COMPANIES are being invited to buy corporate packages featuring private viewings with Scotland’s new pandas, at a cost of more than £12,000 each, as Edinburgh Zoo looks to cash in on its star attractions.
Firms will have to buy all the available tickets for the enclosure for an hour to give their staff and guests exclusive access to the bears.
On Sunday, the breeding pair of Tian Tian – meaning “sweetie” – and Yang Guang – “sunshine” – will touch down at Edinburgh Airport, after flying from Chengdu in China in special containers, and will then be transported to their new enclosure at Edinburgh Zoo.
Their arrival has been eagerly anticipated for three years and if they do successfully breed it will be the first time a panda has been born in Scotland.
More than 1,500 panda fans snapped up tickets to see the rare creatures within hours of sales opening earlier this week, and zoo bosses hope Tian Tian and Yang Guang will have a similar impact on corporate sales.
A maximum of 110 people can occupy an event room at the zoo’s 200-year-old Mansion House with a buffet lunch for the day at £57.60 a head.
That alone costs more than £6,000, but for a private viewing of the pandas, companies must also pay just under £6,000 again for the equivalent of 420 tickets, costing £13.95 each.
For just ten people, an exclusive 60 minutes with the pandas, including a corporate lunch and facilities such as flipboards, room hire and inclusive parking, would cost £6,400.
Lime Venue Portfolio, the company that organises events at Edinburgh Zoo and Mansion House, says 23 different types of event could potentially be held in the ten venues on the site, including gala dinners, team-building exercises, and even masonic weekends.
Despite the price, corporate guests will not be allowed to enter either the male or female panda enclosures to get any closer to the bears than visitors paying for ordinary tickets.
Safety concerns and a six-month quarantine on Tian Tian and Yang Guang mean visitors must keep their distance at all times.
A zoo spokesman said: “They are carnivores – they are wild animals and need trained keepers to go near them.”
Edinburgh Zoo is not unusual in offering corporate hospitality packages.
Corporate events at London Zoo are priced at £69 a head for groups of 20 upwards, including a boardroom and catering, and one hour free at the zoo.
It also offers a “Keeper for a Day” experience, costing a group of four £1,120. For that they will get the chance to feed giraffes, muck out rhinos, clean the penguin pool and go behind the scenes in the big cat enclosures.
The Keeper package for four at Chester Zoo is £170 per person for just four hours, and the Penguin Island Encounter for two, lasting just 30 minutes, is £150.
However, Edinburgh Zoo is one of the few outside London to offer more than just basic away-day fare for companies, with lecture theatres, board rooms and gourmet catering coming as standard.
Describing Mansion House events on its website, Edinburgh Zoo states: “Over 200 years old, it offers charm, elegance and beautiful views across the Pentland Hills.
“Our impeccable service, warm hospitality and delicious catering promise that your event with us will be a complete success.”