After nearly five years of declining attendance and revenue following accusations that it mistreated orcas and their trainers, SeaWorld Entertainment is gaining ground with new attractions and rides that have nothing to do with the black-and-white sea creatures that defined its identity for decades.
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I will concede that the faux-documentary impacted attendance, but only to a limited extent. I still think the biggest error they made is that they just didn't build anything new while hiking the gate in Orlando. There was nothing to talk about until Mako, which helped stopped the bleeding. The rest of the chain is more regional in nature, and the investments there have been weak compared to those that CF and SF made.
Have to agree with that. I talk to a lot of people who complain about Sea World and Blackfish, but very few admit they've ever been to the park in the first place, so it's not like they suddenly stopped going.
Manta was, what? 2009? 2010? Then Mako six or seven years later? Yeah, that's a long stretch without anything big added to the park, especially in the Orlando market.
And while I love Mako (quickly becoming one of my favorite rides), it's easy to see it's not as immersive as Manta. The latter features a beautiful queuing area (likely much too long and detailed, but still) and a separate aquarium, while the former is much more a roller coaster and not much else. Maybe they'll get back to competing more with Universal than Six Flags (if one existed in the area).
The shark silhouettes on the ceiling of Mako’s station are pretty slick. But you’re right, it’s nowhere near what Manta has. And Kraken just looks fun down and stripped of any theme. How great were the baby Krakens at the exit?!?
But then again, what do I know?
In my view SeaWorld got hit by a perfect storm of issues:
I once heard Disney imagineer Joe Rhode defend the cheap dinosaur carnival rides at Animal Kingdom as important marketing vehicles that helped Disney position the park as more than a zoo in the minds of their guests at a time when public sentiment thought otherwise. My snarky side responded, "great, now you're a carnival too!"
The enthusiast geek in me (who only wants big E-ticket attractions) hates that, but the more I think about it, the more I buy it from a business perspective, and it seems to be the course SeaWorld is taking now. Of course, the difference is that Disney should always position itself as premium fun and immersive storytelling which Everest and Pandora do more effectively.
The new stuff might stop the bleeding and keep them afloat but I agree with other comments here that the SeaWorld parks will remain a minor player going forward if they continue this strategy. But perhaps that's just capitalism digesting this product and I'm being too emotional about it. If nothing else, interesting to think about.
The real tell will be when the whales are gone. Then what does SeaWorld become? While I think they have the best coaster collection in Orlando, that alone wouldn’t justify the near $100/day price tag. As much negative press as they may garner, the whales are still an attraction. To mirror what Jetsetter said, your biggest liability can be your biggest asset.
But then again, what do I know?
Part of the diversification problem is that they're so dependent on Orlando. Williamsburg seems under marketed, and Tampa would be a draw if they invested more in it.
I would also add that in terms of competition, around 2013, they decided to match pricing in Orlando while adding... the swirling hockey pucks to penguin land. While Disney opened a new land and Universal x2'd Potter. That was delusional.
You hit the nail on the head about BGW Jeff. It's an exceptional park, and one of our favorites. They under market and under sell themselves.
I've been getting the 2 park fun pass for the price of a days admission for the last 7 years. This year it went up a little bit. I bought them under their Black Friday sale Thursday for $148 for my wife and I.
Its interesting though. I noticed a shift this year that I haven't seen in regional amusement parks. Hersheypark has effectively done away with my favorite weekends and their slow periods by offering us passholders up to 4 guests on each season pass for $20.50 anyday in the off season until the seasonal events.
We went the first Sunday of Hersheypark after Dark, and walked on everything. That Monday I had the same offer to bring up to 4 friends. Rest of the season was packed.
We are Diamond members at Six Flags and its crazy the amount of bring a friend free offers(and a bunch of dining discounts etc that our offered.) There's a definite shift of getting people into the park for cheap hoping they spend more once inside.
Disney has always remained the leader and all the other parks follow them. They just adapt it to their business model.
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