THE new boss of Chester Zoo believes the upcoming expansion and continued success of the attraction can provide the city’s economy with a significant boost.
Newly-appointed managing director Jamie Christon has joined the zoo at one of the busiest times in the 80-year history of the attraction with work underway on the £30m Islands development.
Mr Christon said: “There really is so much happening right now. I’m very excited to have joined the zoo at such an important time.”
Islands will feature large, natural environments for animals and visitors replicating Indonesian islands, including Bali and Sumatra, and will include a river boat journey giving different views of new exhibits.
Mr Christon believes the ambitious Islands project will attract an extra 150,000 visitors each year and take the zoo into a “whole new era”.
He said: “We envisage Islands will attract an additional 150,000 visitors a year and increase the zoo by the size of seven football pitches, making it one of the biggest zoo projects in Europe.
“The added value will not only benefit the zoo, but the local economy in and around Chester and the north west as a whole.”
Mr Christon is now fully involved in Islands and other on-going zoo developments as well as heading up commercial operations.
“I have arrived at one of the zoo’s busiest times of the year,” he said.
“A combination of the school holidays, work starting on Islands and the opening of our fantastic BUGS! exhibition of giant animatronic insects has made it an ideal time to join.
“Seeing the zoo at its busiest helps give me a better overview of how it operates and the dedication and teamwork that goes into making it one of Britain’s most popular attractions.”
Mr Christon has worked for Manchester Airport Group and managed commercial operations at East Midlands, Humberside, Bournemouth and Exeter airports. He also worked for Stena Line and has relocated to Upton.
Having grown up in a farming community, Mr Christon said he was delighted to have come into a role that mixes his lifelong appreciation of the animal world with his commercial experi ence.
He said: “It’s my dream job. It might sound like a cliché but it’s true. I’m very, very excited to be here and I’m keen to help the zoo move forward in the best way I can.
“For 10 years I worked in the development of airports, which may seem completely different to a zoo. However, when you think about it, they have many similarities.
“At the airports I dealt with a rich variety of businesses and people, from retailers to caterers to security and management and saw huge numbers passing through on a daily basis. The zoo is very much the same.
“Chester is a beautiful city which I’m eager to get to know. Strangely, it’s very similar to the two other cities I’ve lived in, Exeter and York. All three have so much to offer residents and visitors alike, which is probably why my move here feels so right.”