Spotlight On: Byron Surrett, President, SeaWorld San Antonio

Spotlight On: Byron Surrett, President, SeaWorld San Antonio

2021-12-01T20:39:06+00:00December 1st, 2021|San Antonio, Spotlight On, Tourism|

SeaWorld San Antonio Byron Surrett2 min read December 2021 — San Antonio’s leisure landscape is poised for a strong rebound coming out of the pandemic. Byron Surrett, president of SeaWorld San Antonio, spoke with Invest: about plans to continue driving visitation and consolidating the area as a national, go-to destination. “For SeaWorld San Antonio, our goal and our outlook each year is to continue to add something new and exciting to the park,” he said.

What separates San Antonio and the tourism market in San Antonio from other regions in Texas? 

There is just something special about San Antonio. When you come to the city, there is so much to do in the Downtown and surrounding areas. From theme parks, to waterparks, to zoos, to museums, there are many unique entertainment options in this city. San Antonio really is a must-see destination. SeaWorld San Antonio is the largest theme park in the state (and one of the largest employers in the area) but even beyond our park there is so much for tourists to experience. From the beautiful hill country surrounding San Antonio to the world-famous Alamo and Riverwalk downtown, there really is something for everyone. At SeaWorld specifically, our year-round operation coupled with our world-class event calendar means there’s always something new, exciting, and fresh when our guests visit our park. You could come to San Antonio for a week’s vacation and you still would not be able to see everything. The people are extremely friendly and the whole Riverwalk area of Downtown is just exceptional. The restaurant scene offers a wide variety of food. Overall, it’s just the hospitality of the San Antonio people who come here that I really enjoy. 

What attractions are under development at the park? 

In February 2022, we’ll be opening Tidal Surge, the tallest, fastest swing ride in the world. The tower will be 105 feet high. It has two separate pendulum swings for up to 10 people on each side, for a total of 40 people. It will swing out over our lake and it will get up to a height of 135 feet at 68 miles per hour. It’s going to be extremely exciting, very fast and very much a high-thrill ride. We’re excited to add that to our ride portfolio. We think our guests will love it. At Aquatica, our waterpark, we’re adding a dueling pipeline tube slide called Riptide Race. It’s 55 feet high. It is a highly contained ride, with several spirals, where guests will be able to see the people next to them as they race down and into a splash pool. We’ll be opening these new attractions by Spring Break of 2022.

How is the leisure market developing more than a year and a half after the pandemic began? 

We’re seeing the leisure market change rapidly every week. In the early stages of the pandemic, it was very soft and there was a lot of apprehension in the area. People did not really want to invest in a lot of things, but by March 2021, things started changing. By June and July, we were right back to where we were in 2019. Now, the market itself has significantly appreciated. Hotels are getting back to full capacity. All the theme parks are very busy again. People are excited about getting out and putting money back into the community as well as marketing their specific businesses. We’re very excited about moving ahead in 2022. 

What role is technology playing in your daily operations? 

It has certainly changed our business. Marketing and CRM platforms are critical to the business. Everything we have in the park is either digital or touch. We used to have physically printed maps but we have now transitioned into a new mobile app and have QR codes on kiosks around the park, making the park experience that much easier for our guests. You can download the app or scan the QR codes to instantly see a park map, showtimes, etc. It’s easy and people understand the technology. Our turnstile area is equipped with hand-held scanners making the entrance process that much quicker for our guests.  Many of our restaurants are now equipped with mobile food ordering so guests can skip waiting in line. We’ve implemented so many things that make it easier for the consumer to come to the park. Those things continue to move on and evolve. For example, you can go to the app and instantly view accurate ride wait times. From a technology and guest experience standpoint, we have done everything we can to make the park experience easier and more guest friendly as we head out of the pandemic. Our investment in technology is what is supporting all of that. 

What is your outlook for SeaWorld and the local tourism industry in San Antonio over the next three to five years?

For SeaWorld San Antonio, our goal and our outlook each year is to continue to add something new and exciting to the park. We’re going to continue to add major attractions each year, attractions that are highly marketable and that are going to drive our pass-holder base for the year because there is so much going on. We are going to continue to build our event lineup and we’re going to continue to grow our Halloween products, Christmas products, and other new seasonal events. 

Doing so will continue to drive visitation into the San Antonio area from major metro areas, like Houston, Dallas, as well as across the state and the region. This past year, we started to see guests return from Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Louisiana, as well as from other parts of the country. We anticipate seeing international travel return beginning in 2022 and beyond. We foresee San Antonio continuing to establish its place as a national and international destination. People are going to see that there is so much to do in the San Antonio area, with great hotels around the park, downtown, and the surrounding areas. We, as a city and destination, have a lot that people are going to want to see and experience. 

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