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09 May 2018

SeaWorld targets British tourists as operator plans to reclaim lost visitors

Following an impressive first quarter, which saw a surge in attendance to its attractions, SeaWorld Entertainment is casting its eyes overseas, particularly to the British market, in an attempt to draw back lost customers.

In its Q1 results, released yesterday (8 May), SeaWorld enjoyed its first positive quarter for some time, with sagging attendance and revenues linked to the Blackfish orca controversy having affected margins for several years.

For the first three months of the year, SeaWorld recorded not only improved revenues – up by US$30.8m (€25.9m, £22.8m) year-on-year – but it also increased attendance by nearly 15 per cent, with 400,000 more visitors coming to its parks during the quarter.

Two of SeaWorld's traditionally stronger markets are Latin America – specifically Brazil – and the UK. Both have been affected in recent times, Brazil by its worst recession since 1930 and Britain by continued uncertainty over Brexit. To that end, SeaWorld is putting its international focus on Britain to try and recapture its international audience.

"On the international front, we did see an increase in international visitors in the first quarter," said John Reilly, who is SeaWorld's temporary CEO following the recent departure of Joel Manby.

"We did see a decline in the UK, but we're really focused on execution in that market. In the past, we may not have executed as well as we could have on sales, marketing, and the communications side, and we're redoubling our efforts there."

For Florida – a market that has traditionally been more heavily influenced by international visitors and is home to SeaWorld Orlando – last year 1.44 million people from Britain visited the state – a 10.4 per cent decline on previous figures. For Brazil, Argentina and Columbia – the three largest markets for Florida in Latin America – there was a 7.4 per cent decline year-on-year.

"We want to drive more growth in these markets going forward," said Reilly, referring to the Latin America and British markets.

"For the UK specifically, we believe we have a strategic opportunity there to drive better results. We have a significant effort underway to improve performance there.

"We have to better communicate the breadth of our offerings to differentiate offering with animals, thrill rides, events, our Sesame Street IP, and we think there's a great story to tell and we want to better tell it going forward."

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