The COVID-19 pandemic has not spared many industries around the globe. The US theme parks entertainment industry was severely disrupted due to closures, ongoing operational costs, and other factors. The 2021 IAAPA Virtual Conference invited Marc Swanson, who serves as the CEO of SeaWorld Entertainment, as the keynote speaker for the event. Swanson and the other leaders of SeaWorld were able to successfully navigate the pandemic and emerge as a stronger and more efficient company. This was a great opportunity for other industry professionals to learn and get inspired by Swanson and his team.
As CEO of SeaWorld, Swanson had to manage different challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. SeaWorld owns and operates over 12 theme parks in different regions of the country. Each location had its unique challenges that required a different strategy. One of the biggest contributing factors in the success of SeaWorld was its ability to be an agile and nimble company that was able to make quick decisions.
Swanson identified Scott Ross, Chairman of the Board of Directors, as a key figure in the success and survival of SeaWorld through the challenging times of the pandemic. According to Swanson, the confidence shown by Scott Ross and the Board in the ability of the SeaWorld leadership team allowed the company to make decisive and bold moves. The collaboration allowed SeaWorld to “manage operational costs and maximize financial flexibility.”
One of the top priorities of SeaWorld was the complete safety of its employees and visitors. Regardless of any financial impact, there is no compromise in the implementation of strict safety policies and procedures at SeaWorld Entertainment locations. The operations team worked closely with local and state governments to develop protocols to keep everyone safe. This included social distancing protocols, hands-free systems, and strict cleaning routines.