A ZOO that has attracted eight million visitors has been hailed as one of North Wales’ tourism heroes.

The Welsh Mountain Zoo in Colwyn Bay were among the big winners at the Go North Wales Tourism Awards last night (November 23).

This event, organised by North Wales Tourism celebrates the dedication, skill and achievements of the region’s tourism and hospitality industry.

This year, the ceremony at Venue Cymru in Llandudno was hosted by ITV Wales journalist Carole Green.

The headline sponsor was again Harlech Foodservice, which supplies many of the region’s hotels, guest houses and restaurants.

Honouring the animal magic of Welsh Mountain Zoo with the Go North Wales Service to Tourism Award was particularly timely because the attraction is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year.

The zoo opened in 1963 after Robert Jackson, his wife Margaret and their three sons, Tony, Chris and Nick moved from their Cheshire home to Colwyn Bay.

Now recognised as the “national zoo of Wales”, it has evolved during the years and became a charity in the 1980s.

It now plays a vital conservation role as part  of a global movement to conserve and safeguard species from across the world.

The zoo employs a team of about 40 permanent staff - rising to about 55 staff over the summer months – and has attracted more than eight million visitors since it opened.

A delegation from the zoo attended on the night including director of operations and administration, Jen Jesse; marketing manager, Charlotte Dykes; and trustees, Nick and Rob Jackson, who together accepted the award from Adam Williams, owner and operator of Tir Prince Leisure Group.

Jen said: “As a team, when we attended the Go North Wales Tourism Award, we were so thrilled to be nominated for the Go Attraction of the Year award.

"Little did we know that we would walk away with the Go North Wales Services to Tourism award! 

“To say we were speechless was an understatement. This amazing award is an incredibly important accolade for us and is a testament to our fantastic staff, volunteers, visitors and supporters who have made the zoo what it is today, 60 years on.”

Rob Jackson, grandson of the founder, said: “It’s down to us really being a family business and the local community have been fantastic in their support during lockdown and in the meantime we just do all the normal things we’ve been doing for 50 years.

“In lockdown the animals still needed looking after and we’ve had brilliant support.

“We’ve a beautiful location and that combined with the family ethos here, the wonderful animals, lovely grounds and the views of Snowdonia.

“It’s fantastic to have won this award and I’m really pleased for my Uncle Nick who has really known no other job.”

Nick Jackson, who retired last year, said: “I’ve been here 52 years and been raised in the zoo.

“It has been a bit of a shock but in our 60th anniversary year it’s been great to win this award.”

Jim Jones, chief executive of North Wales Tourism, said: “We are grateful to Harlech Foodservice and all our other sponsors for stepping up to the plate to support the Go North Wales Tourism Awards.

“Tonight is an opportunity to celebrate the best of best in the tourism and hospitality sector.

“The sheer volume and quality of entries this year has underlined why North Wales is a truly world class destination.


“I would like to congratulate all the winners but I would also like to stress that all the nominees are playing a vital role in championing what we have to offer visitors from home and abroad. They do an exceptional job in putting North Wales on the map.

“The priority now is to try to get back up to where we were in 2019 and to increase the spend of the visitors who come here by raising the quality of what we are doing.”

David Cattrall, managing director of Harlech Foodservice, said: “We are delighted to once again be the headline sponsor of this wonderful awards ceremony and it’s very much a vote of confidence in the tourism and hospitality sector which has endured such a difficult time in recent years.

“This is our opportunity to give something back and celebrate the achievements of our core customers.

“The fundamental reasons why North Wales is such an attractive place to visit are still there and will continue to be in demand in future.

“We have amazing scenery and world class facilities, so I am sure the sector will go from strength to strength.

“That means that the tourism and hospitality sector can play a big role in leading the economic recovery in North Wales.”

Winners at the Go North Wales Tourism Awards

  • Go Large Hotel of the Year 2023 - Rossett Hall Hotel, Wrexham
  • Go Small Hotel of the Year 2023 - Plas Dinas Country House Hotel, Bontnewydd
  • Go B&B / Inn and Guest House of the Year 2023 - Riversdale House, Llangollen
  • Go Self Catering of the Year 2023 - The Rocks at Plas Curig, Capel Curig, Betws y Coed
  • Go Glamping, Camping, Caravanning and Holiday Park of the Year - Tan y Bryn Glamping & Touring, Llandudno Junction
  • Go Attraction of the Year 2023 - Llangollen Railway
  • Go Experience of the Year 2023 - Go Below Underground Adventures
  • Go Best Event of the Year 2023 - Always Aim High Events, Llangefni
  • Go Eating Out Experience of the Year 2023 - The Lemon Tree, Wrexham
  • Go Tourism Supplier of the Year 2023 - Parisella’s Ice Cream, Conwy
  • Go Young Person in Tourism & Hospitality Award 2023 - Megan Harris, Abergele Golf Club
  • Go Skills Enhancement in Tourism & Hospitality Award 2023 - Rhian Jones, Conwy Tour Guide
  • Go New Tourism Business of the Year 2023 - Tree Tops and Train Tracks, Mold
  • Go Cruise North Wales sponsored by Cruise Wales - Wales Best Guides
  • Go Pet Friendly Award 2023 - Rivercatcher, Corwen
  • Go Ethical, Responsible and Sustainable Award 2023 - Llandudno Bay Hotel
  • Go Resilience and Innovation Award 2023 - Go Below Underground Adventures
  • Go Marketing and Media Recognition Award 2023 - Bearded Men Adventures, Llangollen
  • Go North Wales Service to Tourism Award 2023 - Welsh Mountain Zoo, Colwyn Bay