Zoo Attracts More than One Million Visitors for Third Consecutive Year
[Columbia, SC] — Riverbanks Zoo and Garden is once again making history – welcoming a record 1,029,492 visitors during the 2011-2012 fiscal year that ended on June 30. Budgeted attendance for the year was 975,740.
The new record exceeds the Zoo’s previous record of 1,020,876 visitors, set in 2002 after a major expansion, and greatly surpasses last year’s attendance of 1,000,224 and the year before that at 1,015,201.
"This trend is remarkable, considering we have not had any major new exhibits in the last 10 years. Riverbanks is the only zoo in a city with a population this size that consistently pulls in one-million plus visitors each year,” said Satch Krantz, executive director of Riverbanks Zoo and Garden. "Much of this success may be attributed to our nearly 40% of guests who traveled 50 miles or more from outside of Columbia to have a fun and affordable family outing at the Zoo.”
In a recent study commissioned by Riverbanks, the University of South Carolina College of Hospitality, Retail and Sports Management revealed the Zoo’s annual economic impact on the local economies of Richland and Lexington counties. The results of that study underscore the fact that Riverbanks is a powerful economic driver within the local economy—generating more than $60 million in local business sales and creating more than 700 jobs in the community.
Twice awarded the Governor’s Cup for South Carolina’s most outstanding tourist attraction, Riverbanks is one of the largest mid-sized zoos in the nation. In a 2012 industry benchmark survey, Riverbanks was ranked fourth in market saturation (annual attendance divided by statistical metropolitan population) behind Zoo de Granby, Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and San Diego Zoo’s Safari Park. Annual attendance at Riverbanks greatly exceeds that of its closest neighbors— Zoo Atlanta, Jacksonville Zoo and North Carolina Zoo.
The Zoo first broke the million visitor mark in 1990 after the opening of the Aquarium-Reptile Complex. The last record was set in 2002 after the opening of the Birdhouse at Riverbanks, Ndoki Forest and Koala Knockabout.
Riverbanks was recently named the 4th best zoo in the United States by TripAdvisor, the world's largest travel site. In addition, last fall, the Zoo was again recognized as aleader in wildlife conservation, receiving the prestigious Edward H. Bean Significant Achievement Award from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums for important efforts in maintaining and breeding the critically endangered Bali mynah.
Other highlights of the year included the births of a spectacled owlet, two Toco toucan chicks, two giraffe calves, five Galapagos tortoise hatchlings and a koala joey. Also during that time, the Zoo added a female bald eagle and two Komodo dragons to its animal collection and opened its newest attraction—Sky-High Safari—a 4-story vertical ropes challenge course.
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