REVENUE from gate receipts, gift-shop sales and public donations at Fota Wildlife Park increased by over four per cent to €5.4 million last year, despite a slight fall in visitor numbers.
A total of 455,559 people attended the attraction during 2017, a drop of 9,722 or two per cent compared to the previous year. The zoo attributed the fall in visitor numbers to “difficult” weather conditions in July and August.
Despite the reduction in footfall, it was still the second-highest annual attendance since the zoo opened in 1983, and Fota Wildlife Park remains the largest visitor attraction in the south west of the country.
Overall revenue also increased by 4.3 per cent last year to €5.4 million, which included almost €4.5 million in gate receipts, €909,504 in gift-shop sales, and €14,805 from public-donation boxes.
The increased turnover enabled Fota Wildlife Park to record a surplus of €836,235 at the end of last year – a 14 per cent hike compared to 2016. It added €303,649 to its cash pile, which stood at €1.1 million at the end of 2017.
The zoo is a subsidiary of the Zoological Society of Ireland, which also owns and runs Dublin Zoo. It reported tangible assets valued at €10.4 million and reserve funds of almost €9.8 million.
A total of 59 people were employed at the Cork visitor attraction last year, representing an increase of five compared to 2016. They were paid wages and salaries totalling €1.8 million, according to the latest accounts.
Last month, the wildlife park revealed plans for a €16 million upgrade of the attraction, which will include the construction of 17 new buildings – 13 of which will be used to house animals.
New additions to the zoo’s animal collection will include Asian bears and Chinese takins, which are antelope-like creatures found in the Himalayas. A Madagascar village will also be developed, along with a new restaurant and conference centre.
Fota Wildlife Park is aiming to boost visitor numbers to over 500,000 following the completion of the upgrade.
The directors’ report noted that footfall figures were down by 12,500 in July and August 2017, compared to the same period of the previous year. This was due to adverse weather conditions, which saw rainfall that was 20 per cent higher than average during those months.