The Battle for Central Florida Tourism Dollars Is Ratcheting Up

in SeaWorld, Theme Parks, Universal Orlando, Walt Disney World

A collage of three theme park landmarks central to Florida tourism: the colorful SeaWorld Orlando sign, Universal's rotating globe fountain, and Disney's Cinderella Castle under a blue sky.

Credit: SeaWorld Orlando, Universal Studios, and Disney

The theme park battle in Central Florida is about to reach epic levels, literally. With Universal Orlando about to open Epic Universe, Walt Disney World must devise something to draw guests away from its cross-town rival.

It seems like Universal Orlando is dropping more information about Epic Universe every day, including bringing guests inside SUPER NINTENDO WORLD and adding more Harry Potter attractions.

Universal Orlando Resort Celestial Park concept artwork.
Credit: Universal’s Celestial Park

Related: While Disney Dawdles, Universal Announces Opening Date for Another New theme park

For its part, the Walt Disney World Resort is adding Tiana’s Bayou Adventure to Magic Kingdom and has promised significant expansions of Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom.

But with all this competition between Central Florida’s big two, the little guy may get squeezed out of the theme park game. However, SeaWorld Orlando CEO Marc Swanson is trying to keep that from happening to his park.

SeaWorld’s CEO Mark Swanson said:

On Epic, I don’t have a crystal ball. I’m not suggesting Epic won’t have an impact or anything like that. I’m sure there’s going to be days where they are going to be very crowded. Generally, we view new things in the market that we expect will bring people to market as good for us and the industry as a whole. We’ve competed here certainly for a long time. I like what we have to offer.

Aerial view of SeaWorld Orlando featuring the park's high-speed coaster Mako and Kraken
Credit: SeaWorld

Swanson met with SeaWorld Orlando investors to assure them that his theme park would have no attractions to draw in guests even after Disney World and Universal Studios Orlando had completed their big expansion projects.

Part of SeaWorld’s draw is its price. Tickets to SeaWorld are generally cheaper than those to Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort.

Since the end of the pandemic, SeaWorld Orlando has dramatically expanded its footprint, including adding the steepest rollercoaster in Florida. It is also working on building a new family-friendly penguin-themed coaster.

The theme park is also hosting its Halloween Haunted House event for the fourth year in a row, trying to compete with Disney World and Univeral Orlando’s Halloween events.

Ihu's Breakaway Falls at Aquatica Orlando, Florida theme park owned by SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, Inc.
Credit: Aquatica Orlando

Like its rivals, SeaWorld has the Aquatica Water Park and Discovery Cove to keep guests on the property longer. However, unlike its competitors, SeaWorld still does not have a hotel complex on its property, which puts it at a disadvantage.

Swanson told investors that SeaWorld Orlando saw a two percent bump in visitors in the first quarter of this year, which led to a one percent rise in total revenue. But with guest levels flattening at Disney World and Universal Studios, how much longer can this spike last for the smaller Central Florida theme parks?

However, Swanson believes that after 50 years in Central Florida, SeaWorld will continue to bring in visitors, even after Disney World and Universal have completed their significant renovations.

Is SeaWorld a must-visit when you are on vacation in Central Florida? 

in SeaWorld, Theme Parks, Universal Orlando, Walt Disney World

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