THE NATIONAL BOTANIC GARDEN OF WALES has recorded a 17% increase in visitors and record commercial figures for 2016/17, generating an operating surplus for the third year in a row.
The 20,000 rise in people through the door for the year to the end of March has been quickly followed by record-breaking figures for April, when visitor numbers more than doubled at the Carmarthenshire attraction.
With take-up in Garden membership beating all records up 16% as part of a £174,000 increase in commercial income – despite an £89,000 fall in public sector funding – and plenty of plans in place for new attractions and investment, Botanic Garden bosses are buoyant at the prospect for 2017.
Director Huw Francis said: “If the present is anything to go by, the future looks bright.”
Mr Francis explained that the Garden has been working hard at broadening its appeal and new developments introduced in 2016 had proved a big hit with local people and tourists alike: “We’ve invested in a new play park, a hay bale maze, water zorbing and a brand new tropical Butterfly House, the development of which has created a huge amount of interest.”
This year, the Garden is teaming up with award-winning Pembrokeshire Falconry to create the British Bird of Prey Centre which, says Mr Francis, will increase footfall still further with daily flying displays of amazing native birds of prey. The target is for 10% year on year increases in visitors over the next five years.
All this good news comes hot on the heels of the announcement by the Heritage Lottery Fund that it is backing the Garden’s Regency Restoration project to the tune of £3.55 million, which will reinstate one of Britain’s finest historic water parks and create one of Wales’ premier heritage attractions.
With plans to introduce camping and glamping on the 568-acre site in 2018, Mr Francis is confident the ambitious programme of growth will continue to pay dividends: “Last year was a big success for us in terms of visitor numbers and commercial return. And this new financial year has started with a bang, seeing our April visitor figure surge to a pretty amazing 19,456 up from last year’s 9,632.”
Head of Development, Rob Thomas, said: “The success of this fresh approach is clearly evidenced by last year’s results and the start we’ve made to this year.
“We have big plans for headline-grabbing summer events and these, coupled with the other new ventures, will drive up interest even further and keep people coming back over and over again – all of which will underpin our long-term sustainability and will firmly establish the Garden’s position as an iconic, must-see destination and a national asset for all of Wales.”