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SeaWorld, parent company of Busch Gardens, reports steady improvement in profits

Interim CEO Marc Swanson was given the top job on the same day the company’s first-quarter earnings report beat Wall Street expectations.
SeaWorld Entertainment, the Orlando-based parent company of Busch Gardens, beat Wall Street expectations in its first-quarter earnings report released this week.
SeaWorld Entertainment, the Orlando-based parent company of Busch Gardens, beat Wall Street expectations in its first-quarter earnings report released this week. [ JOHN RAOUX | AP ]
Published May 6
Updated May 6

The interim CEO of SeaWorld Entertainment, Marc Swanson, has been given the top job, the company announced on the same day it released a first-quarter earnings report that showed a steadily improving financial picture.

The earnings report from the Orlando-based parent company of Busch Gardens beat Wall Street expectations with a slight uptick in revenue since mid-March of last year. That’s when all 12 of its theme parks were shut down due to the global spread of COVID-19.

Related: Busch Gardens and SeaWorld offering free ticket deal for veterans, active military

There are still some challenges as it navigates its recovery from a pandemic that devastated its theme park business. Only 10 of SeaWorld’s parks are open now, but they do expect to have all 12 open by summer. And there where signs of recovery in the first-quarter report.

Marc Swanson, SeaWorld Entertainment's new CEO.
Marc Swanson, SeaWorld Entertainment's new CEO. [ SeaWorld ]

The theme park operator posted revenue of $171.9 million in the period, exceeding Wall Street forecasts that expected $121.6 million. That number is up 12 percent from the first quarter of 2020. It gave the company a net loss of almost $45 million, a nearly $12 million improvement from 2020′s first quarter.

Attendance for the quarter was 2.2. million, a 4.5 percent drop from the same time in 2020. That was a much better attendance number than expected by analysts, according to MarketWatch.

Visitors to the parks are also spending more while there, with revenue per capita increasing17.2 percent to $77.63 compared with the first quarter of 2020.

After more than a year of carrying the interim CEO title during a dramatically difficult time, Swanson said in a press release he expects SeaWorld to have “a more normalized operating environment as the year progresses.”

According to a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing released with the first-quarter earnings, Swanson’s salary increased from $400,000 to $450,000.

The company did not announce when it will open Iron Gwazi at Busch Gardens or SeaWorld Orlando’s Ice Breaker, two rollercoasters that had their 2020 debuts delayed by the pandemic.

“To be clear, we believe our attendance would’ve been notably higher, were it not for capacity limitations and closed parks,” said Swanson. “We are encouraged by our guests’ desire to visit and spend at our parks and believe this is a good indicator for expected demand during our peak summer season.”