A NEW attraction at Chester Zoo will bring an extra £3.3 million a year to the local economy, it has been claimed.
Work is well under way on the £30 million ‘Islands’ project, which will recreate the exotic habitats of the Philippines, Papua, Bali, Sumatra, Sumba and Sulawesi.
One of the largest zoo developments in Europe, it will allow visitors to hop from island to island across bridges and by boat.
Bosses at the zoo say the attraction, which will be spread across an area the size of seven football pitches, will create 45
full-time jobs and bring 150,000 more visitors to the area. It is due to open next spring and will also ‘indirectly’ create 31 jobs in the area, they say.
Business leaders in the city have welcomed news that Islands is expected to have a significant knock-on effect for traders and accommodation providers.
Peter Lewis, city centre manager with CH1 Chester BID (Business Improvement District), told the Leader: “If that is the prediction then it is terrific news for Chester. We work closely alongside the zoo and are very fortunate to have an attraction like that on our doorstep.
“I’m absolutely delighted that this new attraction is coming to the region and I hope that Chester will benefit from the extra visitors.”
Animals on show at Islands include warty pigs, banteng cattle, cassowaries, Sumatran tigers, Sulawesi macaques, Sumatran orangutans and sunda gharial crocodiles.
The attraction will also include Monsoon Forest, the largest indoor zoo exhibit in the UK.
Simon Mann, Chester Zoo’s development director, said: “This marks a new stage in the development of Chester Zoo and it will be unlike anything experienced before in a UK zoo.
“Islands is a complex project that includes the creation of landscaping themed to each island, an exotic boat journey and world-class animal exhibits which marry the exact needs of our animals with the best experience for visitors.
“We’re bringing these islands to life, right here in the heart of leafy Cheshire, and making the opportunity to visit these far-flung places a reality for many people.”
The zoo aims to work closely with schools and focus on educating people about conservation issues in South East Asia.
Mr Mann added: “Many of the animals which people will see are critically endangered in the wild. So we hope that when people see them in such an incredibly realistic and naturalistic setting, it’ll make them have more of an emotional connection with them. If people care about a species they’re more likely to help save them.”
Group bookings are already being taken for Islands, and zoo bosses expect to welcome groups from across the globe.
Dominic Strange, head of commercial operations, said: “We welcome hundreds of coaches each year and are perfectly located to welcome visitors travelling from Manchester airport and Liverpool’s airport and cruise terminal, making Islands a must-see destination.”