Archive: Detroit Zoo Boosts Local Economy with Impact of More Than $167 Million in 2018

Five-year study shows average annual economic impact of $175 million

May 20, 2019

ROYAL OAK, Mich., 

An analysis of the economic impacts associated with the operation of the Detroit Zoo has found that the largest paid family attraction in Michigan had a total economic impact of $167.6 million in the Metro Detroit community in 2018.  The study by Conventions, Sports and Leisure International showed an average annual economic impact of more than $175 million over a five-year period from 2014 to 2018.

Over the past five years, the Detroit Zoo has attracted a total of nearly 7.5 million visitors, or an average of approximately 1.5 million annual attendees.  Zoo visitation reached a high of nearly 1.7 million in 2016 with the opening of the Polk Penguin Conservation Center.

Total output, which represents the re-spending of dollars in the economy, ranged from a low of approximately $154 million in 2014 to a high of more than $196.5 million in 2015.   The financial operations of the Zoo itself represent nearly half of this total output.

This compares to approximately 44 percent from visitor spending outside of the Zoo and eight percent from the Zoo’s third-party food/beverage and gift shop services provider.

Over the past five years, approximately 46 percent of the total output generated by Zoo-related visitor spending took place among people residing outside of Michigan.  This compares to 31 percent for those residing outside of the tri-county metro area but within Michigan and 23 percent from local visitors.

“The results of this study underscore the significant economic contribution the Detroit Zoo returns to the community and the state,” said Ron Kagan, executive director and CEO for the Detroit Zoological Society (DZS).

The Zoo also was a significant source of employment and earnings in 2018, supporting 1,916 full- and part-time jobs and more than $65 million in wages and benefits.

The DZS made capital investments of more than $40 million in the past five years to improve animal habitats and visitor amenities.  These include the Polk Penguin Conservation Center, Cotton Family Wolf Wilderness, giraffe habitat, Japanese giant salamander habitat and Holtzman Wildlife Foundation Red Panda Forest.

“The substantial economic growth of the Detroit Zoo and its significant impact on the region enhances the reputation of our community, provide jobs to local residents and attracts families and individuals to the region’s other attractions and businesses,” said Detroit Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau President and CEO Larry Alexander.

The complete economic impact report can be viewed on the Detroit Zoo’s website at