By now it is quite well known that the SeaWorld family of theme parks aren’t in great shape. Despite the fact that SeaWorld Orlando is currently the least expensive major theme park to visit in central Florida, has an annual passholder program with serious perks, and offers some truly aggressive deals and discounts, this park as well as its sister parks around the country (including Busch Gardens parks in Tampa and Williamsburg) have has been in quite the downward spiral over the past few years, leading many to speculate that there are some rough waters ahead for SeaWorld.
Just this year, it has been revealed that SeaWorld’s biggest investor, Blackstone Group, wanted out of the pool, and their shares were subsequently bought by a Chinese company with designs on making a Chinese SeaWorld park in the future. And then just a few weeks ago it was confirmed that attendance across the board at all SeaWorld parks across the US dropped 3.8% from last year to 8.93 million overall, which is a truly staggering low for a national brand that once commanded over a third of the non-Disney theme park traffic in the Orlando market alone.
And of course, the most recent development is the rumor that is SeaWorld is quietly looking for a potential buyer for its Busch Gardens parks, which are a holdover from the Anheuser-Busch days. In fact, just a few days ago it was reported that SeaWorld is seriously considering the sale of the two Busch Gardens to the UK-based Merlin company, which owns several LEGOLAND parks in the US. And now another blow has been dealt to the parks group that seems to indicate things may be even worse than originally thought…
SeaWorld downsizes in a MAJOR way behind the scenes
Though theme parks are no stranger to budget cuts, SeaWorld made waves last week when they confirmed that they were planning to cut around 350 jobs as part of an initiative to maximize costs. The majority of these cuts will occur at SeaWorld Orlando, but there will be at least some at other SeaWorld-owned parks across the US.
Interestingly, the majority of these cuts will be administrative and non-guest facing positions, which means that the guest experience should not be impacted while these cuts are taking place. And while much of the reason for these cuts is to help SeaWorld balance its increasingly troubled books, SeaWorld has also announced that it has additional plans for the saved capital that will come from this cut that could potentially improve its fortunes in the near future…
Is SeaWorld finally ready to admit it has a messaging problem?
In a statement, SeaWorld said that one of their goals with this massive downsizing is to invest some of the saved capital from these job losses into revamped marketing efforts, finding new ways to reach potential guests and hanging on to the ones they currently have.
While this may sound like a pretty standard practice for a company that is struggling finacnailly, for years SeaWorld has insisted quite publicly that they do not have an image problem, and their issues are due to outside factors and more competition from other theme parks. However, with the company making big changes not only with personnel levels behind the scnes but also with regard to their marine mammal care policies as well, it looks like SeaWorld might finally be ready to try and change their message in a big way.
What kind of future does SeaWorld have?
Though the last few years have seen plenty of changes for SeaWorld parks, the next 12 months are absolutely crucial, as it seems obvious that things simply can’t continue for SeaWorld the way they have been. However, with this current restructuring, a focus on changing marketing tactics, some new attractions opening in 2018, and potentially a partial sale of Busch Gardens, there is still a clear path forward for SeaWorld Orlando. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that the chances for this park to bounce back are becoming slimmer with each passing day, and if things don’t turn around soon, we could be seeing the end of SeaWorld (at least in its current form, as a buyer could purchase the parks outright) sooner rather than later.
Do you think SeaWorld will finally be on the road to recovery in 2018? Or will next year truly the beginning of the end for SeaWorld parks? Let us know what you think in the comments below!
-Article courtesy of Theme Park Tourist By Amanda Kondolojy, Monday, October 23, 2017 04:31
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