Two years into the pandemic, theme park attendance still isn’t back to what it was before.
SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, the parent company of Tampa’s Busch Gardens and Adventure Island, reported Thursday that attendance across its 13 North American properties hit 20.2 million in 2021. That’s up from 13.8 million in 2020, but still down from 22.6 million in 2019.
But even with lower attendance, the company still reported record revenues and net income for the year. Revenues hit $1.5 billion, up 7.5 percent over 2019, and income hit $256.5 million, up from $89.5 million in 2019.
In other words, while there were fewer guests overall, those guests spent more per visit — an average of $32.26 per person, up from $26.32 in 2019. Overall, each guest brought the company an average of $74.43 in revenue, up from $61.80 in 2019.
“We did this growth this year with very little international attendance,” SeaWorld CEO Marc Swanson told investors Thursday. “That will eventually be a tailwind, we believe, at some point for us, and those folks generally tend to spend more on an in-park basis.”
SeaWorld, which also owns Tampa’s Adventure Island, did not share specific attendance numbers at each park.
After two rough years during the pandemic, SeaWorld’s finances have stabilized to the point where it recently made a reported $3.4 billion offer to purchase Cedar Fair, the theme park giant behind attractions like Cedar Point in Ohio, Schlitterbahn in Texas and Knott’s Berry Farm in California. Cedar Fair rejected the offer this month.
SeaWorld will open one new park in 2022, Sesame Place San Diego in March; as well as new rides and coasters at most other parks, including Iron Gwazi at Busch Gardens and Rapids Racer at Adventure Island.
While COVID-19′s omicron variant had an impact on park attendance in January, Swanson said, the company is eyeing the return of international travel to the United States and more group outings to parks as areas of potential growth for the rest of the year.
“Certainly, our goal is to not just get back to 2019 attendance levels, it’s to exceed that,” Swanson said. “I think with our lineup not only for this year but in the future years, it’s a great lineup — we’re investing in these parks, adding new rides and attractions, we’re refurbishing things. There’s a lot of reasons to believe that we can continue to grow.”