The Orlando Sentinel reports that SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment has given its employees (both hourly and salaried) an across the board 3% raise. This is good news after three difficult years, from 2008 through 2010, where wages were frozen and many employees were let go. So really this is just a return to normal for SeaWorld; but it has me wondering, could we be seeing the beginning of a talent war in Orlando?
One of the reasons Walt Disney World doesn’t want to build a 5th gate is that they’re having a difficult enough time hiring staff for the parks and resorts it has now. Even if the travel demand is there, it’s unsure if Disney could properly staff a new park using the current Central Florida pool of potential employees. Well, they could do it, but they’d have to start paying better wages and other benefits.
Disney’s theme parks used to be known for graduating employees that had a special brand of customer services excellence that other companies lacked. That added a bit of prestige to anyone with ‘Disney’ on their resume. These days the gap is a lot narrower between Disney and its competitors. In fact, Disney no longer has a corner on the customer service market at all. The example Disney set in the 60s is today the baseline for just ‘doing it right’. So the benefit of prestige isn’t quite so valuable any more.
Disney fans are also worried about what it means now that Universal Studios has the ability to theme a land and attraction at least as good as Disney (and better than recent domestic efforts for sure). SeaWorld promises that their new expansion will match Harry Potter quality themeing too. This ads prestige to working those jobs. If pay and training rises to match, Universal & SeaWorld could become more prestigious places to work for hourly employees. And what happens then? All three parks will be in a fight to hire the best talent.
By offering better pay, benefits, and training any one of the local theme parks can start siphoning off Disney’s top prospects. SeaWorld also offers something Disney and Universal don’t have, a brand that’s closely associated with conservation. You can make tourists happy and save the world at the same time. Not too many other jobs that meet that description.
As the economy continues to improve, it looks like Central Florida could be just a few steps away from a talent war for hiring at the parks and resorts. Are you ready?