Agenda item


            The purpose of the report was to provide Members with an update in regard to the Zoo performance during Q1 (April-June) of the 2021-22 financial year, under the following areas:


·        Visitor Services;

·        Education Services;

·        Animal Collection;

·        Marketing and Events, and

·        Financial performance.


            In relation to Visitor Services, it was reported that the zoo had remained closed to the public at the start of Q1 due to the Covid-19 pandemic and reopened on 30th April as an outdoor attraction only, with a takeaway catering service provided in the zoo’s small Treetop Café located the top of the zoo. The indoor animal houses (excluding the Rainforest House) had reopened to the public on 24th May.


            The Business Manager explained that the zoo had implemented a range of health and safety measures in line with Covid-19 requirements and several zoo initiatives remained unavailable during Q1 due to health and safety requirements.


            She advised that, upon reopening at the end of April, the zoo had seen significant visitor demand with the majority of weekends throughout May and June being fully booked. During Q1 the zoo welcomed 84k visitors over the two-month period it was open. She advised that this was an increase of 54% compared to average number of visitors (May-June) since 2014, even with the daily capacity restrictions in place.


            She informed the Committee that the requirement of advance booking had helped with increased visitor demand, as people were planning in advance and were committed to visiting the zoo on their selected date. She confirmed that the zoo intended to keep this, in at least some form, even when Covid-19 restrictions were reduced or removed in future.


            In relation to Education Services, she stated that the zoo had a small education team with two staff members. Due to limited staff resources and the impact of Covid-19 restrictions, a normal education service was not available during Q1. School groups were accommodated on a reduced basis with self-guided visits only available.


            The Business Manager highlighted that, regarding Animal Collection / Welfare, the zoo celebrated the birth of five Fijian banded baby iguanas which hatched in early January, marking the first new addition to the zoo of 2021. She also highlighted that a health and safety refurbishment of Belfast Zoo’s sea lion pool in 2021 within the aquatic habitat was completed with fresh water being changed to saline water which enhanced the welfare of the animals.


            Regarding Marketing and Events, the Committee was advised that the emphasis during Q1 was heavily focused on generating awareness that the zoo was ‘Now Open’, it also promoted its new Changing Places facility for visitors with disabilities and reopened its sea lion viewing window which was closed to the public for several years.


            It was reported that the zoo welcomed several babies during Q1, including the birth of a giraffe calf, Ballysheen, in front of hundreds of visitors, a critically endangered bongo and six Madagascar tree boas.


            The Committee was provided with an update on the Financial performance for the end of Q1: Income was £997k, which was £245k above budgeted income, generated primarily through admission, followed by retail, key commercial products and franchise concessions; and retail income was £205k which was £66k above budget.


            The Business Manager highlighted that no catering commissions had been received yet for this financial year, as the commission threshold had not been met. However, the zoo’s photography commission had seen increased demand.


            During discussion, the Committee welcomed the increase in visitor numbers.


            The Members of the Committee recommended that, in accordance with the Council decision of 4th May, the Chief Executive exercise her delegated authority to note the Zoo performance update report for the period April – June 2021.


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