By Lori Weisberg
The San Diego Union-Tribune
SAN DIEGO — SeaWorld Entertainment announced Tuesday it is laying off 320 workers company-wide, part of an ongoing effort to sharply cut its costs.
The announcement comes almost two years to the day since the Orlando, Fla.-based company announced its last round of layoffs, which then affected more than 300 employees. In San Diego, more than 100 workers were affected, according to a notice the park filed at that time with the state.
The company would not break down the job cuts by park but said they will affect the 12-park operation.
In an emailed statement, SeaWorld said the layoffs are part of a restructuring program “focused on reducing costs, increasing efficiencies, reducing duplication of functions and improving the company’s operations through proven benchmarks. These changes are being made to best position our company for long-term success, and so that we can continue to do great things for animals across the globe.”
A company spokeswoman said the cuts will be a combination of layoffs and vacant positions.
The news comes as the company is still struggling to right itself following a continuing slump in attendance and declining revenues. In August, SeaWorld said it would be suspending future dividends to shareholders as part of an effort to divert more funds to introduce more attendance-boosting attractions.
Three months later, during its third quarter earnings report, SeaWorld said it would be moving to cut costs sharply in the wake of still flagging attendance, but it did not mention the possibility of layoffs. It did say that it was putting in place a “cost optimization program” that would result in a net savings of $40 million through 2018.
“We remain committed to a continued focus on the guest experience, the health and welfare of our animals, and the safety of our guests and team members,” SeaWorld said Tuesday. “It is an unfortunate, but necessary, consequence of the restructuring that some positions will be lost. For those employees, we are offering enhanced severance benefits and outplacement assistance to help with their transition.”
SeaWorld’s marine parks are in the midst of significant change as they move to phase out the long-running Shamu show and replace it with a new orca encounter showcasing the whales’ natural behaviors in the wild. Earlier this year, SeaWorld also announced it would end the breeding of its orca population, a move fueled by the harsh criticism company faced following the 2013 release of the “Blackfish” documentary that focused on the parks’ treatment of their killer whales.