Animal magnetism – Atlas and Elanor to expand wildlife park portfolio

May 19, 2021 2 min read

Animal magnetism – Atlas and Elanor to expand wildlife park portfolio

Zoos and wildlife parks have been significant beneficiaries of the domestic tourism boom, encouraging the Elanor Wildlife Park Fund, owner of the Featherdale and Mogo Wildlife Parks, to expand its portfolio.

Guy Hedley, executive chairman of Atlas Advisors Australia, which has a 49 per cent stake in the fund, confirmed talks were advanced with a number of wildlife parks.

“We’re in the process of acquiring additional wildlife park assets because it’s a thematic we have experience in and understand,” Mr Hedley said.

Its partner, ASX-listed Elanor Investors Group, declined to comment due to commercial sensitivities.

Mr Hedley said Australia’s zoo and wildlife park sector – which he estimates number about 80 commercial operations, most independently owned – is ripe for aggregation.

A major motivator for Atlas is a conviction that domestic tourism is at the beginning of a sustained hot streak that will result in increased traffic to regional attractions, a trend that is already evident.

Business at Featherdale in western Sydney and Mogo on the south coast of NSW has been excellent since the COVID-19 lockdowns were lifted, Mr Hedley said.

Sydney-Blue Mountains run

And neither operation suffered from sporadic interstate border closures because of their proximity to the large population base of Sydney, Wollongong and Canberra.

Featherdale, however, had to change tack to meet the market.

“Once we got through the rough end of COVID the middle of last year, we started to see patronage in those assets go through the roof,” Mr Hedley said.

“We had to reposition Featherdale, which was very heavily dependent on international tourists because it’s on the Sydney-Blue Mountains run.

“But certainly with Mogo, where it was a destination in itself, we started to get record crowds from the start.”

In for a pretty good run

Between them, Featherdale and Mogo have more than 2200 animals, including 30 rare endangered species.

Mr Hedley said Atlas also plans to expand its domestic tourism investments into accommodation.

Luxury and regional hotels are high on the shopping list.

“You don’t have to be rocket scientist to work out it feels like domestic tourism is in for a pretty good run over the next three to five years,” he said.

“It’s all built around the same thing.” International border closures.

“Even if you get a return to some degree of open borders over the next 12 to 18 months, consumer preferences aren’t going to change as fast,” he said.

https://www.afr.com/property/commercial/animal-magnetism-atlas-and-elanor-to-expand-wildlife-park-portfolio-20210519-p57t7w



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