Pope Francis blamed for fall in visitors to Dublin Zoo

Pope Francis blamed for fall in visitors to Dublin Zoo

Dublin Zoo has blamed the Pope for causing a drop of almost 100,000 in visitor numbers this year.

Director Leo Oosterweghel claimed the pontiff “pulled the rug” from beneath them in a year when they also had to contend with the Beast from the East and one of the hottest summers on record in Ireland.

The popular attraction was forced to shut its doors for three days in August during the visit of Pope Francis.

The Papal tour included a mass in the Phoenix Park, the home of the zoo.

Mr Oosterweghel said: “We took a hit. We’re down. We’re still above the million but we’re probably down 100,000 visitors.”

Last year more than 1.1 million people visited the zoo. That figure is expected to be in the region of 1.01 million people at the end of 2018.

“First there was the extraordinary winter, it was hard to recover,”  Mr Oosterweghel said.

“Then we had this incredibly hot summer.”

Yasmina, a female red panda, eyeing up an ice block with frozen fruits inside at Dublin Zoo in June as temperatures soared (Brian Lawless/PA)
Yasmina, a female red panda, eyeing up an ice block with frozen fruits inside at Dublin Zoo in June as temperatures soared (Brian Lawless/PA)

He added: “Then his Holiness arrived the last week of August – we were closed for that whole period.”

Mr Oosterweghel said all the confusion over access to Phoenix Park that week depressed visitor numbers.

“People weren’t sure,” he said.

“We lost the last week of August which is our biggest week.

“The end of the school holidays … if the weather is good you have 10,000 people here in one day so we lost out.”

“(We had) the bad winter, the hot summer and his Holiness who pulled the rug a little bit.”

But there was a silver lining as Mr Oosterweghel got to experience having a Pope in his back garden.

The director, who has been at the helm for 18 years, lives on site.

“It was amazing to have an empty Phoenix Park, all I had to do was open my window and I could hear him,” he said.

Despite the difficult trading conditions, Mr Oosterweghel said: “We’re still in the black, we’re still in surplus.

“We’re still over a million – it just shows you how robust the business is.”

He expects numbers to “bounce back” next year and the zoo has an ambitious master plan it is due to roll out in the coming years.

- Press Association

More on this topic

Museum waxes lyrical about effect of pope’s visit to IrelandMuseum waxes lyrical about effect of pope’s visit to Ireland

Pope blamed for drop in Dublin Zoo visitor numbersPope blamed for drop in Dublin Zoo visitor numbers

PAC to review spend on luxury toilets for papal visitPAC to review spend on luxury toilets for papal visit

Church appeals for donations to plug €4m debt from World Meeting of FamiliesChurch appeals for donations to plug €4m debt from World Meeting of Families


More in this Section

Concern for children's safety following 'alleged suspicious approach' in DublinConcern for children's safety following 'alleged suspicious approach' in Dublin

More focus on livelihoods needed in Brexit talks, says Micheál Martin More focus on livelihoods needed in Brexit talks, says Micheál Martin 

Ireland’s only dedicated track for car drifting facing uncertain futureIreland’s only dedicated track for car drifting facing uncertain future

Emergency care resources 'highly skewed' to North East, study findsEmergency care resources 'highly skewed' to North East, study finds


Lifestyle

Audrey's been sorting out Cork people for ages.Ask Audrey: C’mere, what’s the story with Chris O’Dowd thinking he’s better than Cork people

So, I put a link to a short story up for my students the other day. The story was by Michael Morpurgo and I was delighted to find an online copy. It can be challenging when you are relying on non-paper texts to teach.Secret diary of an Irish teacher: I love physical books and always will

Celebrated actress Siobhán McSweeney may have found fame starring in a TV series set at the other end of the country, but Cork is never far from her thoughts, writes Ciara McDonnellHome is where the art is for Derry Girls actress

There are literally hundreds of free events on offer this evening for kids and adults on Culture Night. Marjorie Brennan selects the best of them, in Cork and beyondCulture Night: Get out and make the most of it

More From The Irish Examiner