November 18, 2021

How are Zoos Faring Compared to Other Top Cultural Attractions in the Same City?

As we begin the long road to recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, how are zoos faring compared to other top cultural attractions in the same city?

Although the nation is still struggling, ever-improving safety measures have allowed for a recovery in visitation rates at cultural attractions across the country.

As a largely outdoor attraction with much more space than the average museum, zoos were well-positioned to recover faster than their local museum counterparts. During our work with zoos, aquariums, and botanical gardens across the country, we were faced with this question repeatedly: How pandemic-proof are zoos? The result of our analysis is that as cultural attractions go–very!

We analyzed how visitation levels in 2020 and 2021 compared to pre-pandemic years to see how fast zoos were able to recover compared to art or science museums. While all institutions closed for much of Q2 2020 in compliance with local lockdown regulations, many zoos were able to reopen as soon as Q3 with new safety procedures in place (masks, timed ticketing, social distancing, etc.), resulting in a 50% recovery rate on average in just one quarter. Entering the final quarter of 2021, most zoos have recovered from the worst of their pandemic visitation lows, while museums are still averaging 34% less visitors than they had in the years pre-pandemic.

*Data on visitation acquired from Please contact us at for more information on the cities, institutions, and methodology we employed in this analysis.

Not surprisingly, visitation has not recovered uniformly across the U.S. Here are the rates of visitation recovery across the four regions we analyzed. Midwest and West Coast zoos were significantly less impacted by the pandemic than the zoos we reviewed on the East Coast and Southern regions of the U.S.

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