Edinburgh Zoo blames wrong sort of weather for loss of 90,000 visitors

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Edinburgh Zoo has seen its visitor numbers slump by more than 90,000, despite a bumper year for rival leading attractions.

Scotland's leading animal attraction suffered the biggest drop – equivalent to 250 visitors a day – among the top 20 "paid-for" sites around the country last year.

The 14.1 per cent fall is thought to have cost the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland more than 1 million.

Over the past few months, 16 jobs have been axed to help stave off a financial crisis.

The zoo has been embroiled in scandal in recent weeks after two senior officials were suspended and a third dismissed from his job in the wake of ongoing internal investigations.

A spokeswoman for the zoo said: "As an outdoor attraction, in addition to more difficult economic conditions for all in the industry, our figures were impacted by two key factors present in 2010, but not in 2009.

"We had to close the zoo losing 14 days due to extreme snow conditions in January, November and December. We also have a reliance on the key peak season of July and August with both months having particularly poor weather in 2010. July had 68 per cent more rain than the last 30-year average and had 220 per cent of the rainfall of July 2009."

However, many rival attractions across Scotland saw numbers boom last year, despite the impact of the economic downturn and travel disruption caused by Icelandic volcanic ash.

Edinburgh Castle, Culzean Castle and Country Park in Ayrshire, the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh, and the National Wallace Monument in Stirling all saw numbers rise.

Meanwhile industry experts, who reported an average drop of just 0.3 per cent across Scotland, said the country's winter sports centres had helped the country through the economic downturn.

Glenshee Ski Centre attracted 171 per cent more skiers last year, than in 2009, while visitor numbers at the Nevis Range, in Fort William, and the Cairngorm Mountain Railway were up 16 and 15 per cent respectively.

Ski Scotland chairwoman Heather Negus said visitor numbers for the last two winters were around 70 per cent up on the previous two.

She added: "Last year was outstanding because we had great conditions at the beginning and end of the year. However it's not just snow that brings people to these resorts, there are things happening all year round."

A further boost for the nation's visitor attractions is expected over the next year thanks to the completion of a string of major projects, including major refurbishments at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery and National Museum of Scotland, both in Edinburgh, the Royal Palace project at Stirling Castle, and the new Riverside Museum in Glasgow.

Strathclyde Country Park, in Lanarkshire, has been named the nation's busiest attraction, after country parks were included in the Glasgow Caledonian University study for the first time. It attracted 5.7 million visitors.

The only major attraction in Scotland to suffer a bigger drop than Edinburgh Zoo was Kelvingrove Art Gallery in Glasgow, which saw a 21 per cent fall last year and a gradual decline in numbers since unveiling a major revamp in July 2006.

A spokeswoman for VisitScotland said: "Attractions performed pretty remarkably over the last year, considering the problems we had with the weather and the volcanic ash."


Paid-for attractions, 2010

Edinburgh Castle, 1,210,248 visitors, +1.2% on 2009

Edinburgh Zoo, 547,364, - 14.1 %

Edinburgh Bus Tours, -2.4%

Falkirk Wheel 439,072, - 7.9%

Stirling Castle, 377,204, - 1.6%

Robert Burns Birthplace Museum, 298,460, +5.6%

Our Dynamic Earth, 295,997 -0.8%

Urquhart Castle, 286,262 +1.4%

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