For six straight quarters, SeaWorld has reported increases in attendance. Hurricane Dorian ended that streak.
In its latest earnings report, SeaWorld Entertainment said attendance across its chain of parks dropped by 2.6 percent. The company blamed the decline of combination of more rainy days in Florida during July and August and then the impact of Hurricane Dorian driving away guests during the typically-busy Labor Day weekend.
“We estimate the attendance impact related to Hurricane Dorian was over 90,000 visits,” said interim CEO Marc Swanson.
Revenue was also down by 2 percent for the quarter compared to the same period last year. Still, the company emphasized that there were few signs of a long-term decline in crowds, noting the parks had three days in July that nearly set attendance records.
“We believe would have been up for the quarter based on our estimates without those factors,” Swanson said.
After years of declining attendance and revenue following the release of the 2013 documentary “Blackfish,” which criticized SeaWorld’s use of captive killer whales, the theme park chain has seen attendance grow every quarter since the beginning of 2018.
According to the Themed Entertainment Association’s annual attendance report, SeaWorld Orlando welcomed 4.6 million visitors last year, a 16 percent jump compared to 2017 and the largest increase among Orlando parks.
In addition to announcing its quarterly earnings, SeaWorld also named its new CEO: 57-year-old Sergio “Serge” Rivera, a veteran hotel executive who previously ran ILG’s Vacation Ownership Segment before it was acquired by Marriott Vacations Worldwide.
Rivera spoke briefly on the earnings call. He’ll take over as CEO on Monday.
“The company has made good progress as executing against its long-term plan, but we know there’s a lot more to do to unlock the long-term potential of this business,” Rivera said. “I look forward to working with this talented team to further improve our execution and dramatically increase shareholder value.”
Rivera is the second permanent CEO SeaWorld has hired this year. His predecessor, Gus Antorcha, resigned in September after just seven months on the job, hinting at behind-the-scenes tensions with SeaWorld board chairman Scott Ross.