SeaWorld Entertainment said weather again impacted park attendance in the third quarter, but the company proposes to mitigate its effects going forward.
On Wednesday, SeaWorld reported third-quarter attendance of 7.1 million, down about 2.8% from the same quarter a year ago. Revenue fell 3% to $548.2 million, and net income fell 8.2% to $123.6 million.
CEO Mark Swanson attributed the contraction in part to “unusual and significantly adverse weather at the height of our operating season in most of our markets.” If it weren’t for the weather, attendance would have been “much better” than it was, Swanson said.
In the second quarter, heat, rain and smoke from the Canadian wildfires impacted most of the markets in which SeaWorld operates. In the third quarter, executives attributed weather impacts to heat and rain.
A financial analyst asked Swanson about SeaWorld’s plans to reduce the impact of weather in the future, especially in light of the Six Flags-Cedar Fair merger. The two companies said one of the expected benefits of the merger is to “mitigate the impact of seasonality” and have a “more balanced presence in year-round operating climates.”
According to Swanson, SeaWorld is looking for more shade structures around its parks to combat the heat. The company is also considering further internal trials.
For example, Jewels of the Sea: The Jellyfish Experience — an indoor interactive aquarium — will open at SeaWorld San Diego next year.
Swanson also pointed to the parks’ beverage refill programs, enabling customers to purchase a refillable cup and enjoy low-cost refills during their visit.
“It’s something we’ll continue to work on,” Swanson said.
CFO Jim Forrester addressed the other end of the spectrum: when the days get colder. SeaWorld said the slides and pools at its water parks are heated to keep guests comfortable.
In storm-prone locations, he said, the company takes into account park hours so guests can spend a full day in the park before and after thunderstorms.
Swanson also addressed investing in theme parks. One analyst asked what he thought about the investment in light of Universal Orlando Resort’s third theme park, Epic Universe, which will open in 2025, and Disney’s recent announcement that it will spend $60 billion on the parks over the next 10 years.
“We welcome the investment,” Swanson said, saying SeaWorld’s product stands out in the Orlando market.
The company is also committed to opening something new at each of its parks each year to increase attendance, he said.