SeaWorld Admits Animal Rights Concerns Are Impacting Sales, Attendance

| by Jared Keever

Shares of SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. took a hit Wednesday as the company announced it missed second-quarter earnings estimates and predicted an overall decline in revenue for the year. 

Shares of the company fell 33 percent to $18.90 at the close in New York Wednesday. That is the lowest since the company began selling shares for $27 in April 2013. 

Sales at SeaWolrd parks for last quarter fell 1.5 percent to $405.2 million; missing the company’s projected sales of $445.2 million. 

For the first time the company acknowledged that pressure from animal rights groups is hurting sales at the company’s 11 parks, financial analyst Barton Crockett told Bloomberg Businessweek.

“Attendance in the quarter was impacted by demand pressures related to recent media attention surrounding proposed legislation in the state of California,” said a statement from the company’s Orlando, Florida, location.

SeaWorld attendance for the quarter was up 0.3 percent but it is down 4.3 percent for the year as a whole.

As the company’s statement suggests, much of that might be attributed to efforts in California — home to SeaWorld San Diego — to make it illegal to breed whales in captivity and use the animals for entertainment.

Public support for such legislation follows last year’s release of “Blackfish,” a documentary focused on the treatment of Orcas at the parks. The documentary explores whether alleged mistreatment of the animals led to the death of a trainer, who was killed by an Orca in Orlando in 2010.

The negative press from the documentary has been a tough storm for SeaWorld to weather. Although the company has managed to stall the California legislation it did lose a business partner recently when Southwest Airlines announced it was ending its marketing relationship with SeaWorld. That means images of SeaWorld animals and company logos will be removed from a number of Southwest’s planes. 

Southwest called the move "strictly a business decision,” according to Market Watch.

CNBC reports that poor attendance numbers may lead SeaWorld to reduce ticket prices in order to generate more traffic. 

The company’s competitors, like The Walt Disney Company, saw both increased sales and attendance in the same quarter. Disney reported an 8 percent revenue increase.

Sources: Bloomberg Businessweek, Market Watch, CNBC

Photo Source: Trip AdvisorWikipedia