Q&A with Jim Dean, President, SeaWorld, Orlando
SeaWorld, a member of the Florida Chamber of Commerce since 1975, has been inspiring and educating guests to take care of the world around them since their founding in 1964. Today, with more than 50 years of experience under their belt and three parks nationwide, SeaWorld is ready to reinforce their commitment to environmental conservation and…fun.
Recently we sat down with Jim Dean, President of SeaWorld, Orlando to discuss the importance of the tourism industry to Florida’s economy, as well as the new and exciting innovations that are transforming this unique park into a leader for environmental change.
Q1: Florida and its connection to the environment are very important. Along those lines, SeaWorld recently announced its “Park to Planet” mission. Tell us more about this new effort.
Park to Planet is the idea that you can “See it here. Save it there”. We want every guest to know that when you visit SeaWorld, you’re supporting conservation efforts for wild animals and habitats across the globe. You’re also supporting SeaWorld’s world-renowned animal rescue program, which to date has come to the aid of more than 31,000 ill, injured and orphaned animals to give them a second chance at life. Simply put, we’re on a mission, and it’s big. But together it’s not impossible. Together we’re going to protect marine life and the oceans they call home. With partners like Coca-Cola and the Everglades Foundation, we’re able to not only educate our guests on these important environmental issues, while they have a fun and exciting time, but we’re also able to make a real impact in conserving these natural resources.
Q2: The summer tourism season is about to kick off in Florida. SeaWorld has unveiled several new rides, attractions and events and is set to open more in the near future. What’s been your focus as you look for new and innovative ways to provide exciting experiences for your guests?
We’ve got a lot for our guests to be excited about. Our focus is on providing meaningful experiences that inspire our guests to learn about and protect wild animals and the places they live. We also want to provide experiences that bring families together for fun in positive, meaningful and exciting ways. To that end, we’ve introduced some new, and returning, events and attractions this year. Ray Rush just opened at Aquatica Orlando – this promises to be an amazing water adventure that will combine three unique slide elements, never before seen at Aquatica, into one action-packed attraction the entire family can enjoy together. At nearly 60 feet tall, Ray Rush is where family and friends can take on three exciting thrills as they slide, splash and soar like never before.
Additionally, this summer we’ll open Infinity Falls at SeaWorld Orlando. Infinity Falls will take guests on an adventure through a lush rainforest environment inspired by some of the world’s most incredible freshwater ecosystems. The new attraction will feature the world’s tallest drop on a river raft ride and allow visitors to experience the feel of exhilarating rapids. The ride will also feature an innovative elevator lift designed to transport the rafts to the top of the ride’s 40-foot drop before plunging into churning whitewater.
For more information on the exciting attractions and entertainment options for guests this summer, feel free to visit www.Seaworld.com/Orlando
Q3: Animal protection and conservation is at the core of what SeaWorld does. Tell us about some of the conservation partnerships and initiatives SeaWorld has launched here in Florida.
For more than 50 years, animal rescue and rehabilitation has been the heart of SeaWorld. From habitat protection and supporting ocean health initiatives to our many rescue and rehabilitation efforts SeaWorld is part of conservation projects across the globe. SeaWorld supports worldwide conservation initiatives through funding, expertise, onsite support, education, and more.
One exciting partnership is with renowned artist and conservationist Guy Harvey. He is actively working with SeaWorld to help raise awareness on protecting sharks and their natural habitats. Another recent partnership is with shark tagging experts OCEARCH. SeaWorld and OCEARCH are brands focused on the global conservation of marine animals and the world’s oceans. We’re both purpose-driven organizations; we love the ocean and want to ensure an abundant resource for future generations. Together, we will focus on bringing everyday people closer to the water by sharing real-time data, content, and park experiences.
We’re also excited to announce that we just renewed our partnership with the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation on important initiatives, like the Killer whale Research and Conservation Program, which works to protect and sustain the endangered Southern Resident killer whale. This is part of SeaWorld’s $10 million pledge to fund conservation efforts for wild killer whales. And there’s so much more. Through the SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund alone, we have supported more than 1,200 conservation projects on all 7 continents. Animal conservation is at the heart of who we are, and we want to share that passion with each and every guest so they are inspired to join us in our mission.
Did You Know Florida Had Another Year of Record Breaking Tourism?
According to tourism numbers, Florida welcomed 116.5 million visitors from other states and other countries in 2017. If you believe Florida’s tourism industry can continue to lead the way in the nation, sign the petition today.
Chamber Shout Out Section: Why Tourism Matters to Florida
By: José A. Fajardo, Orlando Inc.
Did you know that more people visited Florida in 2013 than live in 33 states combined? In fact, our state welcomed more than 94 million people from all 50 states and more than 180 different countries in 2013- a record number for Florida.
Florida has a lot to offer visitors. From endless miles of beaches to the diverse attractions found around the state, it’s no wonder our state is set to surpass New York as the third largest state in the nation.
And in Orlando, we are no strangers to welcoming visitors. In 2013, Orlando alone welcomed 59 million visitors, beating out New York as the most visited city. According to International Business Times:
“In the battle for U.S. tourism supremacy, there are really only two competitors: New York [City] and Orlando. The rivals have vied for the title of most-visited U.S. destination for years, but the winner has never been more definitive than in 2013, when Orlando welcomed a staggering 59 million visitors and set an all-time record for a U.S. destination.”
The recent economic recession hit Florida hard, and every single part of Central Florida felt it. But a funny thing happened on the way to downtown Orlando during that time. Our city and the private sector invested in projects that would not only draw visitors, but would create jobs. Projects like SeaWorld’s biggest and (literally) coolest expansion, Antarctica, Disney’s work on Fantasyland and Universal’s expansion of the The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
It’s no surprise Florida’s recovery has been heralded as the model for economic success.
To Florida, and especially Orlando, more visitors means more than having greater options for entertainment. In our state, every 85 visitors equals to one new Florida job created. Florida’s tourism industry employs more than 1 million people, 30 percent of which is contained in two counties- Miami-Dade and, you guessed it, Orange.
Tourism is one of the three main sectors of Florida’s economy and it’s a fact that we are proud of. So far, the first half of 2014 has welcomed more than 50 million visitors – shattering all previous six-month figures. And in Orlando, we begin another fall with Harry, Mickey and Shamu and we continue to welcome visitors with a smile.