Records broken as 400,000 flock to wildlife park

THE Queen may not have visited the Fota Wildlife Park last year but almost 400,000 people did.

The popular Cork attraction experienced a record number of visitors in 2011.

Fota Wildlife Park, which was listed as one of the country’s top 10 attractions last year by Tourism Ireland, has seen an 18% increase in visitors since 2008.

Stephen Ryan, head of marketing, said it was very encouraging to see the numbers increase despite poor weather in the traditional peak seasons.

“We are now seeing the park become a place that people visit 12 months of the year rather than eight weeks during the school holidays in the summer.”

Visitor numbers from Leinster increased significantly and now make up 28% of all attendees.

Mr Ryan believes the current economic climate is playing a part in the increase.

“People are looking for good deals at home and we have seen a huge increase in Irish holiday-makers here at the park. We believe that this is being helped by the package deals established with many of the leading hotels in Cork.”

Research company Behaviour & Attitudes, which carried out a study on visitors to the park, found that 46% of all visitors stay in paid-for accommodation overnight, with the majority staying in hotels. These visitors were staying an average three or four nights in the area, with a total spend of €146 million.

The wildlife park is seeking planning permission, along with funding from Fáilte Ireland, to create an additional, Asia-themed section.

This would span 27 acres and increase the overall size of the park by 40%.

If planning permission was granted and the funding secured, then Indian rhinos, Sumatran tigers and Asiatic bears would be among the animals roaming the park.

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