Attendance at SeaWorld San Diego dropped 12 percent last year, according to a report released Wednesday that found SeaWorld’s parks in San Diego and Orlando had the largest traffic declines of North America’s 20 largest theme parks.
SeaWorld San Diego saw nearly 3.8 million visitors in 2014, down from 4.3 million in 2013, according to figures from the Themed Entertainment Association. SeaWorld Orlando attendance dipped 8 percent, from 5.1 million to 4.7 million.
SeaWorld Entertainment Inc., which operates nine other parks, saw declining attendance companywide and poor earnings performance after the 2013 documentary “Blackfish” alleged SeaWorld mistreated its orca whales. The movie received wide exposure after it aired on CNN. SeaWorld replaced CEO Jim Atchison in December with Joel Manby and cut 300 jobs, including about 100 in San Diego.
SeaWorld said Thursday that the TEA attendance figures were estimates and not based on actual numbers. SeaWorld said in an earnings statement last month that first quarter attendance across all its parks this year was up about 7 percent, to 3.2 million. The company launched an ad campaign this spring, portraying its whales as healthy and well cared for.
TEA said attendance at the largest theme parks increased about 2 percent last year, with Universal Studios seeing the greatest jump, at 17 percent, to 8.2 million visitors.