Epic Universe? Walt Disney World? SeaWorld Orlando isn’t scared
Get ready for a thrill SeaWorld fans. Image via SeaWorld.

Ice Breaker 2
SeaWorld parks CEO Marc Swanson talked about competition from Disney and Universal.

Universal’s Epic Universe is opening next year, teasing its Harry Potter, Nintendo and other themed lands. Meanwhile, The Walt Disney Co. has vowed to pour $60 billion over the next decade in new attractions, including a giant expansion at the Magic Kingdom.

Is SeaWorld scared?

The company’s CEO Marc Swanson opened up about his competitors’ multibillion-dollar projects down the road during a Q&A on Wednesday’s earnings call.

Swanson took a diplomatic tone.

“On Epic, I don’t have a crystal ball,” he said. “I’m not suggesting Epic won’t have an impact or anything like that. I’m sure there’s going to be days where they are going to be very crowded.”

But Swanson reminded investors that SeaWorld Orlando is 50 years old. (The company itself is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year.) And in that half century, SeaWorld has weathered intense competition from Universal, Disney, Legoland and others.

“Generally, we view new things in the market that we expect will bring people to market as good for us and the industry as a whole,” Swanson said.

SeaWorld tickets are cheaper than Disney and Universal. SeaWorld is also investing in new rides and events too. The park is opening a new penguin-themed family-friendly roller coaster soon, recently hosted a 5K and is selling tickets to its own spooky Halloween haunted houses for the fourth year in a row.

“We’ve competed here certainly for a long time,” Swanson said. “I like what we have to offer.”

On the earnings call, Swanson disclosed SeaWorld’s attendance in the first quarter jumped by 72,000 visitors — a 2% bump from the same time period in 2023. Total revenue rose to $297 million, up about 1% from the first quarter of 2023.

Swanson told investors international visitors hadn’t fully rebounded from the pandemic but is improving significantly. SeaWorld is opening a list of new rides at parks across the country and is moving forward to add hotels at the parks.

“Our financial position is strong,” Swanson said. “Our business is resilient.”

Gabrielle Russon

Gabrielle Russon is an award-winning journalist based in Orlando. She covered the business of theme parks for the Orlando Sentinel. Her previous newspaper stops include the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Toledo Blade, Kalamazoo Gazette and Elkhart Truth as well as an internship covering the nation’s capital for the Chicago Tribune. For fun, she runs marathons. She gets her training from chasing a toddler around. Contact her at [email protected] or on Twitter @GabrielleRusson .


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