Weather hits zoo attendance figures

THE DIRECTOR of one of the largest tourism attractions in the region has revealed how the bad weather has led to a “critical” 95% drop in visitors on some days.

James Hore

THE DIRECTOR of one of the largest tourism attractions in the region has revealed how the bad weather has led to a “critical” 95% drop in visitors on some days.

Anthony Tropeano said Colchester Zoo had suffered a 50% fall in customers compared to last January with future projects now under review as a result.

And on some days in the past week he said just three or four paying customers had come through the gates - 95% down against last year's figures.

Normally 20,000 youngsters visit the zoo for Christmas activities, including Santa's grotto, but that also fell by 20%.

And the drop in numbers comes as the zoo faces spiralling fuel bills.

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Running costs in January are more than �2,000 per day for heating oil and electricity but the recent sub-zero temperatures mean the figure will be even higher.

The start of the year is traditionally a quiet time for the Maldon Road attraction, but Mr Tropeano told the EADT the pressure was now on to recover numbers in the February half-term and during Easter.

However, he stressed the attraction's future remained safe thanks to a contingency fund established after the Foot and Mouth crisis hit takings hard in 2001 when it was forced to close for six weeks.

He said: “We are not thinking that the zoo is facing a financial crisis or about making people redundant, but we are having to look at cutting costs in other areas where we can do.

“We have three or four different capital expenditure projects lined up and we may have to pull the plug on one of them or scale them down a little bit.

“It is about trying to survive within our means and not being silly about things.”

The worrying drop in visitor numbers has been reflected in other businesses in north Essex, with clubs and pubs reporting a fall in trade.

Mr Tropeano added: “It is worrying - I don't think it is a problem with the zoo itself - it is just down to the weather and people not wanting to travel and not, perhaps, wanting to spend money on a day out when the conditions are not ideal.

“The silver lining to the cloud is that January tends to be the quietest of the 12 months but nevertheless when you are talking about reductions to that extent its also then a battle to make up numbers later in the year.

“It puts extra pressure on the February half-term weekend and Easter and if the weather is not good on either of those two dates then we will face a fairly serious problem in terms of trying to recover numbers.”

james.hore@eadt.co.uk

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