Govt backs Kruger Park 5-star hotel
Johannesburg - The government has endorsed the construction of the first international 5-star class hotel in the Kruger National Park, the Business Day reported on Monday.
The move was expected to put an end to a debate over whether the new development, catering for the growing numbers of local and international tourists to the park, was desirable or would threaten sensitive ecosystems.
Deputy Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Rejoice Mabudafhasi said that the government had been grappling with the concept of development within the park since 1999 when South African National Parks (SANParks) tabled its commercialisation strategy to Cabinet.
"We [government] see nothing contradictory in the establishment of these hotels in national parks as long as they are approved [through] the environmental impact assessments and related processes," Mabudafhasi said.
"We already have an existing hotel in the Golden Gate National Park and even several famous international parks around the world have hotels as part of the diverse tourism accommodation offering," she said.
The proposal of developing two hotels in the park had been criticised by some environmentalists, including former director of SANParks and the Kruger National Park, Salomon Joubert, who said the plan was likely to damage biodiversity.
The park already offered 15 451 beds.
A total of 4.5 million people visited the park last year, with 78.1% of the tourists being South Africans.
Most international visitors were German (29.1%), followed by Britons (12.4%), Dutch (8.6%), French (7.8%) and Americans (6.5%).
The park contributed at least R2bn to gross domestic product.