After a third quarter performance that underwhelmed investors (although there were several positives in the report), SeaWorld announced major changes for the philosophy of the company in an entirely new presentation. In the presentation, they highlighted a new focus for the company, announced new attractions, and announced major changes in the San Diego park.
The following images are slides from the presentation:
These first two slides give a nice overview of information about the company’s parks. All of the parks are great experiences worth visiting if you’ve never been!
The new strategy for Sea World’s parks is to create “experiences that matter.” Essentially, this is using thrills to show guests more about the natural world. Major changes will involve “turning the parks inside out,” or as I would say, allowing the guests to see more of the park’s behind the scenes operations in caring for animals. Another change is renaming the park’s employee titles from team member to ambassador. In addition to these changes to the park’s mission, they will also have a renewed focus on bringing popular characters to the parks and incredible new attractions.
SeaWorld Orlando will be getting some major investments in the coming years. With Mako coming in 2016 already, the company confirmed even more will come to the park in the coming years! For the next five years, the park will get major investments. There will also be an emphasis on the park’s events and further use of the park’s indoor facilities.
Perhaps the most interesting development at the park is that they will attempt to buy surrounding land for further expansion. The company expressed interest in creating on-site hotels at all of their parks, and Orlando is definitely a candidate for it. With already owned land, and more opening up nearby, it will be interesting to see what SeaWorld Orlando creates in the coming years.
The most interesting announcement from SeaWorld came from the San Diego park, they announced that they will phase out shows with their killer whales in 2016. It is expected to bring more guests from the region into the park, which has experienced major attendance drops recently due to a general public that does not agree with the use of killer whales in shows. Although several news outlets reported otherwise, this only affects the San Diego park and at this time no changes will be made in the chain’s other parks.
Although San Diego has very little land to develop, SeaWorld expressed interest in expansion for the park with new rides and possibly a hotel. Unfortunately, any further developments would have to go through the California Coastal Commission, who recently banned the breeding of orcas in their park if they expand through the Blue World Project. The CEO of SeaWorld Joel Manby told investors that the company plans to challenge the CCC’s decision, but they still may not go through with the expansion at the park. Instead, they may create a smaller version of the expansion and focus more on attractions in the park.
With Discovery Point coming next year, SeaWorld will take advantage of their Texas market and expand SeaWorld San Antonio in the next few years. In 2017, the park will bring new attractions for the entire family to enjoy!
Although they did not say which park it will be coming to, SeaWorld did announce that a new family roller coaster themed to the SeaWorld rescue team would be coming to a SeaWorld park soon! It is expected that it will come to either SeaWorld San Antonio or SeaWorld San Diego. The ride will start with a queue featuring clips of the SeaWorld rescue team’s television show. Afterwards, the guests will board the wave runner themed cars and enter a journey through twists and turns, eventually finding out which animal they rescued. The manufacturer was not announced, but I expect it to be Intamin. Intamin has build a wave-runner themed roller coaster similar to this before, although it could be someone else such as Vekoma or Zamperla.
In addition to the roller coaster, SeaWorld also displayed concept art for other attractions intended to combine actual marine life with a ride experience. The Submarine and Jeep rides both look like interesting dark ride concepts that could bring guests up close to marine life.
Not much was announced for the Busch Gardens parks. They did release this image of possibly expansion for Busch Gardens Tampa, but nothing was announced for the Williamsburg park. I expect them to continue building an attraction every couple of years to maintain the success of these two parks. I would like to note, although it was not shown in the presentation, Busch Gardens Williamsburg has vast amounts of land surrounding it just waiting to be developed.
The presentation also featured this awesome Cobra’s Curse artwork:
Another focus for the SeaWorld parks will be events. In recent years, the SeaWorld parks have added new festivals including Food and Wine festivals at the Busch Gardens Parks, and they are going to continue expanding these successful events. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer will become the headline character at the park’s Christmas events next year (this is interesting, because Dollywood already features this character) and the company is going to continue expanding their popular Halloween events.
To drive more guests into the parks, SeaWorld is going to emphasize the value of their parks. With the Orlando park’s admission being $21 less than the competitor’s averages, this should help bring more local visitors to the theme park. A re-designed website will also feature more deals (including an early buyers discount) and easier navigation to make it easier for guests to get online tickets to the parks.
Above is the new focuses for the business. Although it was expected, the international partnerships for the company that were recently announced were not discussed in the call. They are currently not as big of a priority for the company as solving the domestic issues.
The company also announced a new technology partnership with Panasonic today.
I have to say, I like this new focus for SeaWorld. An emphasis on the rides rather than the shows is a smart decision for the parks. I am definitely interested in how similar this new strategy is to the CEO’s previous company, Herschend Family Entertainment. They built incredible thrills at Dollywood and Silver Dollar City, focused also on the guest’s experience, built hotels, and partnered with the owners of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. The good news is that this strategy worked well for them, and I see it working for SeaWorld too. SeaWorld’s future is definitely exciting after today’s announcements!
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