Zoo Boosts Local Economy with BIG Regional Impact

Posted July 31, 2013

UC Study Shows Zoo’s Total Economic Impact of $143 Million

CINCINNATI, OH (July 31, 2013) – A study by the University of Cincinnati Economics Center found the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden – one of the premier recreational and cultural attractions in the tri-state region – has a total annual economic impact of $143 million in the Greater Cincinnati region, with more than 1.4 million visitors and a quarter-million members.

“Our analysis shows that the Zoo produces substantial benefits for the regional economy,” said Jeff Rexhausen, Project Director, at the University of Cincinnati Economics Center. “It appears that much of this economic impact is associated with non-local visitors who come to the Zoo because of its world-class reputation.”

Through the Zoo’s spending, contracted services, and spending by Zoo visitors from outside the area, the Cincinnati Zoo creates economic benefits for numerous households and businesses throughout the region. The Zoo is an important source of jobs and earnings for local workers, generating over 1,700 jobs with $51.7 million in wages and benefits.   And, although the Zoo primarily benefits local residents, nearly half of the Zoo’s economic impact (45.6%) can be attributed to visitors coming to the region.  The Cincinnati Zoo has achieved a 36% increase in attendance since 2006, with 2012 attendance hitting an all-time high of 1,440,000 visitors.  Non-local visitors increased 30% to 287,700 and surveys show the Zoo is a top driver of both new and repeat visitors to the region.

According to the Cincinnati USA Regional USA Regional Tourism Network (RTN), the Cincinnati Zoo has been a top three driver of direct-booked visitation since the RTN began ticket and hotel packaging in 2009.

“The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden is a world-class, year-round attraction that enhances the profile and reputation of our city,” said Robert H. Castellini, Chief Executive Officer, The Cincinnati Reds.  “As a major tourist attraction, the Cincinnati Zoo is responsible for creating a significant impact on our city, providing jobs to our residents and drawing families and individuals to Cincinnati’s other attractions.  As a fun, safe place for families to spend time together, it helps create incredible memories for children.”

The Zoo is also an invaluable educational asset with over 450,000 people participating in educational programs, including 140,000 pre-school and school-aged children engaged through field trips, camps, overnights, and family programs. “Thanks to the Zoo, my students have experienced amazing things,” said Natalie Yankosky, a 3rd Grade Teacher at Rockdale Academy in Avondale. “They are like sponges, soaking it up, and it has gotten them interested in science and nature programs on TV.”

According to the study, the Zoo is a top attraction for visitors from outside the area.  In addition to their spending at the Zoo, these visitors accounted for an estimated $23.2 million in off-site spending on dining, lodging etc., as a result of which their spending has a total impact of $60.4 million on the local economy.

“Because of the Zoo’s outstanding quality, it is a featured item in our talent attraction efforts,” said Scott Hamlin, Executive Vice-President & COO at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. “The Zoo helps us tell a very positive story about Cincinnati.”

As the Cincinnati Zoo continues to grow, visitors from around the country experience upgraded amenities, premier customer service, world-class animal care and an ever-evolving landscape filled with new or renovated exhibits.  Through mostly private donations, the Cincinnati Zoo has been able to advance its capital improvements in the last five years including the addition of the Vine Street Village entryway, Night Hunters exhibit, Cat Canyon exhibit, updated Reptile House, renovated Base Camp Café – the greenest restaurant in America, and the newest and most impressive exhibit in Zoo history – Africa.  The fact that no two Cincinnati Zoo trips are exactly same is one of the many reasons why the Zoo continues to be a destination for families from far and near.

“The Zoo’s ability to attract visitors from outside our area is crucial to replenishing and expanding the Greater Cincinnati economy. Hamilton County specifically benefits as a result of both visitors from outside the area and Zoo visitors who come from other counties within Greater Cincinnati,” said Thane Maynard, Executive Director of the Cincinnati Zoo.  “The residents of Hamilton County are kind enough to provide us with critical funding that supports our operations and the care and health of our animals. We view them as our shareholders and we want to make sure they are getting the best return on their investment dollars.”

Other Cincinnati Zoo highlights found in the study include:

  • The Cincinnati Zoo is an award-winning partner in community redevelopment economic growth, working with diverse neighborhood organizations and community leaders.
  • The Cincinnati Zoo is a conservation and sustainability champion earning the title of “Greenest Zoo in America.”