SeaWorld Entertainment, the parent company of Busch Gardens in Tampa, was seeing record attendance at the start of 2020. But it ended its first quarter with a revenue drop of 30 percent, the company reported Friday.
While declining to say when its theme parks might reopen, interim CEO Marc Swanson said in a call to investors Friday that revenues dropped to about $154 million. Revenue and attendance were setting records in the early months of 2020, before SeaWorld Entertainment’s theme parks were shut down March 16 because of the COVID-19 crisis.
The Orlando-based company, which owns 12 theme parks across the country, reported a $56.5 million net loss in its first quarter. Attendance decreased by 1 million.
The company was set to open two roller coasters in Florida this spring, the Iron Gwazi at Busch Gardens, a steel and wood hybrid coaster that many coaster and adrenaline junkies were highly anticipating, and the more family-friendly Ice Breaker coaster at SeaWorld Orlando.
The company hasn’t given an update on the status of the rides, which were in a testing phase before the parks closed. The websites for the parks currently say the rides are “coming in 2020″; the parks’ calendars say they are closed through the end of May.
With 95 percent of its employees furloughed without pay, the company is still caring for the animals in its parks. It said it rescued more than 350 animals that were sick or injured in the wild in the first quarter.
“While the world is experiencing an unprecedented global health crisis that has impacted nearly everyone on the planet, we are confident in the resiliency of our business, our ability to weather this crisis and that we will emerge an even stronger company,” Swanson said in a news release.
In Friday’s call to investors, Swanson said that prior to the park closures, almost 90 percent of construction on 2020 projects was completed. He said depending when the parks reopen, a decision will be made whether unfinished projects are completed or pushed to 2021.
It’s likely that first up for reopening would be the SeaWorld park in San Antonio, Texas, followed by its Florida parks, Swanson noted in the investor call.
“We’re going to open when it makes sense for us, assuming that’s within the green light period obviously,” Swanson said. "Our surveys suggest there is a pretty strong pent-up demand for people who say they are likely or very likely to come visit a park when it opens. Plus, lots of people drive instead of fly to us. That’s going to be to our advantage.”
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SeaWorld is not alone in the economic pain. Last week, Universal reported a 32 percent drop in revenues in its first quarter, while the Walt Disney Company reported this week it lost $1 billion in income from its theme park, cruises and resorts division.
Swanson said SeaWorld will have temperature checks and mask requirements for employees when they reopen theme parks. A recent California Attractions Reopening Plan, which included executives from SeaWorld, Legoland and the San Diego Zoo, called for masks for guests and workers, reduced capacity at the parks, a six-foot separation in entry and ride queues, Plexiglas shields at food stations, and regularly disinfecting ride vehicles and touch points.
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