What can a zoo do when there are no more visitors but they still have animals to feed and caretakers to pay? The San Antonio Zoo found a cool, relatively low-lift way that is generating visitors, income, buzz, and hopefully more memberships…a drive-thru zoo!
Originally billed as a once-in-a-lifetime experience, the original dates of May 1-3 sold out in hours, causing the zoo to add more dates, open every day for at least two more weeks. Tim Murrow, Zoo CEO, “explained to KSAT,”This is just something that someone threw out one day and we said, ‘Hey, we could probably do that’, because we have drive-lanes in the park that our staff drives on in the mornings and things like that. So, we thought why not let guests drive-thru (from the safety) of their car.”
Not only do visitors get to see a large portion of the zoo from their cars, but there is an online audio tour for guests to play on their devices (and maybe even relisten to later). The cost is $60 per car, traditional walk-in visitor prices were around $18/adult and $15/child, so the price may be comparable depending on who is in your vehicle. Members pay only $32/car. And what’s a zoo visit without snacks? Visitors can bring their own or load up on favorites at a drive up snack station prior to commencing their safari.
Yes, it’s not business as usual, but maybe this pivot borne in crisis will become a new model to add to the mix? No guest mess to clean up, no interference with animals, easier accessibility for some visitors, faster visits for time-crunched visitors, guided audio tours, less dependency on the weather – this just might be an experiment zoos may want to consider adding to their occasional offerings even after this particular challenge is over.