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Busch Gardens disputes attendance numbers

Tampa, Florida -- The theme park industry literally has its ups and downs. But newly released figures from industry group TEA/AECOM show while most were seeing higher profits and improved attendance between 2012 and 2013, Busch Gardens and its parent company SeaWorld, were off six percent and five percent, respectively.

"Well, declining attendance is not a positive thing," said Andy Brennan, Lead Analyst with IBISWorld Research.

Brennan says direct competitors like Disney and Universal Studios saw steady increases during the same period thanks to major investment. Disney, he says, has spent close to two billion dollars on improvements in recent years.

"On the other hand, SeaWorld, during the same time period, invested about one-tenth that amount. And I think this is flowing through into the attendance," said Brennan.

The current year figures, he says, are also likely to be impacted by delays in the opening of Falcon's Fury. Busch Garden's newest attraction was scheduled to open May 1, and will now likely miss the popular summer season entirely.


But perhaps the biggest challenge is competitive pricing. Several viewers told 10 News theme parks, in general, have gotten too expensive.

At least Orlando parks, they said, offer more choices and newer attractions like Disney's Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, and Universal's soon-to-be-unveiled Harry Potter addition.

In a statement, Busch Gardens disputed the study's figures.

"TEA/AECOM attendance numbers are estimates. While we do not report our numbers on a park-by-park basis, it is worth noting that the actual attendance was significantly higher than the estimates at some of our parks in the 2013 report . Last year SeaWorld Parks generated its third consecutive year of record revenue and operating profit, based in part on strong attendance in our SeaWorld-branded parks," wrote Busch Gardens Spokesman Travis Claytor.

Brennan agrees Busch Gardens is not in financial straits.

"They certainly won't be closing their doors any time soon this is a really profitable industry," he said.

But to remain profitable, Brennan does think the company needs to concentrate on what he says visitors really care about these days: high-tech rides. And he expects Busch Gardens will do that quickly.


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