San Diego Explained: SeaWorld’s Economic Impact

San Diego Explained: SeaWorld’s Economic Impact

Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle

Crowds file into SeaWorld San Diego for its 50th anniversary celebration

Our hometown SeaWorld location pulled in about 4.6 million visitors in 2013, and employs anywhere from 2,500 to 4,500 people, depending on the season.

That’s not to mention the $14 million the park paid in rent to the city last year. All that adds up to a hefty economic footprint for our region — which, as you might recall, is why we started this Quest series in the first place.

READ MORE: That Time SeaWorld Tried to Slash Its Rent by 70 Percent

In this San Diego Explained, NBC 7′s Catherine Garcia and Voice of San Diego’s Lisa Halverstadt flesh out the various revenue sources streaming into the park, and the big looming question of what the documentary “Blackfish” could mean for SeaWorld’s future.

This is part of our Quest: SeaWorld series digging into the park’s impact on our region. Check out the previous story – SeaWorld’s Education Programs Benefit Students – and SeaWorld – and the next in our series  Why Some SeaWorld Opponents Still Love the Zoo.

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Catherine Green

Catherine Green

Catherine Green is deputy editor at Voice of San Diego. She handles daily operations while helping to plan new long-term projects. You can contact her directly at catherine.green@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5668. Follow her on Twitter: @c_s_green.

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5 comments
Hypnotik1
Hypnotik1 subscriber

If Seaworld has a good product, they should not be worried about the dissolution of their outdated orca circus shows. There is so much to offer in San Diego for both locals and tourists. The real Sea world is right in their backyard, it's called the ocean, and mother nature puts on the best show on earth. It's time for Seaworld to evolve and find ways to generate revenue that does not include the suffering or health risk to any living being. Until then, my family will enjoy everything else San Diego has to offer and stay far away from Seaworld's gates.

Martha Sullivan
Martha Sullivan subscribermember

I’d love to correlate free market beliefs with the rationalization that the Nanny Corporation needs to protect apex predators like orcas from the risks of life in the open ocean.

Martha Sullivan
Martha Sullivan subscribermember

Per the San Diego Tourism Authority: "• 12 percent of all overnight visitors say they visited SeaWorld when they came to San Diego." Given all the incredible features of visiting San Diego, including the REAL Sea World along our coast, the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park, Legoland and our world-famous craft beer industry -- SeaWorld's captive performing orcas are NOT a driver of tourism to San Diego. SeaWorld could readily redirect its visitors to kickass digital and animated entertainment representing the orcas and their natural world, as made possible by the amazing innovation and creativity present in these fields right here in California.

Social change happens in steps. The world is waking up to the need for humans to treat their fellow beings more humanely and ethically, as witnessed by the growth in cruelty-free cosmetics, toiletries and household goods, as well as the transition away from the use of live animals in drug testing and biomedical research as advances in technology enable. The centuries-old tradition of bullfighting was banned over 2 years ago in Catalonia (Barcelona), and has recently been extended to any representation of animal abuse in advertising and media. There hasn't been a captive cetacean show in the UK since 1993. Businesses either evolve with changes in social mores, or they die.

Martha Sullivan
Martha Sullivan subscribermember

An example of how SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. could readily and successfully evolve its business model away from captive performing wild species: ADI has applauded director Darren Aronofsky for using computer generated imagery (CGI) in upcoming movie ‘Noah’, ensuring that no animals were exploited or abused. Our investigations have exposed the suffering of performing animals behind-the-scenes during training and we are delighted that ‘Noah’ is not a party to this cruel industry. So you can enjoy the movie safe in the knowledge that no animals were harmed. http://bit.ly/1hsd1rD.

Martha Sullivan
Martha Sullivan subscribermember

History marches on! Reported in today's UT-San Diego: DEL MAR — The company that’s handled the San Diego County Fair’s elephant rides for decades announced Thursday morning that it won’t participate in this summer’s fair.

Have Trunk Will Travel of Riverside County — which hires its elephants out for rides, TV commercials and films — has been criticized by animal rights groups who have accused the company of treating its animals poorly. Those groups have been urging the fair to yank the rides for years.

In 2011, the fair board — citing the company’s strong reputation and conservation program — decided to allow Have Trunk Will Travel to continue through the 2014 fair and then revisit the issue again.

Company owners Kari and Gary Johnson said Thursday that it was a “very difficult decision” not to attend this year’s fair, which will run from June 7 through July 6.

The Johnsons said it was primarily a business decision and not based on criticism about how they treat animals.

“It is always a big logistical challenge to balance the needs of our elephants, their human caretakers and all the other breeding, research and business factors involved,” the Johnsons said in a news release. “We’ll miss our fans, but more importantly we’ll miss the opportunity to share America’s elephant ambassadors with people to inform them about the critical plight of endangered Asian elephants.”