An Expert View With…

Steve & White CubSTEVE SAMPSON

DIRECTOR, PARADISE WILDLIFE PARK

How important are groups to you?

Over the past 25 years groups have accounted for just under 20% of our total visitor figure, with the majority being youth groups, although we welcome older adult groups and offer a range of morning coffee and afternoon tea packages for this market. We have focused on attracting the young family and education markets, which continue to show good growth and resilience in the face of big rises in coach hire prices. We are very encouraged this summer as the number of groups we have arriving by coach is substantially up on recent years. We are not sure at this stage why this happy occurrence is happening, but we will be investing to ensure we can continue and grow this trend.

What is your group promotional approach?

We offer a very competitively priced offer of just £8.00* per person for groups of over 20 people. This is a big saving on our peak season prices of £17.00* adults and £14.00* child and senior citizens. We mail out to schools at the beginning of each year, but we are moving more of our marketing spend online, and looking at various ways we can continue to reach and engage with the group market. We have been trialling online discount offers for our general visitor trade this year, which enables us to monitor where visitors hear about us and allows us to collect data when they purchase. We will re-structure some of our group engagement and offerings for 2014, so we can more clearly see what is working and delivering results in relation to awareness and sales.   * Prices quoted are from 2013

How do you work with partners in marketing?

We have always worked with coach companies or other attractions for combined ticket and price offers, and do familiarisation trips in conjunction with Hertfordshire County Council, hotels and attractions. We have also organised special events for groups such as the Confederation of Passenger Transport, teachers and corporate groups. All of these activities promote our attraction and encourage people to return with their own groups.

How is online affecting GTOs?

The shift to online promotions is gathering pace. We are getting great traction from promotions on Facebook and other social networking sites for our general visitor business, and we are now turning our attention to the groups market. We are putting effort in to creating good content by starting our own blog and inviting other bloggers to come and experience what we have to offer and comment positively about the Park and our facilities for groups. The value of our online bookings has grown by over 400% in the past four years and we expect it to continue at the same rate for the next four to five years.

The Sampson family bought Paradise Wildlife Park (then known as Broxbourne Zoo) in 1984, and since then has developed it into one of the most successful animal attractions in the country, with conservation and preservation of both rare and endangered animal species at its heart. Steve has been involved in the renovation and transformation of the zoo from the outset. In 2001 the family bought the Big Cat Foundation in Kent. Now run as the Wildlife Heritage Foundation it supports conservation projects and assists with endangered species breeding programmes.