UMKDFG-15-M: Wildland Park is a visitor attraction in Dorset, England, on the grounds of Caster bridge Hall, a stately home near Ax minster. 80-year old Lord Wessex owns the mansion: Customer and International Market Analysis Coursework, UWE, UK

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UMKDFG-15-M: Wildland Park is a visitor attraction in Dorset, England, on the grounds of Caster bridge Hall, a stately home near Ax minster. 80-year old Lord Wessex owns the mansion: Customer and International Market Analysis Coursework, UWE, UK

UniversityUniversity of the West of England (UWE)


Wildland Park is a visitor attraction in Dorset, England, on the grounds of Casterbridge Hall, a stately home near Axminster. 80-year oldLord Wessex owns the mansion, its extensive grounds, and the visitor attraction itself; it was he that built the Park fifty years ago, mainly as a way to offset the costs of running the estate.

Wildland Park comprises a zoo, which was the original attraction Lord Wessex built-in 1972, and a theme park, which was built later, in 1985, in response to the growing popularity of theme parks in Britain during the 1980s; Lord Wessex recognized that South West England lacked such a facility. Casterbridge Hall itself has never been included in the offering, despite the fact that it played an important role in the English Civil War and was where the famous English author Thomas Hardy did much of his writing (he was a personal friend of the current Lord Wessex’s grandfather, the 18th Earl of Wessex), not least because much of the original house is now in a state of disrepair.

Dorset and the Tourism Market

Dorset is an English county on the eastern side of the South West region. It is a coastal county with good beaches and access to the sea. In 2020, Dorset recorded 1,710,000 staying trips to Dorset from UK visitors, but only 86,000 from overseas visitors. The majority of day visits were to coastal locations, rather than towns or countryside (Dorset Tourism partnership, 2021).

Visit Dorset launched a new website to promote holidays in Dorset in November 2021 (Visit Dorset, 2021).

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Mintel (2021a) reports that the leisure industry in the UK bounced back in 2021, its market value increasing 41% year on year. Visitor attractions out-performed this trend, growing 91%, though recovery has been hindered by the significant drop in overseas visitors to the UK. Mintel reports an increased focus on localism since the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, with 36% of online adults saying they are more likely now to take part in leisure activities near where they live, and 60% of attraction visitors saying they are interested in buying a combined ticket to multiple local venues. 56% of 16-24-year-olds say they are more willing to try new activities than they were before the pandemic.

Mintel (2021b) also reports that gardens have proved to be the most popular and resilient form of visitor attraction during the pandemic, perhaps due to the fact that they are, by definition, wholly outdoors. Theme parks and zoos only lost 5 percentage points between August 2019 and July 2021, but historic buildings lost 16 percentage points; nevertheless, they remain the second most popular type of attraction after gardens. Mintel also reports that the rising cost of living will drive budget-conscious behaviour in the near future, particularly among families, who will seek value for money.

The UK population is changing – it is getting older and birth rates are falling (Office for National Statistics, 2021).

Recent History

For most of its life, Wildland Park was the only visitor attraction of any size in the region. The National Trust has some popular historic attractions in the area, particularly Corfe Castle and Kingston Lacey, but these tend to appeal to older couples or mid-market families. English Heritage has no major attraction nearby, the closest being Stonehenge in Wiltshire, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The only other major attraction in the region is the Roman and Georgian city of Bath, but both Stonehenge and the Roman Baths are world-class attractions bringing in visitors from all over the world – however, they are some way from Dorset.

Wildland Park’s target audience has mainly been local families. Research carried out ten years ago suggested that the zoo section attracts families with young or pre-school children, whilst the theme park attracts families with older children or teenagers, as well as young people visiting in groups. The theme park’s most famous ride is the fastest roller-coaster in the country, named The Cheetah, installed in 1995. However, Wildland has added no new rides or animals to the park since then. It is popular all year round, particularly in the summer, but mainly when the weather is dry but overcast and the Dorset beaches become less appealing to families.

In 1999, Wildland Park put on a New Year fireworks display for the Millennium Night celebrations, and it was so popular that, from 2000 onwards, Wildland staged a week of nightly fireworks over the Hallowe’en period. Other events could be part of Wildland’s future, Lord Wessex believes.

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