Tourism boss: ‘We could open and observe social distancing’

PUBLISHED: 13:35 20 April 2020 | UPDATED: 15:27 20 April 2020

Adam Goymour, company director of Roarr! Picture: Denise Bradley

Adam Goymour, company director of Roarr! Picture: Denise Bradley

A tourism company director has taken the decision to furlough himself while Norfolk remains in lockdown – but reckons the season is still “salvageable”.

David Field, CEO of the Zoological Society of East Anglia, which runs Africa Alive! and Banham Zoo. Pic: ArchantDavid Field, CEO of the Zoological Society of East Anglia, which runs Africa Alive! and Banham Zoo. Pic: Archant

Adam Goymour, the boss as Roarr! in Lenwade, furloughed himself on April 10 but remains optimistic the attraction can recoup losses.

“The season isn’t written off just yet. If we can open for summer it is salvageable.”

Meanwhile others are lobbying MPs to be the first attractions to re-open in the summer if coronavirus lockdown restrictions are relaxed.

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Roarr! is also building engagement digitally with customers. This week it launches a virtual adventure around the dinosaur trail.

“The summer is our busiest period, so from a business perspective it is concerning that we may be prevented from opening for the summer. One of the benefits of being largely an outdoor dinosaur themed adventure park is that there are plenty of open spaces and areas in our park that can comfortably accommodate social distancing, so at the appropriate time and in line with government guidance, we do feel that we will be in a position to open some areas of the park on a phased approach.

“During the closed period we have been working hard to look at a safe re-opening plan, arrange bank loans and with the HMRC on the job retention scheme. Unfortunately we are uninsured with the Covid-19 pandemic. We will ensure that all the days we are closed from lockdown, will be added onto all current season tickets as well as those renewing.” At Banham Zoo and Africa Alive! chief executive David Field praised the support of the public who helped to raise the £80,000-£90,000 needed a month just to keep the animals fed and essential keepers paid.

He is lobbying government to be one of the first tourist attractions in East Anglia to re-open when the restrictions are lifted. He believes the attraction can limit the amount of people entering the zoo and ensure social distancing is maintained.

“We’ve not written off the season yet as we are hoping that our main months of July/August will come back in some manner and I think the season will extend longer. We are hearing Germany is re-opening some of its parks and zoos and we think we could be one of the first to reopen here.

“We aren’t like a high street or a beach, we can open in a controlled manner and know exactly how many people and who is in our open spaces.

“I was very concerned as to how we would actually feed the animals but now we can do this past May, thanks to the generosity and support from members of the public and we are also in negotiations with our bank to extend our credit. The fact that people who are facing their own challenges and trauma because of coronavirus can step out and give us support emotionally and financially has been just beautiful.

“We can show we are a safe place to reopen and need the authorities to understand this – you could have 100 people in our zoos who’d never see one another because we have so much space.”

Bill Jordan, co-owner of Pensthorpe Natural Park, near Fakenham, said: “With more than 700 acres of unspoilt Norfolk to explore Pensthorpe should be a natural contender to attract families safely back into the countryside, as soon as the lockdown is lifted. “Demand from visitors to get back into the natural world has intensified as the lockdown has continued and as optimism has grown for a possible June or July breakout and return to the country.”

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