We have scooped the ‘Large Visitor Attraction of the Year’ award at the South West England Tourism Excellence Awards.
The prestigious accolade, which was announced during an online ceremony yesterday (22 April), follows another win earlier this month of ‘Attraction of the Year’ from the Bristol, Bath and Somerset Tourism Awards.
The double win shines a spotlight on our staff and volunteers who have continued to provide the highest levels of customer service and animal welfare and operations management, despite an unprecedented year of closures and restrictions.
Wild Place Project reopened after the third and longest lockdown closure on Monday 12 April. It has undergone significant developments since it was first opened to visitors, by registered charity Bristol Zoological Society, just eight years ago in 2013.
In 2019 we opened Bear Wood, our largest and most impressive exhibit yet. The 7.5 acre exhibit winds through ancient woodland of raised walkways, taking visitors ‘back in time’ to 8000 BC when bears, wolves, lynxes and wolverines roamed Britain.
Bear Wood is also designed to inspire visitors to value our native woodland habitat and species, and to protect what we still have.
Other stand-out developments include a purpose-built giraffe house, with multiple viewpoints that allows visitors to see these magnificent Critically Endangered animals from different heights.
Dr Justin Morris, Chief Executive of Bristol Zoological Society, which operates Wild Place Project and Bristol Zoo Gardens, said: “To have been voted ‘Large Visitor Attraction of the Year’ in our region is a fantastic achievement and recognises the passion and hard work of our staff and volunteers.
“I am extremely proud of Wild Place Project, which has become hugely successful over the past eight years. We are regularly told by our visitors and members about how much they enjoy visiting, seeing our animals and relaxing in nature with their families and friends.”
Judging of the awards took into account entrants’ investment, commitment to sustainability and accessibility, visitor feedback and digital presence, along with evidence of COVID-secure measures. In total 76 winners were announced during the online event, which was supported by headline sponsor South West Water and award category sponsor Worldpay.
Co-organiser of the awards, Nell Barrington of Services for Tourism, said: “I have been really humbled to hear stories from these amazing tourism and hospitality businesses about how they have overcome adversity in these terrible times. It has been great to be able to celebrate their success today and I hope they have a fantastic season. Congratulations to them all.”
Last year, Wild Place Project was also awarded the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors’ South West Social Impact Award as well as being awarded the ‘We’re Good to Go’ COVID-19 Industry Standard by Visit Britain. We were also a finalist in the Climate Coalition’s Green Heart Hero Awards and was highly commended in the 2020 Bristol Life Awards.
Wild Place Project is located just off junction 17 of the M5 and invites visitors to take a glimpse into eco-systems from around the world, including Madagascar, Cameroon, the Congo and British woodlands.
Wild Place Project and Bristol Zoo Gardens are run by Bristol Zoological Society which is a conservation and education charity and relies on the generous support of the public not only to fund its important work at both zoos, but also its vital education and community outreach programme.
In March last year the Society launched the BZS Appeal to ensure the future of its work ‘saving wildlife together’ following the temporary closure of both its sites in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As school groups can now be welcomed back to both zoos, appeal donations will support the Education Bursary Fund, to ensure schools and youth groups in disadvantaged areas are able to benefit from visiting Wild Place Project and Bristol Zoo Gardens.
To find out more, or to make a donation, visit https://bristolzoo.org.uk/bzsappeal.
To find out more about Wild Place Project, or to book tickets online in advance (highly recommended), visit www.wildplaceproject.org.uk.