An Expert View With…

Sue DaySUE DAY

GUEST RELATIONS OFFICER, WEST MIDLAND SAFARI & LEISURE PARK

What is the current market for groups wanting to enjoy wildlife?

There is a growing interest in the natural world, and as much of the work we do here is to support the conservation of wildlife, we are very popular with anyone with a genuine interest in animal welfare and ecology. Many of the species we have here are classed as endangered and are ‘at risk’ so we offer an opportunity to see species that you may not find in other collections. We find we are of interest to both adults and children.

What sort of themes can you offer and what’s most popular?

Our Learning Department not only works with schools to deliver lectures that fit within the schools curriculum, but also offers a range of fun and informative talks to our other group visitors to enhance their visit. For wildlife enthusiasts, opportunities range from small animal encounters through to full VIP tours accompanied by one of our wildlife experts, going ‘behind the scenes’. A popular addition to any group visit is to book the services of an ‘on-board’ Safari Guide, who will travel through the Animal Reserves in their vehicle and deliver a commentary about the animals they pass. I can’t promote this service enough, as it does so much to enhance a true understanding of the importance of the work we do here. Our renovated and opulent Georgian Spring Grove House is the perfect venue for our ‘Drive and Dine’ option. Groups arrive at the house for a welcome tea/coffee break before travelling through the self-drive Animal Reserves, then return for a luncheon served to silver service standard, with free time to explore our Discovery Trail on foot.

What age and type of groups do you cater for?

We cater for all ages and this is reflected in the variety of groups who visit us regularly. The self-drive Animal Reserve particularly lends itself to visitors with mobility challenges, as they are able to witness the wildlife from the comfort of their own vehicle, and there is easy access to our Discovery Trail, including the sea lion theatre. For younger visitors, our Theme Park Area has over 28 amusement rides for an optional extra charge. This pricing structure works really well for mixed age groups, who can visit different elements of our venue.

Do you work with other attractions in your area?

We have always worked very closely with other local West Midlands attractions. We strongly believe that encouraging group visitors to explore the wider area enables them to put more diverse packages together including a range of attractions within easy travelling distance.

What kinds of online marketing or social media activity works for you in attracting groups?

Our Facebook and Twitter pages are always very active, and we feel the best promotion for our attraction comes from our visitors. These forums give visitors an opportunity to exchange ideas and share their experiences in an informal and unbiased way. We have a Friends network and a number of regular volunteers.

Sue Day was born in West Bromwich and is a Black Country girl born and bred. For many years she worked in finance, but moved to the West Midland Safari and Leisure Park in 2000, for a quieter and more relaxing way of life. Starting as a part-time telephonist, Sue realised how much she enjoyed liaising with GTOs and coach operators, and by 2011 she was working full time as Guest Relations Officer – a new role to focus on the groups market to ensure that the services and products offered by the park were beneficial to them.