THE minister for economy, Ken Skates, has addressed what the future holds for zoos in Wales – including the Welsh Mountain Zoo in Colwyn Bay.

At the daily coronavirus press conference held by the Welsh Government, Mr Skates spoke in detail about the decision made by UK Government following a week of reports surrounding the future of zoos.

It comes after English attractions – such as Chester Zoo - were recently given the green light to reopen in the days to come by English ministers providing they were able to put the required safety procedures in place to prevent the spread of the virus.

He said: “It was only last week that Chester Zoo was informed that it would have to be closed for the foreseeable future. That is what sparked such an outcry from supporters of Chester Zoo - and I was following it, I am a member of Chester Zoo.

“That is what appears to have forced a U-turn this week on that decision to say to zoos that they would be closed for the foreseeable future.

“It would be more helpful to say to zoos that opening of their attractions is entirely dependent on infection levels and that they will be reopened as soon as possible in a safe way - but in a way that does not run the risk of increasing the R level and the number of infections.”

Clarification on what the future holds for Welsh zoos – such as Colwyn Bay’s Welsh Mountain Zoo which closed to the public on March 22 just before lockdown – was also discussed and the minister stated that the real challenge that faces local zoos stemmed from public confidence to return to these attractions rather than a government decision.

He said: “Here in Wales, we never legislated to keep zoos closed. The key challenge for zoos in Wales is not in terms of any legislation – it doesn’t exist and doesn’t stop them from reopening here. The big challenge for zoos here is actually in attracting people through the gates.

“You only get one shot at reopening an attraction. You have to do it in a way that draws in sufficient numbers who have paid the ticket prices to make sure you are viable because if you are not financially viable when you reopen it will be very difficult to then hibernate again and it would be nay on impossible to put your workforce into a Government-backed furlough scheme.

“That is why it is vitally important when we say to any type of businesses that we wish to reopen on a certain date that you can back that up and that will be seen through.”

Mr Skates told the press briefing that about 60 per cent of people say they are still too nervous to leave their own homes amidst the coronavirus threat.

He continued: “Obviously, outdoor attractions by their very nature are far safer in terms of threat that coronavirus poses than indoor attractions.

“I have spoken with a number of my colleagues, with the First Minister, and we are in constant contact with the trade association of visitor attractions in Wales looking at how, with guidance safely implemented at visitor attractions, we could reopen them in the summer. That is something that could offer a good morale boost to the people of Wales, and obviously to the economy.”

The economy minister added: “There are flip sides to every action that you take and in opening up parts of the economy where there is current stress you have to make sure you do so in a way that brings the community surrounding those businesses and attractions with you.

“This is a particular problem in parts of Wales where there are real anxieties about opening up beaches and natural landscapes that form visitor attractions in a way that isn’t managed. So, it is absolutely essential that we have in place public confidence, community support, community cohesion as we start up the economy and as we reopen attractions.”