Friday, 05 February 2016

Busy Easter in Lakes but Zoo visitors fall to a 12-year low

EASTER visitor numbers at Dalton's zoo were the worst in 12 years.

South Lakes Wild Animal Park owner David Gill is concerned by the attraction’s lowest Easter visitor figures since 1998 and believes they are proof the recession is far from over.

Mr Gill said the downward trend has been noticeable for several months and thinks rising petrol prices are partly to blame.

He said: “I can honestly say it’s the worst Easter we’ve had in 12 years. It’s been absolutely desperate, frightening to be honest.

“Most people on average drive one-and-a-half to two hours to get here.

“About £5 has been put on their journey from last year, so that’s £5 extra to come and that’s without even getting in.

“We haven’t put our prices up for three years. “The prices are the same but staffing and costs are going up tremendously.

“Our business relies on people driving here, we don’t have local customers.

“We rely on people in Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle etc.”

Mr Gill is still optimistic about the future of the zoo, which he plans to extend to three times its current size, and said income missed out on over Easter can be earned over two days in the August peak season, when he expects between 3,000 to 4,000 visitors a day.

Mr Gill said: “As an attraction, we are still top of most people’s lists. We’re very lucky that way.

“We’ve been talking to quite a lot of people about the decision-making of visitors and trying to get a general outlook.

“And I think it basically comes down to people are starting to run out of money.

“Things are as difficult as they have been for a long time.

“It’s the economy and a fear of what’s going to happen in the future.

“I’m very, very concerned about when we are going to get out of this absolutely desperate recession we are in.

“No matter what the media says, this is getting worse, it’s certainly not getting any better.

“People don’t have that extra money in their pockets and families are thinking very carefully about what they do, where they go and when they do it.”

Mark McGally is general manager at Windermere’s White Cross Bay holiday park which re-opened on March 1 following severe flood damage last November.

The park has since undergone a £2m refurbishment and Mr McGally said Easter visitor numbers were pleasing.

He said: “It’s gone exceptionally well. It’s actually been an extremely good March and April seems to be looking good as well. We’re hitting all our budgets, which is great.”

With the Euro still high, Mr McGally is confident the park will do well in the summer.

He said: “I think this year is going to be an extremely good year for tourism in this country and the Lake District is such a beautiful place to come and visit.”

Charlotte Brown, manager at Lakes Aquarium which was deluged last year, said Easter was even more important to business this year than ever.

She said: “It’s been a first real measure of things to come. It’s been a really good weekend, particularly on Saturday in Oscar’s cafe and restaurant, which is our upstairs catering outlet.

“Monday with the wet weather has meant we’ve seen a lot of visitors through the doors and the overall picture will be pretty positive.”

Robert Hunt, owner of Ambleside’s Ferndale Lodge bed and breakfast, reported a good Easter period.

His B&B was forced to close for four days in January after a gas cut affected around 900 properties.

He said: “It’s been on par with the last few years for the Easter period so I can’t argue at all.

“January, February, March were down on the last couple of years but Easter has been good, as normal. Hopefully we’ll get the turn-out for the summer.

“The idea that the Lakes is flooded is not as bad now.

“I think it’s the general economic climate that’s more of the problem.”

The Swan Hotel at Newby Bridge, also flooded in November, is due to re-open its bar on May 1 and the entire hotel on May 7.

The flooded Whitewater Hotel at Backbarrow is due to re-open some time in May and its leisure centre in mid-June.

Amanda Davies, owner of Brambles Tea Rooms in Main Road, Windermere, said her flowing trade over Easter has been a continuation of a busy period sparked by the cafe featuring on ITV 1 programme The Lakes earlier this year.

She said: “It’s been a busy Bank Holiday weekend for us.

“But then again we’re a bit different because we were on the Lakes programme so luckily we’ve been busy since that went out.”

Have your say

Have to agree that Mr Gill needs to spend some money on Tv and Radio advertising.I do not think its good enough to have a few leaflets at motorway services area . Its the old adage in business you have to speculate to accumulate

Posted by John Earnshaw on 8 April 2010 at 14:16

I went to the zoo this weekend and was shocked at the prices there. I too try to go a few times a year but have never eaten there until this weekend and it cost £18 for a small amount of food and some sandwiches were priced at £4.95!! I'll be taking a packed lunch next time but maybe this has contributed to the fall in custom?!

Posted by Kay on 7 April 2010 at 20:24

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