they paid less for tickets, as a higher percentage of visitors went to the less-costly water parks. Overall, per-person spending barely improved, to $61.10 from $61.01.

Despite SeaWorld’s attempts to woo its most loyal customers, passholder attendance for SeaWorld Orlando decreased by 18 percent in the first half of 2016 compared with the previous year. SeaWorld said that was because it offered fewer discounts. In the second half of the year, passholder attendance increased 4 percent. That happened after the introduction of new promotions including a deal in which passholders  pay $79 and get a free meal with each visit.

spedicini@orlandosentinel,com or 407-420-5240; Twitter @SandraPedicini

SeaWorld has announced that it will end the practice of whale breeding.

SeaWorld has announced that it will end the practice of whale breeding.

SeaWorld has announced that it will end the practice of whale breeding.

SeaWorld has announced that it will end the practice of whale breeding.

SeaWorld said in a statement Friday that Tilikum had been battling a serious and persistent lung infection.

SeaWorld said in a statement Friday that Tilikum had been battling a serious and persistent lung infection.

This month, the Whale Sanctuary Project was unveiled. About 50 people are involved, including activists, scientists, a zoo executive director and former SeaWorld trainers who appeared in the documentary “Blackfish.” The group wants to create a netted area in the wild where whales and dolphins could be retired like elephants from the circus.

This month, the Whale Sanctuary Project was unveiled. About 50 people are involved, including activists, scientists, a zoo executive director and former SeaWorld trainers who appeared in the documentary “Blackfish.” The group wants to create a netted area in the wild where whales and dolphins could be retired like elephants from the circus.

Orlando Sentinel's Paul Owens, Sandra Pedicini and Scott Maxwell ask questions of Joel Manby, CEO of SeaWorld.

Orlando Sentinel's Paul Owens, Sandra Pedicini and Scott Maxwell ask questions of Joel Manby, CEO of SeaWorld.

Our editors found this article on this site using Google and regenerated it for our readers.

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