Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Durrell and Membership Fees

DURRELL is making up to 14 staff redundant as part of a major cost-cutting review to claw back £600,000. The trust will also reduce the number of endangered species in its care and scale down on its overseas projects. But this may not be enough to save the Trinity wildlife park, which could still face a deficit of £400,000 even with the cost-cutting measures. Durrell says that the global economic downturn has caused a drop in charitable support and a decline in visitors. The trust made cutbacks last year, but with an even bigger deficit predicted for 2010, chief executive Paul Masterton said that more had to be done, including cutting ten per cent of the workforce.(1)

I was looking at their prices, and the entrance prices (2) are as follows:

Adult: £12.90
Child (4-16 years): £9.40
Student 17-22 years £10.50

For annual membership, the costs are as follows:

Individual - £40
Member & Guest - £65
Family - £100
Student - £23
Senior Citizen - £23

While the individual may have £40 to spare, the high cost of family membership may well be putting families off. Families are often more strapped for cash than individuals.

I wonder if actually reducing the family membership might get more families to apply, and make up the difference that way. The other side of the coin is that while an annual member can visit any number of times in the year, families are more likely to make frequent visits of lesser duration, rather than having screaming kids along with them. They are more likely to spend at the cafe, or on the shop on the way out, the more often they visit - there is a knock on effect, which means that, on average, someone with an annual membership will probably spend more because they come more often.

It is interesting that Dartmoor Zoological Park may well have seen this as the way to go. In 2009, they introduced a new range of lower pricing, to get more people to take out annual membership.

As of 1st April 2009, we are instigating a major review of membership pricing and introducing an exciting new offer for DZP members. From April 1st Annual Family Membership will be reduced from £105 to £80 and the cost of Child Membership will be dropped from £25 to £10. In addition, at DZP 'child' will mean under five, so now your four-year-old goes for free!(3)

Bristol Zoo, on the other hand, has membership that is very much on a par with Durrell, but has also affiliated itself with other zoos. Whether or not this would effect Jersey is another matter, because travel to English zoos is not probably that common, but some kind of partnership scheme - perhaps with St Malo's Aquarium (the large one outside the city centre) might be beneficial to encourage French visitors to Jersey, and more Jersey take up on local membership. After all, St Malo is not too expensive for a day trip foot passenger.

Free entry to selected other UK zoos and safari parks, including; Colchester Zoo; Chester Zoo; Edinburgh Zoo; Marwell Zoological Park and Woburn Safari Park . If you want to visit another zoo in the scheme, please
remember to take your welcome or renewal letter with you. (4)

One adult £48.00
Joint (two adults) £77.00
One child (3-15) £19.00
One disabled child £14.50

Another note is the concessions that are available, which are much more inclusive that Jersey, in that concessions are made to the disabled and senior citizens, again a group who might find costs prohibitive.

Concessions are available to disabled visitors, senior citizens, young people aged 15 - 18 years inclusive and students in higher education with NUS or ISIC card.(4)

Lastly, and on another note altogether, a YMCA in America is looking to encourage annual membership in the economic downturn - for those who do not want to declare income, there are the standard rates, but for poorer members of the community, there is a means tested sliding scale. Perhaps Durrell could learn from that?

Have you cancelled your gym membership to cut back in the down economy? Here is some good news: the Central Connecticut Coast YMCA is offering a new income-based membership fee structure in response to the current economic conditions facing many individuals and families in the greater Bridgeport communities.

Through Membership For All, the YMCA hopes to continue to be accessible and affordable to all community members, particularly those who now find themselves having to make tough choices based on personal finances. The program uses a sliding scale rate structure based on gross annual household income so that all people are able to have access to the YMCA, regardless of income.

Proof of income is required at the time of enrollment and all personal information will remain confidential.(5)

I do hope that Durrell (or Jersey Zoo, for those of us with old memories) will survive, but I also hope they look at ways in which they might market their membership in more flexible ways, and attract more people to visit.

At some point, just increasing entry fees and annual memberships reaches a tipping point with supply and demand, and increased fees leads to reduced membership, which necessitates raising fees to generate the same income. Durrell will be just pricing itself out of the market.

It is a vicious spiral, and I hope they can look at alternatives which will increase membership, because while members won't pay every time they visit, they'll certainly browse the shop, and may well buy something for themselves or presents.

It gets people to the shop, if nothing else, and in addition, begins to educate them into the need to support Durrell. If they don't even go there, they won't be in a position for that to happen.

A last comment, which I forgot, is that Durrell were proposing to have a restaurant just on the border of the Zoo to generate extra income without people needing to come in. That seemed like a good idea to me; I hope it has not been shelved.


No comments: