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After a successful career in retail, I have been an operator in the Leisure Sector since 1989, including Senior Executives at Butlins, Minehead and Blackpool. I have also served on the Steering Committee of Natural East Kent, DEFRA advisory committee, Business advisor to Hadlow College, Tourism Champion for Folkstone and Hythe, been a judge for Visit England and is currently a non-executive director on the Tourism Southeast, Non-Executive Director BALPPA (past Chair) and is Chair of Folkestone and Hythe Business Tourism group. 

As Managing Director of Howletts and Port Lympne Wild Animal parks for 15 years, I have achieved many awards during my career including Kent Business person of the year 2007 and 2008 and Kent Entrepreneur of the year in 2015.


My proudest achievement is taking Howletts and Port Lympne from £3 million pa loss to profit within its first 3 years. As CEO and founder of Bob O’Connor Mentoring, I now want to help small and medium sized businesses grow and become more profitable.

Other positions held:

Non-Executive Director BALPAA

Including 2 years as Chair and 2 years as Vice Chair.

2008 - Present

Chair BALPPA Zoo Group

2008 - 2014  2016 - Present

Chair BALPPA Parliamentary Lobbying group  

2016 - Present 

Chair Shepway Business Tourism group  

2017 - 2018

Director Tourism South East

2016 - Present 

Shepway Tourism Champion  

2011 - 2013

Visit England Judge Tourism awards 


Hadlow College Business advisory council

2007 - 2013

DEFRA / BALPPA Liaison Committee 

2008 - 2011

Natural East Kent Steering Committee  

2004 - 2007


Case Studies 

Over many years, I have developed strategies to grow business, from innovative catering and retail outlets at Butlins holiday centres, complete new classes of accommodation in Butlins hotels and most recently, transformation of Port Lympne, from day visit attraction to destination holiday resort. 




James Osbourne

The changes you have instigated have certainly saved Port Lympne from going under……I think that Howletts would have just survived under our amateurish management but not as well as it is today. 

The desperate need for commercialisation was handled with great taste and flare , whilst my late half brother might have blanched at the dinosaurs, he would be surprised that it is all going so well 18 years after his death. Thank you for all you have done to save his legacy.

Damian Aspinall

I would like you to know that it has been an honour working with you and even though this is an end of an era for the parks under your careful and watchful eye we wouldn’t be in the position we are in today without you. As we both know the parks would not have survived. Together we have forced a way through the mire on a number of fronts and having you by my side all these years has been a huge comfort especially as we created our panoply of accommodations against all conventional thinking and standards.


AF has transmogrified Into something I don’t think either of us expected and certainly not as quickly not to mention all the work we have pursued overseas with the reintroductions and I was always aware you supported me in these endeavours even if at times I was pushing the boundaries and they seemed crazy or too risky for most.


Bob you are a great man and someone I have learnt to trust and respect and you should be extremely proud of what you have achieved in your life and I consider myself lucky to have met you and will always consider you a friend. 

Russell McKelvey

I have worked with Bob for 6 years at two different visitor attractions, Brighton Palace Pier and the Howletts and Port Lympne Wild Animal parks. Mutual trust and respect was developed at both attractions, which makes ones working environment far easier to achieve and deliver on expectations. Bob knows what he wants and with a shared passion for excellence we achieved some great results together and I believe this was due to the great working environment Bob created within both organizations. I have no doubt that the rest of the teams will echo this and Bob will continue to achieve and be successful in everything he does .I can highly recommend working with Bob

Angela Wright MBE

Bob O’Connor operates right at the top of the game of attraction operations. We have worked together for several years on the BALPPA Management Committee, where Bob brought impartiality and objectivity to the necessary strategic and political workings of this British association.


Under Bob’s leadership, Port Lympne and Howletts Wild Animal Parks have grown and benefitted significantly. Meetings at Port Lympne are conducted meticulously and in style – which is actually a fitting description of the way in which Bob operates. I was also lucky enough to be among the very first people to stay at the magical Livingstone Lodge on pre-opening night – what a great safari experience – in Kent! The attention to detail alongside sound business practices has meant this unique venture has added to the business sustainability.


Bob has my respect for his complete dedication to his business – which includes the personal and professional success of his animal collections, the charity work, the multi-stranded businesses which he leads, his individual staff and his guests. Whenever I discuss business with Bob, I’m always aware of his thorough grasp of the multitude of facts, statistics and strategy – and his keen sense of value when both purchasing and providing experiences for his guests.


Bob is devoted to protecting endangered animals and species through the work at both Howletts and Port Lympne and overseas. Howletts and Port Lympne Wild Animal Parks work in conjunction with The Aspinall Foundation, which works with conservation zoos throughout the world in breeding endangered species and returning them to protected areas in the wild.


Under Bob’s leadership, his organisation has achieved many awards including Best Tourism Experience Gold winner from Enjoy England, Kent Business Person, Entrepreneur and Company of the Year.


Bob is held in high esteem by his fellows in the Amusement industry, evidenced by his appointment to the Chairmanship of the British Association of Leisure Parks, Piers and Attractions where he makes valuable contributions across the political, industry and charitable spectrums. It's my pleasure to provide this recommendation. 

Alex Demetriou - Managing Director, Regency Purchasing Group 

Having worked with Bob for over a decade, he is undoubtedly one of the best leisure operators in the business. His ability to mix formal cooperate governance and structure with entrepreneurial strategy is a very rare quality, but one that Bob has mastered.

He is not scared to ask difficult questions, but always with one goal in mind - The success of the businesses he is representing. 

Ray Hole, Director, RH Architects

Bob O’Connor is possibly the most experienced Attraction Operator Consultant in the industry. Having operated some of the UK’s leading attractions; Commercial, Wildlife, Retail, Accommodation and Events businesses - in addition to holding the highest positions in the Industry Members Associations - he is my first go to adviser when my projects are at any stage of development or operation. As a Client we collaborated on the signature Accommodation expansion at Aspinalls Foundations Port Lympne Wildlife Park and now often find ourselves jointly assisting other established or fledgling attractions as Strategists (business, planning or operations). 

Adam Goymour Director, Roarr Dinosuar Adventure

Bob has been a great support to me, by filling in some knowledge gaps I had. Bob provided not only great commercial insights to close those knowledge gaps, but helped support me in my way of thinking and how I then approach it with the management team. This I trusted through Bob being a great success in his previous roles within the Tourism Sector



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