The financial crisis led to a decline in the number of visitors to zoos. In 2008, the ten largest zoos in the Netherlands attracted over 9.5 million visitors, but this figure fell by 7.5% to 8.9 million visitors in 2013.
Fewer visitors and lower subsidies
In ABN AMRO’s view, this is a surprising development as amusement parks managed to improve their positioning and saw visitor numbers increase by around 17% during the crisis. As a result, in 2013 the 20 most popular attractions in the Netherlands included only five zoos. This compares to eight zoos five years ago. Other sources of income for zoos have also come under pressure in recent years. Many zoos used to receive subsidies from local authorities, but now that local authorities are taking on extra responsibilities and having to reassess their costs, there has been a decline in such municipal subsidies.
Focus on higher visitor numbers and increased spending
To offset falling income, in recent years zoo entry prices have risen faster than the rate of inflation and the average rate of increase in entry prices for the day tripper industry as a whole. By contrast, amusement parks have chosen to keep increases in entry prices down over the past two years. Unlike zoos, amusement parks have, in fact, seen an increase in visitor numbers. ABN AMRO believes that zoos now need to look at other options for increasing their income. This can be achieved in two ways: by focusing specifically on increasing visitor numbers and/or by encouraging visitors to spend more at the zoo. The latter can be accomplished by means of a more varied food service offering or a specific retail offering.
Exploiting opportunities going beyond traditional day trips
In ABN AMRO’s opinion, zoos could exploit opportunities in areas other than traditional day trips by offering additional experiences to more visitors, e.g. by opening the zoo up for different activities such as concerts and performances. Moreover, zoos have an educational role to play and can encourage interest among members of the public by offering targeted educational programmes. ABN AMRO also believes that zoos could benefit from re-examining their fee structures and experimenting with dynamic pricing. For instance, on days that are traditionally less busy they could attract additional visitors by reducing the entry fee, and extra fees could be charged for entry to specific parts of the zoo.
The full Leisure Sector Update is available to download here (Dutch only).