Ashley Mullins heads up hospitality at Jersey Zoo which is headquarters of global charity, Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust. He is a hotelier by training but passionate about conservation.
Durrell Wildlife Camp is not your average glamping site. It is an integral part of Jersey Zoo, 32 acres of lush rolling valleys, streams, waterfalls and mature trees in the most beautiful, green part of Jersey’s most rural parish. We aim to offer something truly unique, and our guests find themselves immersed in nature, surrounded by the sights and sounds of some of the world’s rarest animals.
Launched in 2013, the camp quickly become a standout in the glamping world by winning the prestigious AA inaugural Glampsite of the Year award, which attracted over 1,000 entries from across the UK.
The concept of the wildlife camp bridges traditional comforts of a hotel with a wilder, immersive experience. The camp houses 12 pods which feature fully equipped bathrooms, kitchens and wood burners to create a warm and cosy atmosphere. Each pod has its own private outside area and we pride ourselves on outstanding customer service.
I started working at Durrell in 2013 and was integral to the development and launch of the glamping site. In 2014 I took over the management of the Durrell Hostel and by the end of 2016 had moved into my present position as head of hospitality. Today my responsibilities include looking after the two onsite restaurants – Café Firefly and Café Dodo.
The hostel is important to Durrell’s mission of saving species from extinction. It is the base for the Conservation Training Academy where international students come from across the world. Durrell’s training is a core part of the charity’s work, which aims to enable the next generation of conservation leaders to deliver more effective conservation.
A typical day
As head of hospitality, I oversee the management of a large multi-site operation. My daily journey starts with our reservations, front office and housekeeping, and I always keep my eye on the customer journey.
The day starts before I arrive on property. I wake up and read emails to catch up on what happened overnight. The great thing for our guests is that the camp can operate 24/7 and offers a unique experience. Where in today’s stressed life will you be woken by the chorus call of lemurs? Or where, while having that first cup of coffee in the morning, can you watch these amazing animals sunning themselves in the trees close by your own personal deck?
Once on site, I check in with each area, discuss ongoing items and propose challenges for the day. By 10am all departments have met to communicate their itineraries, after which, it is an assortment; property-improvement and repair projects, assisting with teammate mentoring, picking up guest bicycles, shipping packages, reviewing financials, sorting reservations, arranging appointments. Everything is fair game, which is what is exciting about my job — the opportunity to wear many hats and see the big picture.
I interact with guests daily, engaging with them as I walk through the camp. Sometimes I am met with numerous questions, other times it is just a smile. A unique experience for our campers is our dusk tour where campers get the zoo to themselves after closing to the public. Our guests get to meet our amazing keepers and conservationists to find out how Durrell is re-wilding our world.
Everyone wants to feel special and appreciated. What better way than with personalised stays? We gather information prior to arrival through communication and use that to customise the guest experience. Great service is all about anticipating needs. Every team member on property influences the guest experience, either directly or indirectly, this is what keeps people coming back time and time again.
The truth behind our hospitality is consistency. We are in the business of making people happy and enriching customer experience, and we hope in turn they may be inspired by Durrell’s work protecting some of the most precious wildlife on Earth.
The Dodo and Firefly Cafés at Jersey Zoo use mostly local produce with many vegetarian and vegan options available. There is no plastic used in packaging, and soft drinks are in cans, which are recycled for ‘Cans for Corridors’. This project sees Durrell planting corridors of trees in devastated forest areas to allow wildlife to once again flourish.
Takeaway packaging is recyclable and/or made from vegetables and can be composted. There is no palm oil in any food or products sold.
Durrell Wildlife Camp
La Profonde Rue Trinity
Jersey JE3 5BP