Overall Visitor Income To Co. Cork's Fota Wildlife Park Decreased Last Year; Dublin Zoo 'Operating Profitably'
Overall visitor income to Co. Cork's Fota Wildlife Park decreased by 15% from €5.6 million in 2019 to €4.7 million last year as the COVID-19 pandemic forced the park to close its doors for three months.
As reported by The Irish Times, in its latest set of accounts filed with the companies office, which cover the 12 month period that ended on December 31, 2020, the park said that the year began "very well" with its highest visitor numbers for the month of January since it opened in 1983.
However, the pandemic reportedly forced the park to close to the public from March 20 until May 20.
During the same period in 2019, the wildlife park reportedly experienced the highest visitation levels in its history, with close 8,000 people reportedly visiting the park on the Easter Monday bank holiday on April 22.
The total number of visitors to the park for 2020 was reportedly 384,901, which reportedly compares with 462,047 visitors for 2019 and is a decrease of 16.7%.
Visitor numbers from June to September of 2020 were reportedly higher than in 2018 and 2019, with both months reportedly setting monthly records.
Despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the park reportedly recorded a surplus for the financial year of €691,750, which was reportedly up from €454,533 the previous year.
This was reportedly partly achieved through cost-cutting measures and payroll reductions, reportedly assisted by the state's temporary wage subsidy scheme and the employment wage subsidy scheme.
Furthermore, the park reportedly received a financial contribution of €550,000 from the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the State. This direct funding reportedly ensured that the park could maintain its animal operations and conservation projects for the early part of 2021 until it was safe to reopen.
The park reportedly said it has a "unique moral and statutory responsibility" to maintain care for thousands of animals, including many endangered species, and this meant that it could not simply "switch off the lights, close the gates and work from home".
The park reportedly said, "It is simply not possible to furlough a giraffe, a rhino or even a lemur. Therefore, the wildlife park when closed to the public due to pandemic restrictions had considerable ongoing running costs."
These reportedly included the maintenance of animal enclosures, the parklands and its buildings, wages, heat and lighting, and the provision of food.
The park reportedly said, "As visitor-related income accounts for 95% of the wildlife park's funding, the COVID-19 lockdown and closure of the wildlife park resulted in almost zero income at the normally high-visitor-income period during Easter."
Despite reopening on May 20, public health measures reportedly resulted in a decrease in the number of visitors, as well as a further decrease in income.
The number of foreign tourists during July and August in 2019 reportedly constituted 16% of the total visitors. This reportedly decreased to 5% in 2020. The park reportedly said that this was compensated by staycation visitors, many of whom reportedly stayed in local hotels.
The park reportedly opened an hour earlier and an hour later during July and August so that it could increase the number of visitors on site during the day without going above restricted visitor numbers within the park at any one time.
Dublin Zoo "Operating Profitably"
Meanwhile, as also reported by The Irish Times, Dublin Zoo is now "operating profitably" and the society that operates Dublin Zoo and Fota Wildlife Park is expecting to record "a small surplus" for the year.
Accounts filed by the Zoological Society of Ireland reportedly show that the not-for-profit organisation recorded operating losses of €4 million in 2020 due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The €4 million operating loss was reportedly before public and state COVID-19 support were taken into account.
The society reportedly recorded operating losses of €4 million after the impact of COVID-19 pandemic-related lockdowns and restrictions reportedly put a €10.28 million hole in its revenues.
Operating income reportedly declined by 46% last year to €11.9 million as visitor numbers reportedly decreased from 1,040,284 to 460,483 last year and attendances at Fota Wildlife Park reportedly decreased from 462,047 to 384,901.
2020 was reportedly the first time in 10 years that Dublin Zoo did not have more than one million visitors.
However, a successful fundraising drive called Save Dublin Zoo reportedly softened the financial impact of the pandemic. The campaign reportedly generated €2.7 million. As a result of this and state wage subsidy schemes, the society’s deficit for the year reportedly came to €599,000.
The society’s shop income reportedly decreased by 47% from €2.97 million to €1.57 million, numbers employed reportedly decreased from 167 to 124 and staff costs reportedly decreased from €7.4 million to €5.22 million.
© 2021 Hospitality Ireland – your source for the latest industry news. Article by Dave Simpson. Click subscribe to sign up for the Hospitality Ireland print edition.