SeaWorld Orlando is seeing a shortfall in international attendance this year, particularly from Brazil, executives told investors Thursday.
The warning of softness in visitation from abroad came as executives discussed their fourth-quarter earnings. Revenue and attendance increased, but the stock still dropped 9 percent amid concerns about SeaWorld’s overall outlook. The stock closed at $18.01 Thursday.
Other tourist destinations could feel effects of weaker foreign currencies and a stronger U.S. dollar, analysts say — while pointing out that SeaWorld is particularly vulnerable because of its overall problems with declining attendance and controversy over captive killer whales.
“I think as long as the U.S. dollar remains in this mode, you can expect a lot of dial-back from foreign visitors,” said Tuna Amobi, an analyst for S&P Global Market Intelligence who covers SeaWorld Entertainment, the Walt Disney Co. and Universal Orlando owner Comcast Corp. “The question is going to be the extent of the impact for each company. … I would imagine Disney is probably the most exposed there, because they get a lot of international tourists.”
But Disney also has a strong brand, Amobi said. Attendance at its domestic parks has soared.Disney and Universal had no comment. Last summer while discussing earnings, Walt Disney Co. executives warned that the strength of the U.S. dollar versus key foreign currencies was expected to adversely impact its overall 2016 operating income by about $500 million.
Brazil, a big market for Orlando, is deep in a recession. Its currency has lost 30 percent of its value in the last year against the dollar.
“If you take Britain and Brazil, my hunch this year across the board, not just Florida but the United States, numbers are going to be slightly down,” said Alan Fyall, professor of tourism marketing at the University of Central Florida’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management. “The bottom line is the currencies are experiencing lots of problems and the Brazilian currency, really since it sort of peaked around late 2010, 2011 … it’s really been on a downward spiral ever since.”
SeaWorld will try to lure international visitors back by emphasizing low prices. In Brazil and Latin America, for example, SeaWorld is heavily promoting deals allowing tourists to visit two parks for $99 or three for $109.
International tourists make up 15 percent of SeaWorld Entertainment’s overall visitors. That figure is higher at its Orlando parks, though the company won’t disclose figures.SeaWorld also said bad weather has affected business this year.SeaWorld expects to see improvement later this year, when it opens a new Mako roller coaster in Orlando and the Cobra’s Curse ride in Busch Gardens.
But overall, when “you’re comparing them to their peers who are … putting up solid numbers and SeaWorld is sitting here with all these plans and struggling to stay flat (with revenue), it’s hard to get that excited” about what’s ahead, said Michael Erstad, senior analyst with ITG Investment Research.
SeaWorld’s revenue for 2015 was $1.37 billion, compared with $1.38 billion the previous year.For the fourth quarter, SeaWorld posted an adjusted loss of $9.6 million on $267.9 million in revenue. The previous year, the company reported a loss of $17.8 million on revenue of $264.5 million.