January 29, 2009
CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas— Despite two hurricane scares and a recession, the Texas State Aquarium finished 2008 in a strong financial position. Although attendance was essentially flat, operating revenue increased by 6%, or about $500,000, over 2007. Revenue increases were reported in admission revenue, education and membership sales, retail and food sales, and after-hours events. President and CEO Tom Schmid said, “Fortunately we have a diverse revenue stream, and although we would have liked to have seen higher attendance numbers, our enterprise programs performed very well. We did lose, conservatively, about 10,000 guest visits due to hurricanes Dolly and Ike. However, our after-hours attendance was up significantly over 2007.”
Last year, almost 24,000 people visited the Aquarium during after-hours events. In 2007, that number was 18,761. Total attendance for 2008 was reported at 489,300 versus 492,298 in 2007. “We had a terrific spring break,” said Schmid, “and by the end of June, attendance was up 4%, about 9,000 above the previous year. I feel the opening of our new Tortuga Cay exhibit helped generate a lot of interest and excitement. By developing new exhibits and programs each year, we give our guests good reasons to come back and visit us. In fact, over half of our guests are repeat visitors.”
Another important component is the Aquarium’s positive word-of-mouth advertising. Last year the Aquarium began tracking this metric by asking guests to rate, on a 0 to 10 scale, how likely they would be to recommend the Aquarium to a friend or colleague. “We calculate what’s known as a Net Promoter Score. This metric allows us to accurate gauge our word of mouth advertising. We spend about $700,000 supporting our sales and marketing programs,” according to Schmid, “and while these are critically important, we also understand the importance of referral business.”
Aquarium trustees were also pleased with the results. Board Chair Rich Tuttle noted, “I’m very pleased with the results we achieved this year. We faced some significant challenges with hurricanes and unexpected increases in operating expenses. Considering the slight dip in hotel occupancy last year, I’m pleased with where we ended up.”
Schmid hopes 2009 will be as successful. “We put together a very conservative budget for 2009, and I’m cautiously optimistic that with our new Eagle Pass exhibit opening this spring, and the continued eco-tourism-based marketing efforts of the Convention and Visitors Bureau, we will have another strong year.”
The mission of the Texas State Aquarium is to inspire appreciation and wise stewardship of the Gulf of Mexico.
The Aquarium is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums
and the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums.