In a sneak peek of its second quarter earnings report, SeaWorld Entertainment provided an optimistic update on one of its still-shuttered theme parks.
“The Company expects its Busch Gardens theme park in Virginia to commence a phased reopening in early August 2020,” SeaWorld said in a press release.
Busch Gardens Williamsburg is one of three SeaWorld parks that remain closed during the COVID-19 pandemic; the others are SeaWorld San Diego and Aquatica San Diego. Regarding those two parks, SeaWorld said “it continues to monitor guidance from federal, state and local authorities to determine when it can reopen in California.”
The announcement was made alongside negative, but not unexpected, preliminary financial results for the company’s second quarter. With all SeaWorld parks closed for the majority of this April to June period, the company expects to report a $105 million net loss and a 95 percent drop in revenue year-over-year, falling from $406 million to just $18 million.
Attendance for the entire SeaWorld chain was just 300,000 guests, down 6.2 million from the second quarter of 2019.
Parks began reopening in June, beginning with Aquatica San Antonio on June 6, followed by all of the company’s Central Florida parks on June 11 and SeaWorld San Antonio on June 19. To limit the spread of COVID-19, SeaWorld parks have required face masks for guests and employees, limited capacity, and imposed physical distancing.
“Attendance since the parks reopened in June has been impacted by self-imposed capacity limitations, fewer operating days per week versus the prior year, limited marketing spend and a limited events line-up,” the company said. “Despite the limitations outlined above, for the parks which have reopened, total attendance trends have improved since reopening. Total park attendance at reopened parks has increased 14 percent on a same park basis from the week ended June 28 (the first full week these parks were open) to the most recent week ended July 26.”
One bright spot for the future, SeaWorld, is demand for its Discovery Cove park in Orlando. The company said advance reservations for 2021 are up 169 percent compared to 2020 bookings at the same time last year.
“The Company believes attendance levels will strengthen as it begins to re-introduce special events, interactive experiences and other in-park offerings which were temporarily suspended,” SeaWorld said. “Additionally, the Company has significantly curtailed marketing spend during the initial reopening phase and expects a measured ramp-up in marketing spend will also support further attendance growth.”
SeaWorld took steps to protect its financial position as the pandemic upended the theme park industry. It furloughed the vast majority of its workforce and obtained liquidity through $227.5 million of secured notes. Executives also took salary cuts, but were simultaneously given $6.8 million in stock awards.
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