SeaWorld Entertainment to layoff hundreds

Tourism expert says there are several factors in SeaWorlds layoffs

By Nadeen Yanes - Reporter, Emilee Speck - Digital journalist

ORLANDO, Fla. - SeaWorld Entertainment is cutting more than 300 jobs, the company announced Tuesday.

The layoffs will be part of a “restructuring” across the 12-parks and the largest job elimination since 2014.

Approximately 320 positions will be eliminated, including both hourly and salaried positions, SeaWorld spokesperson Susan Storey said.

The employees will receive an “enhanced severance benefits” package and outplacement assistance, according to SeaWorld.

“It is an unfortunate, but necessary, consequence of the restructuring that some positions will be lost,” Storey said.

In SeaWorld’s third quarter financial results, released in November, revenue was down by $11 million and net income was down by $32 million compared to last year.

“In the third quarter our attendance was flat with total revenue per capita declined by 2 percent due to unfavorable park attendance and decline in international attendance in Florida,” SeaWorld CEO Joel Manby said in a call to investors.

The company is executing a “cost optimization program,” Manby said in the third quarter call.

“We expect to reduce costs of 65 million with net savings of 40 million by the end of 2018 this is more than double the amount we committed to in our investor day just one year ago,” Manby said.

News 6 reporter Nadeen Yanes spoke to UCF Rosen College of Hospitality Management professor Kevin Murphy, about the announcement, who said there are several contributing factors to the latest layoffs.

Murphy said the decline of visitors from Brazil and the bad publicity from SeaWorld’s orca program contributed to the overall decline in park attendance, but added that other Central Florida attractions experienced a drop in attendance this summer too, except for Universal Orlando.

The four days during which the Pulse shooting happened, a toddler was killed by an alligator at Disney World’s Grand Floridian Resort and singer Christina Grimmie was shot to death outside Plaza Live all played a role in the tourism drop Central Florida saw over the summer, Murphy said.

The struggling Brazilian economy didn’t help SeaWorld either.

“[Brazilians] are a huge part of our international tourism business,” Murphy said. “Keeping in mind it's not a large part but still it's enough to drop business off by 6-7 percent this summer.”

SeaWorld’s announcement wasn’t a surprise to tourism experts.

“SeaWorld is laying off positions because salaries are a larger expense, one of the largest and they need to reduce costs at both the corporate offices and other areas because of lower revenues and lower attendance,” Murphy said.

Murphy said the move is something most business would do because personnel are the most expensive company resource.

As for the impact on SeaWorld Orlando visitors, Muphy said he does not expect there to be much.

“Most of these personnel are going to be higher paying jobs that make significant cuts,” Murphy said.

The lower paid employees guests interact with at the park aren’t the jobs that would yield significant cost savings, Murphy said.

Murphy estimated a majority of the cuts would be in Orlando where the corporate location is.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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