Editor’s Note, this is a guest post from John Lucas, Director of Park Operations for Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens
Sustainability is a critical issue throughout the world today, and will continue to be for many generations to come. According to Wikipedia, sustainability is loosely defined as the capacity to endure – and this can be interpreted in many different ways as sustainability takes on social, economic, and environmental dimensions. The conservation of animal and plant life remains at the forefront of sustainability efforts, and is a mission and core focus of many Zoo’s around the globe that are responsible for the lives and well being of animals.
At the Cincinnati Zoo, the main vision is inspiring passion for nature and saving wildlife for future generations. Our commitment to conservation is showcased through our global science and wildlife conservation programs, sustainable approach to the management of our facilities, and dedication to education and public engagement in science and conservation at our exhibits. The Cincinnati Zoo features more than 500 animal and 3,000 plant species, making it one of the largest Zoo collections in the country, and we continue to set the standard for conservation, education and preservation of wild animals and wild spaces.
In order to be able to successfully carry out our mission and overall vision we need to make sure we can provide the best possible care to the animals, maintain and open new exhibits, and keep our visitors satisfied and returning on a regular basis to generate new revenue streams for an ongoing business. About a year ago, we had an opportunity facing the Cincinnati Zoo. More than 1.2 million people a year visit our exhibits, and that number was increasing on a consistent basis. Good news, but we had a bigger challenge longer term — How could we maximize the recent increase in attendance and raise guest spending? Additional revenue would allow our management to provide that additional care for zoo animals and add new exhibits to keep up with growing demand.
To keep our own facility running in a sustainable fashion, we needed to make sure we were maximizing our resources properly. We came to the conclusion that technology was an issue and this is when we turned to what some might think of as a non-traditional helping hand for a Zoo – business analytics. Almost immediately after going live with IBM analytics software – the growing mounds of information was turned into knowledge for our staff to improve operations. We were able to increase our in-park spending by as much as 25% by utilizing 360 degree customer views. We turned that information into customized offers and perks for our visitors that keep them happy and coming back, and are now able to arm our managers with real-time data that allows them to react to a dynamic and fluid business driven by seasonal weather patterns.
The results — business analytics has also allowed us to integrate our operations, which means we are running a more sustainable business ourselves. This has helped free up our staff’s time so they can focus on the day-to-day operations in a more meaningful way, while also focusing on the larger picture of ensuring our animals continue to receive the best care. Further, our revenue has increased 350K per year, which enables us to dedicate more resources to the well-being of the zoo animals. In the end everyone wins, our visitors are getting a more enjoyable experience and we can run a more efficient business that allows us to better promote our overall mission of protecting wildlife and promoting its education and conservation.