SeaWorld Entertainment may need a decade to recover from the image problem caused by the documentary “Blackfish,” a top theme park consultant told The Post on Thursday.
Dennis Speigel, president of International Theme Park Services, said that while SeaWorld executives blame poor second quarter attendance on a drop in tourism in Florida, where it runs five of its 11 parks, it is likely it is also still feeling the impact from the 2013 documentary.
“The imagery issues have not had enough time to go away,” Speigel said. “This is a ten-year turnaround.”
Speigel made his comments hours after SeaWorld reported attendance was off 7.6 percent in the quarter, to 5.98 million, resulting in a 5.2 percent drop in revenue.
The company said 494,000 fewer people visited its parks between April and June of this year, compared with the same period a year earlier.
The 7.7 percent drop in attendance, from 6.5 to six million, knocked more than $16 million off SeaWorld’s quarterly earnings and sending the company’s shares down to a record low.
Chief Executive Joel Manby said an “overall downturn” in the Orlando market — home to its biggest park — hit in the second half of June just as the critical summer season got underway.
Management in March announced it was ending orca breeding and orca shows. At the time, SeaWorld’s shares enjoyed a spike to more than $20 a share.
“I think that was a short-term stepping stone to a long-range plan,” Speigel said.
“The perception of SeaWorld among the public hasn’t gone away, but it’s not at the [poor] level it was 18 months ago,” Speigel said.
“They have to continue to diversify the brand in the public’s eye,” Speigel said.
A sizable SeaWorld shareholder requesting anonymity told The Post he believed the most recent attendance fall is largely due to Brazilians not traveling to Florida as they did in the past: “The Brazilian real is so weak they can’t travel.”