SeaWorld Entertainment saw record earnings, revenue, and guest spending across its theme parks in 2022, even as attendance fell short of the pre-pandemic era. 

Guests at SeaWorld, Sesame Place and Busch Gardens parks spent an average of $78.91 last year, up nearly 28 percent from 2019’s total of $61.79. That extra spending was likely assisted by controversial 5 percent surcharges being added to merchandise and food purchases at some parks. 

That extra guest spending snowballed into record revenue of $1.7 billion (up 23 percent from 2019) and record earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization, or EBITDA, of $728 million (up 59 percent from 2019). Attendance was 21.9 million guests in 2022 — below the 22.6 million seen in 2019 and below the company record of 25 million set in 2008.

“This represents a clear opportunity to recapture lost attendance we once achieved,” SeaWorld CEO Marc Swanson said on Tuesday’s quarterly earnings call. 

SeaWorld isn’t alone in reporting record financials among theme park companies. Cedar Fair set similar all-time bests for 2022, as did the Universal theme park division within Comcast. (Six Flags was on a different trajectory based on its last quarterly report and won’t announce its annual earnings until Thursday.)

Concept art for Arctic Rescue, opening at SeaWorld San Diego in 2023 (SeaWorld

Swanson said he expects continued growth in the current year thanks to new rides opening up across the chain. 

In contrast to Cedar Fair and Six Flags, which have been slow to return to pre-pandemic expenditures on new attractions, SeaWorld will open new coasters in its Orlando, San Diego and Williamsburg parks this year, along with the world’s first launched flume ride at SeaWorld San Antonio. Just this week, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay debuted its Serengeti Flyer “screamin’ swing” attraction.