Attractions hoping for bumper summer after encouraging rise in bookings

Bosses at hard-hit attractions across the region are hoping for a bumper August as they battle back from the effects of the pandemic.

The Black Country Living Museum, where bookings are up compared to 2020
The Black Country Living Museum, where bookings are up compared to 2020

After a difficult 18 months, zoos, theme parks and museums are now seeing visitor numbers creeping towards pre-Covid levels.

Despite many having to limit numbers and ask people to pre-book tickets, venues like Dudley Zoo are seeing an upturn in business.

Derek Grove, director of the zoo and castle, said there "was definitely an appetite" for people wanting to visit outdoor attractions – and they hoped August would see 2,000 people a day coming through the doors.

While, bosses at the Black Country Living Museum said they were encouraged by the level of pre-bookings over the summer holidays.

Grant Bird, head of communications at the Tipton Road site, said: “We have been encouraged by the level of pre-bookings we have received for this year’s summer holidays.

"Bookings are up versus 2020, but at this early stage of the summer break we have yet to see the peak levels in 2019.”

Other tourist attractions across the region are also reaping the benefits of a boost in summer trade including West Midland Safari Park, Wild Zoological Park and Severn Valley Railway.

Rachael Allcock, publicity manager for the West Midland Safari Park, said: “We reopened our gates on April 12 and some indoor areas remained closed until a few weeks later.

“Now the park is fully open but we have obviously been running with a smaller capacity than normal as everyone has to book in advance.

A guest gets up close to a giraffe at West Midland Safari Park

“We are keeping entry levels down to a third less than at normal times.

“However, we have been fully booked every weekend from April and we massively appreciate the public support.

“There is a really big appetite for people to go to attractions and be outdoors and we have had an amazing number of people through the gates and are really happy with the numbers of visitors.,

“Now we are in the summer holidays and have families coming to enjoy the animal attractions and their summer.

“It is really good to be getting back to normal and the animals, including our two new baby White Rhinos, are also enjoying seeing our visitors return.

“We have maintained certain safety measures and staff still wear face masks and we advise people to be aware of their personal space and have one-way markers around the site.

“We felt it was important to keep these safety measures to put the minds of visitors at ease.”

Dudley Zoo is hoping for 2,000 visitors each day in August

Scott Adams, director of Telford Exotic Zoo, hopes the summer will signal the start of the venue's recovery. It had been closed for the entire pandemic period before last Saturday, and has moved from Priorslee to Telford Town Park.

He said: "We only opened up again on Saturday, July 24. We've been completely shut throughout the last 18 months.

"But now we're opened up at our new location. It's crucial for us now that we have an uninterrupted summer. It's the only way we can keep going.

"People have been so excited for the reopening and to come and see the new site. We've had a really good first week back.

"Because we didn't open until the restrictions were lifted, we haven't had to change how we do things like some places have. But we did design the new site with the pandemic in mind, with the one-way system.

"People have been using their common sense. I haven't really noticed people speaking about the pandemic. I think they've just been so desperate to get out and do things with the kids. Get back to a bit of normality.

"It's so important to our future that we have most of the summer. The alternative doesn't bear thinking about.

"Hopefully this will be the start of our recovery. But there will be a long way to go."

Lesley Carr, head of communications at Severn Valley Railway, said they are still taking plenty of Covid safety precautions. She said: "It's been really good so far. Everything is working out fine.

"Business is booming. We're doing really well on sales. We've had lots of people coming for a day out with the kids. Also our events are doing well.

"We are offering Covid-secure bookings, so if anyone books but has to self-isolate before they visit, they can rebook or get a refund.

"We are operating at a reduced capacity - we can't fit as many people in as before. But we're doing extremely well. We're selling the railway at the Great British staycation. We're offering people a great day out."

The railway is running its days out with old-fashioned compartment carriages, so it's easier to keep people separate than it would be on an open carriage.

"We're lucky we can do that," added Lesley. "Not a lot of heritage railways have the number of compartment carriages that we do."

The Wild Zoological Park near Wombourne is another outdoor attraction that has restricted numbers.

Director Zachary Hollinshead said: "People have to pre-book sessions.

"We are a bit more back to normal but trying to be sensible because of Covid and limited numbers to 120 per session.

"We have two sessions each day and there is high demand for tickets and we are booking to capacity.

"It is our intention to review the limit on numbers at the end of the summer holidays.

"We are usually busy from Easter to the October half-term and usually fully booked with a Christmas experience."

Kidderminster Carpet Museum is also feeling the benefit of more visitors through the doors as people taking trips on canal boats and along the Severn Valley Railway pop in to see the exhibits including working looms.

Alex Hill, museum assistant, said: “We are now fully open four days each week on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday and since the summer holidays began we are seeing a lot more people through the doors.

“I think people have spent about 18 months at home and now want to go out and many are discovering what they can actually do in their own towns.

“We are now getting more people through the door and are definitely experiencing a boom as people look around to see what is on offer locally.”

Most Read

Most Read

Sorry, we are not accepting comments on this article.

Top Stories

More from the Express & Star

UK & International News