Colchester Zoo has been named winner of the Accessible and Inclusive Tourism award, sponsored by First Bus, at the East of England Tourism Awards 2023-2024

The award recognises tourism businesses that excel in providing an inclusive customer experience, particularly for those with accessibility requirements. 

Set in over 60 acres of Essex parkland, Colchester Zoo is home to some of the rarest species from around the world.

Suitable for visitors of all ages, the zoo has interactive zones, play areas and educational encounters, which keep children entertained no matter the weather.

The original site, on Stanway Hall Park, was opened in 1963 by zoologists Frank and Helena Farrar. The zoo, which covered 25 acres, contained a small collection of animals ranging from lions to kangaroos.

In 1983, Colchester Zoo was taken over by its current owners, the Tropeano family, and 2023 marked 40 years under their ownership and the zoo’s 60th anniversary.

In 2004, it established its charitable arm, Action for the Wild, and has since donated over £4.3 million to conservation projects around the world.

Next year, the zoo is set to become known as the Colchester Zoological Society. The name change was unveiled earlier this year as part of the zoo’s huge expansion plan, which is set to include an extended safari ride, a refurbished savannah paddock and a larger car park.

The judges said Colchester Zoo is “clear in its vision and dedicated to making its site accessible for all”. They praised the “detailed and thought out plan” to make sure the experience of those with additional needs and abilities is “seamlessly incorporated into the experience from the moment visitors arrive”.

Commenting on the win, Andy Moore, director of science, education and training at Colchester Zoo, said: “It is fantastic to just get some recognition for everyone’s hard work and although it’s just me in this room, this represents the 300 staff at Colchester Zoo and all the hard work that they do.”

Looking to the future, Mr Moore said: “We want to continue that journey of making the wildlife and wildlife conservation work that we do as accessible for as many people as possible.”

The other finalists in this category were Colchester Castle and ROARR!

The winners of the East of England Tourism Awards 2023-2024 were announced at Snape Maltings, Suffolk on Thursday, February 15. To find out about all of the winners, click here.

For more information about the awards, please visit

About the sponsor 

First East of England, part of First Bus, is the region’s largest bus operator, carrying on average 170,000 customers every day on its fleet of around 600 buses. 

The bus operator is proud to connect communities, businesses, schools and leisure destinations across Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk, serving some of the region’s tourist hot spots, such as Colchester Zoo, Great Yarmouth and Southend-on-Sea. 

First East of England is all about making journeys easier for its customers, which is why it is introducing Tap On, Tap Off payment technology across Norfolk and Suffolk. 

The operator also offers The First Bus app, which enables users to buy tickets as well as providing real-time bus information, and has been voted ‘Best in Class’ amongst UK bus operators.