Bosses at Pensthorpe see visitor numbers rise but predict ‘a tough winter ahead’
- Credit: Archant
The owners of Norfolk’s Pensthorpe Natural Park said visitor numbers since reopening had “almost matched” last year.
Such is the space available at the venue near Fakenham, that after reopening in July, numbers far exceeded expectations and were close to the figures for the same period last year.
Bill and Deb Jordan, owners of Pensthorpe, had forecast those returning might be as low as between 30-50pc of pre-Covid numbers. But the open space coupled with attractions such as the two flamingo chicks saw visitor numbers rise.
However, the Jordans are operating the venue with caution, they said, keeping the indoor play area Hootz House and some of the food and drink offerings closed. They have reduced their opening times to five days a week and casual roles at the park which ended before lockdown have not been replaced, they said. Some staff are still on furlough meaning others in the team are covering for them while also adapting to new flexible working patterns.
A spokeswoman said: “We have been delighted by the number of visitors who have been to see us. Our communication with visitors and members during lockdown highlighted that being outdoors and reconnecting with nature and wildlife was high on the list of activities that everyone missed and craved.
“A lot of visitors we have been speaking to have expressed Pensthorpe as being the ideal place for them to come and enjoy a sense of freedom and connection with nature. We also tick the box for those who seek out positive wellbeing experiences, which is very much at the forefront of people’s minds right now.
“We are fortunate enough to have such a spacious park for guests to explore that we have almost matched last year’s visitor numbers without any sense of overcrowding.“Whilst things are still uncertain and we are making up for the three month loss due to the forced closure, we are still being very cautious with how we operate. Our staff have been fantastic in coping with the changes and challenges that this situation has presented us with, including adapting to flexible working patterns and covering varied job roles.
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“It’s still very early to tell what the overall impact will be to the business and how long we will feel the impact for. The tourism industry as a whole is likely to have a tough winter ahead, however plans for remaining resilient in 2021 are well underway.”