Albuquerque considers contracting out BioPark’s marketing, guest services

Local News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Faced with relatively flat attendance and increased costs amid new exhibits at the BioPark, the city is considering a new partnership that could in part attract more visitors to the zoo and other facilities. The possible partnership surrounds BioPark’s ticketing, guest services, and marketing operations which could be taken over by a third-party vendor.

Albuquerque City Council is now weighing a proposal that could give the non-profit New Mexico BioPark Society management over what it calls “BioPark Admissions.” According to city documents, if approved, the Society could oversee all customer service, online ticketing, management of membership programs and marketing of the BioPark facility and its program.

A long-time fundraising arm for the BioPark, the BioPark Society says it already raises $5.8 million per year in support of the facility. Under its proposed partnership, the Society says it expects “to increase admission and membership sales, increase ticketing revenues to the BioPark and City of Albuquerque, increase Guest satisfaction, decrease labor costs, increase capacity to collect conservation donations and increase promotional activities.”

City-data shows since 2011, the BioPark has seen around 1.2 million visitors per year, but always less than 1.3 million. Meanwhile, the city spends roughly $18 million each year operating the BioPark’s various facilities including the zoo, aquarium, botanic garden and Tingley Beach. The facilities bring in roughly $7 million each year in fees, mainly from ticket revenue.

If they get the contract, the BioPark Society says it aims to contribute 75 to 77% of ticketing costs to the city. However, since it’s a partner organization, the Society says it contributes all net revenue to the city. In the past, the city has taken care of all of its ticketing, marketing and guest services operations itself.

According to its proposal submitted to the city, the BioPark Society is offering to upgrade point of sale and online ticketing operations. They’re also proposing to hire and train all customer service-associated staff with more emphasis on guest experience along with increasing the zoo’s marketing budget.

Analysis from the Albuquerque Mayor’s Office suggests the city would incur no additional cost for the service. The city suggests the contact “will provide an enhanced customer experience which may ultimately result in an increase in BioPark attendance and revenue.”

The BioPark Society and the City of Albuquerque’s Cultural Service Department declined to speak about the proposal Monday as nothing has been finalized. Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller’s administration has recommended awarding the admissions and guest services management to the organization. The Society was the only one to apply for the city’s request for proposals.

If the contract award is approved by Albuquerque City Council, the city could then enter contract negotiations with the BioPark Society. There’s no timetable on when that may happen, or when the work would begin if approved.

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