Our second Q&A of 2016 – this time we sat down with James Dalziel, Commercial Support Manager for Taronga Conservation Society Australia (aka Taronga Zoo!). Taronga operate two accommodation sites, Roar and Snore in Sydney (the “ultimate” overnight experience), and Zoofari Lodge, Savannah Cabins and Billabong Camp at Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo.
CMS :Hi James, what led you to joining Taronga back in the day?
James: After 8 years in 4-5 Star Hotels my next steps would have taken me away from Sydney (namely my beloved Northern Beaches) and my family so I started to look for alternative opportunities to try an stay as ‘local’ as possible. Straight away I spotted a job listing for “Roar and Snore Manager” and the job description suited me to a tee – that was 10 years ago. 18 months later we launched a brand new accommodation site on the Harbour front with significant success. Since then my role has developed and changed but Roar and Snore is still a key part of my responsibilities as well as supporting our other accommodation products at Taronga Western Plains Zoo. Plus, who wouldn’t want to work in a Zoo???
CMS: When we think of Taronga, we all think of Taronga Zoo in Sydney, but there is a lot to more to Taronga that people may realise. Can you tell us a little bit more about the brand?
James: The Taronga Conservation Society Australia is our over-arching identity within which we have Taronga Zoo Sydney and Taronga Western Plans Zoo in Dubbo as our main public entities, however we have a much wider reach and influence than these two sites. The role of modern Zoos is changing and we have positioned ourselves to be regional leaders in shifting focus to conservation and education. We actively work in partnerships with 35 research and conservations programs across Australia and a further 35 programs around the globe. These range from operating a frozen gene bank for the Great Barrier Reef to building homes for orphaned Chimpanzees in the Congo. We continue to have significant success in breeding programs for threatened species and our Zoo experiences now inspire lasting connections between people and wildlife as we aim to create conservation champions out of our next generation.
CMS: You have been with CMS now for quite some time, what do you value most about our relationship?
James: When we first encountered CMS we had a long list of demands that required significant customisation of any PMS system. CMS came up with the most seamless and robust solutions for our unique needs and we now have a square-peg square-hole answer for our various accommodation offerings. The ability to understand our foibles as a non-traditional accommodation provider has been a highlight of the relationship. Plus I’ve found the desire to continually improve and develop the product really positive and the CMS support staff have all been knowledgeable and extremely friendly.
CMS: Now that you know your alpacas from your James Packers, do you have any bizarre stories about your zoological friends?
James: One of the most underrated parts about working is a Zoo is working with the super-passionate keepers. I thought I was an animal lover until I started here – these guys are off the charts. We have on file an old Roar and Snore ‘Adults Only’ tour which focuses on some of the more bizarre after-dark rituals of our residents…..! But to keep it clean, one of my favourite tales is about an escaped Red Panda. Many years ago legend has it that one of our Red Pandas made its way up into the houses of Mosman. After days of searching the Zoo finally received a call from an elderly lady asking for help as she had rescued the weirdest looking cat she had ever seen but it wouldn’t touch any of the sardines, mince, milk or cheese that she was trying to feed it……
CMS: What should we look forward to at Taronga and Dubbo? Any pending arrivals and developments.
James: Exciting times! Taronga turns 100 this year and we have all sorts of celebrations happening. Taronga is currently in its first year as being a satellite venue for Vivid Sydney and is proving to be HUGELY popular. Our actual birthday is the 7th of October and we have a range of large-scale activities happening around this time, too many to list here. Our biggest thing to look forward to are the fruits of our Centenary Plan, a $280M investment in both of our Zoos aimed at improving our ability to care for our animals and to enhancing guest experience. WATCH THIS SPACE!
To book your amazing and overnight experience, head on over to Taronga’s websites for Taronga Zoo, Sydney – and Western Plain Zoo in Dubbo: