The animals at Fota Wildlife Park including the parks new residents the Meerkats are defintely feeling loved coming up to Valentines day with the news that the park had its record number of visitors in 2010, with 377,000 people visiting Cork's number one tourist attraction.
Fota Wildlife Park had an 8% increase in visitors last year giving them a record figure of 377,000 people attending the park surpassing the previous record which was 361,000 back in 2007 during the peak of the celtic tiger. Head of Marketing at the park Stephen Ryan attributes a number of factors to their continued success, "I think the good weather, the new M8 from Dublin to Cork, new Fastnet line service, cheaper accomodation, strong branding, regular events, good PR, effective social media and the baby boom both in and outside the park has grown our numbers".
In 2010 Fota Wildlife Park had some great news stories which got people talking including the births of Rua the baby Red Panda, Aoife the Giraffe and Aifric the Zebra. Fota Wildlife Park also hosted a very unique competition back in April of 2010 when 8 people lived in the park for one week to win €10,000 and a trip to Zambia, this competition and the births of the animals gave the park huge lifts in visitors at key times of the year.
2010 was also an award winning year for Fota Wildlife Park with it picking up the Grand Prix award at the Eircom spiders for its website www.fotawildlife.ie, the park beat off major competition from big brands such as Heineken and VHI to claim the prestigous award back in November. The main reason for winning the award was the park's use of social media, Fota Wildlife Park has embraced new media such as Facebook and Twitter to keep people up to date on news and events within the park and it has proven to be very successful with the park recently hitting over 11,000 fans on Facebook alone.
Stephen added "we believe that people now have a genuine interest in what is happening here at the park, so whether its the arrival of a new animal, an upcoming event or finding out what conservation programmes we are involved in, social media is helping us deliver what the people want to know thus in turn helps grow our visitor numbers". A testament to this is the increased traffic on the parks website which had 173,000 hits in 2010 with more and more hits coming from outside Cork including hits from 140 countries and this has also reflected in the type of visitor to the park with an increase in tourists over local visitors.
The park has also completed building work on a new entrance for the park which has cost in the region of €4 million and will be officialy opened by President Mary McAleese in April. The new area includes new ticket booths, gift shop, cafe, childrens playground and a new animal exhibit which is home to the park's newest residents the Mangabey Monkey's and the very popular Meerkats.
Stephen hopes that the new entrance will entice more visitors to the park in 2011 "we are hoping that people will love that we have more animals, better facilities and fun events for all ages". One such event takes place this weekend to celebrate Valentines Day, the event called ‘Romance in the Park' is in its third year and is running on the 12th, 13th and 14th with live music, magic shows and a love trail where couples can win fantastic breaks at the river lee hotel in Cork.