Zoo given a black eye over net panda booking system

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CONCERNS have been raised over the new ticket system for Edinburgh Zoo’s star panda attraction after it emerged the majority of visitors will have to book online.

Many of those hoping to catch a glimpse of Tian Tian and Yang Guang will have to pre-order tickets in advance, causing potential problems for tourists or those without internet access.

The zoo said a number of tickets would be made available for visitors when they arrived, but admitted most – around 70 per cent – will have to be pre-booked.

The number available on arrival will be reduced in the weeks or months following the arrival of the Chinese pair, and visitors will be encouraged to book in advance to allow the zoo to manage queues.

There will be no extra charges to see the pandas, who will be housed in a newly built enclosure behind bulletproof glass, and the new ticket system has been set up to manage the huge number of visitors expected to descend on the attraction.

Doug Anthony, spokesman for Age Scotland, said the system could be a problem for older visitors.

He said: “It would be wrong to assume that older people aren’t accessing the internet and they are a fast growing group of users, so there will be many older people for whom this is a good opportunity.

“However, there remains a large proportion of older people who are unable or unwilling to get online and it does certainly disadvantage them.

“We hear from our members quite often that they’re unhappy with the way many services are increasingly provided online only so this seems to be something that is unfair.

“Perhaps we would ask Edinburgh Zoo to reconsider and widen the access.”

The zoo said time-ticketing will be in operation, with visitors able to select in advance a visiting time in half-hourly intervals, subject to availability.

Around 30 per cent of ‘on the day’ tickets will be at the zoo itself, but the zoo said to guarantee viewing and to avoid disappointment, visitors were advised to pre-book online.

Hugh Roberts, chief executive of the RZSS, which owns Edinburgh Zoo, said: “A lot of careful planning has gone into our ticketing strategy.

“We want as many people as possible to view our giant pandas in a comfortable and accessible environment, and our advance-booking system will allow us to do this.

“Our aim is to allow a steady flow of visitors through both viewing areas of the enclosure throughout the day.”