Express & Star

Tourism boost as West Midlands visitor numbers soar

Tourist attractions across the West Midlands and Staffordshire have enjoyed a bank holiday boom in business with families flocking to them over the bank holiday weekend.

Trainloads of people at Dudley Zoo

Zoos, museums, and theme parks have all seen a surge in footfall as people look closer to home to sample the sites on their doorstep, instead of getting away.

And it has led to a "really positive" summer, with West Midlands Safari Park in particular seeing its Red Panda Cottages already sold out for the rest of the year.

It joins the likes of other attractions which have seen a boost in visitors as they aim to bounce back from opening and closing frequently during three lockdowns.

The Red Panda cottages at West Midland Safari Park have proved popular

Managing director Chris Kelly said: "We’ve had an incredible summer here at West Midland Safari Park, and it’s been fantastic welcoming families back to enjoy the school holidays. We’ve had multiple sold out dates over the past few weeks and have certainly seen an increase in footfall as a result of the surge in demand for UK-based days out.

"Since opening our Red Panda Cottages in early August, we are proud to reveal that they are now sold out to the end of 2021, and we are also sold out across all of our elephant and cheetah Safari Lodge stays until November 2022. It’s been a fantastic year to launch our unique overnight accommodation, and we’re only just getting started with much more to come."

Derek Grove, director of Dudley Zoo, said the attraction's visitor numbers are expected to hit 60,000 overall this month as he hailed a "really good August".

He said: "It's been incredible, to be honest, because we've not had the greatest weather in August, but [last week] had some very good weather which will hopefully continue.

"The good thing about the zoo is there's lots of open spaces, there's lots of acres so people can have a lot of area and can safely get away from others.

"It's great to see people again because we've opened and we've closed several times and lived under different restrictions, and when people do go out they come and visit us. People aren't having the amount of summer holidays they did before and instead are going to their local visitor attractions, which we're benefitting from.

"The majority of the visitors we've seen are from the local Midlands area and Dudley itself, which is really nice to see. We've done quite a few developments to brighten the site up, introduced brand new species to keep the place interesting, and the great thing is we've got some babies coming through too – so it gives people more of a reason to come back as well."

Meanwhile the Black Country Living Museum in Tipton Road, Dudley, said they were expecting to sell out over the bank holiday weekend – with visitor numbers surpassing their expectations.

A spokesman from Black Country Living Museum added: "We’re seeing a really positive with pre-bookings over the course of the summer holiday and with bank holiday in particular.

"We’re expecting to sell out over the weekend. Visitor attendance over the summer holiday has performed ahead of our expectations; we’ve been delighted by the number of people we’ve seen who’ve come back to visit us, or who are discovering the museum for the first time.

"Our theme for the summer holidays is ‘Ta Very Much’ – highlighting stories of heroes of the past who’ve helped their neighbours and community through tough times. Therefore, we’d like to say a big thank you everyone who’s visited us so far this summer for their support and helping us to continue in our work to bring Black Country history to life. Although the school holidays are nearing their end, there’s still time to visit the museum and see what we’re all about."

Becky Frall, head of visitor attraction at the West Midlands Growth Company, said: "This is truly the year to take a new look at the great West Midlands tourist attractions on our doorstep. By staying local, we will help to support our wonderful attractions as they bounce back from a challenging 18 months, driving our regional economy and creating jobs across our communities.

"Whether it’s a choc-full day of fun at Cadbury World, a step back in time at great heritage venues such as the Black Country Living Museum or adrenaline-fuelled activities at Bear Grylls Adventure, the West Midlands presents an exciting mix of unique experiences for all the family."

And bosses behind Alton Towers Resort, in Staffordshire, said they had seen a host of families turn out their rides – but said the resort was continuing to operate with a reduced capacity.

A spokesman said: "It’s been great to welcome guests to the resort this summer to experience our latest attractions Gangsta Granny: The Ride and The Retro Squad. However, as part of a phased response to the latest changes in Government guidance, the resort is continuing to operate on reduced capacities.

"This year we promised to plan a host of fun and thrills for families and thrill-seekers throughout the season. We are excited to stage the return of our popular Oktoberfest, Halloween celebrations, awesome fireworks show, and for the first year ever, we are opening the Resort to welcome day guests for our exciting Lightopia and Towers Christmas Market in December, as well as the return of our hugely popular overnight festive escape, Santa’s Sleepover.

"We remain committed to creating a much-needed form of escapism for families and thrill-seekers across the UK and beyond."