Fota Wildlife Park in Co Cork is now working with Failte Ireland on a major national and international campaign to target the lucrative British, US, German and French tourist markets in a bid to increase its percentage of foreign visitors.
It is also working on an expansion plan, which would see the park increase from 70 to 97 acres.
The moves follow the results of a study commissioned by Fota over four weeks last June and August to identify where their visitors were coming from.
Research company, Behaviour & Attitudes, found that almost half (46%) of all the park’s visitors were holidaying in Cork.
And of those holiday makers, a quarter said Fota was the main reason they chose to stay in the area.
Half of all the holiday makers stayed in a local hotel — the equivalent to 89,700 bed nights — with the rest staying in either self-catering, guesthouses or bed and breakfasts.
The average stay was about four nights, with the average person spending €44 a night, rising to €57 a night for those staying in hotels.
The study reckons their combined spend is worth an estimated €146m to the local economy every year.
“The results prove that the park is a significant factor when people decide on visiting Cork for their holiday,” Fota’s head of marketing, Stephen Ryan said.
“We are now looking at the major markets such as the UK, US, Germany and France as potential growth areas and if we manage to acquire the adequate funding for our expansion we believe that the park could be a major draw for these international tourists, as research has shown that they like to visit large themed attractions when on holidays,” Mr Ryan said.
Fota, which opened in 1983, is Cork’s most visited tourist attraction with 377,000 visitors in 2010.
Despite the recession, it has increased its visitor numbers by 14% over the last two years.
Run by a non-profit organisation, Fota officially opened its new €4.5m entrance complex earlier this year, and last June, it hosted the first BIAZA (British & Irish Association of Zoo & Aquariums) conference to take place outside of Britain.