Attendance at SeaWorld parks across the country has dropped 6% in the first half of the year, but is the decline due to bad publicity or bad weather?
SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. has endured some harsh publicity lately with the debut this summer of “Blackfish,” a documentary about the treatment of orca whales in captivity.
In its latest financial report, SeaWorld Entertainment reported attendance of 10.1 million in its 11 parks in the first half of the year, down from 10.7 million in the same period in 2012.
Although overall revenues for the first six months of the year grew by 2%, the company reported a net loss of $56.2 million, or $0.66 per share.
Still, representatives for the Orlando-based company reject suggestions that the movie has played a role in reducing attendance. They also say they are not reducing admission prices in response to the drop in attendance.
For example, an offer to let children (ages 3 to 9) enter SeaWorld San Diego for free with a paying adult in October was part of a citywide promotion supported by about 100 other businesses, including the San Diego Zoo, SeaWorld officials said.
“We are not slashing prices, period,” Fred Jacobs, vice president of communications for SeaWorld, said in an email. “‘Blackfish’ has had no attendance impact.”
Other discounts recently offered, the park said, are part of a typical theme park effort to increase attendance during the slower fall tourist season.
SeaWorld blames the drop in attendance this year to bad weather at SeaWorld parks in Florida and Virginia and the timing of Easter, which fell on March 31, overlapping with spring break for many college students.
“Our guest satisfaction surveys continue to show a very high degree of satisfaction with the experience in all 11 of our parks,” SeaWorld spokeswoman Becca Bides said.