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Brief history of CWoAR


CWoAR has evolved from its beginnings as a public zoo in the early 1930s to one of the Country’s leading family visitor attractions; an integral component of the tourism offer in the Kingston area, London and the wider south-east of England.


Its success has been due to significant investment over the years directed towards enhancing and improving its attractions and evolving from a day visitor attraction to a short-break destination, to ensure it continues to attract visitors and remains competitive. This evolution is summarised below. 

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View from the air
Chessington aerial view
Zoo Attraction


Site acquired by Merlin


Safari Hotel opens

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Safari Vehicle
Snake Sculpture


World of Jumanji


Croc Drop opens – a 25m drop tower ride – replacing Rameses Revenge in Forbidden Kingdom


Land of the Tiger opens, retheming Mystic East


Go Ape high ropes opens on the south west part of the Resort


Azteca Hotel opens


ZUFARI: Ride into Africa! opens on the west part of the Resort


KOBRA ride opens as part of Wild Asia

Competition and Covid


The leisure sector is one where there is a significant degree of innovation and change including new businesses entering the market and existing ones adapting and developing their offer to attract visitors. It is a sector where there is competition and those considering a leisure activity or experience have plenty of choice.  

The extensive development history of CWoAR has shown that periods of investment inactivity often result in difficult trading periods, with visitors choosing other alternative attractions and leisure opportunities. This is because visitors’ demands and expectations of leisure and tourism attractions are constantly evolving and growing. Investment is important even to maintain numbers, let alone increase visitors, and without investment visitor numbers will decline. The importance of investment and its influence on visitor numbers is shown below:

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Click on the above image to zoom in

The leisure and tourism industry has also been one of the hardest hit sectors by COVID-19. CWoAR had to close completely for parts of 2020 and 2021 and operate at reduced capacity for other parts of those years when it was able to open. The impact on CWoAR’s trading has been significant. CWoAR’s response is to invest, improve the Resort and maintain its attractiveness to guests.  


New Investment


In past years there has also been a real focus on improving the accommodation and getting the site operating as a Resort. The key focus now is to introduce new quality rides and attractions. It will be ‘kickstarted’ by the opening of the new themed land “World of Jumanji” in 2023.

World of Jumanji - Entrance Portal - Press Images.jpg


Zoo opened to public 

Later sold to the Pearsons Group with significant investment needed


Pearsons purchased by Madame Tussauds who becomes responsible for the Zoo


Tussauds work with the Council to prepare a Development Brief for future planned investment at 
the site


Planning Brief adopted by the Council


Chessington opened as a Theme Park and Zoo

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