SANParks in radical rethink

2013-03-27 00:00

SANParks wants restaurants like Spur and McDonalds in the Kruger National Park.

In addition to tenders for chain restaurants such as these and others put out by SANParks, it is also looking for a service provider to build a new health spa at Skukuza camp.

The managing executive for tourism and marketing, Glenn Philips, said yesterday that SANParks wanted to capitalise on the success that chain restaurants like Spur and McDonalds had had among children in particular.

“The children are crazy about the restaurants and drag their parents there too,” Philips said.

SANParks, which has been under fire for some time for the poor quality of its restaurants, wants to equal the service of chain restaurants in order to attract more visitors to Kruger.

“We want to offer what they offer. We want to start doing things differently,” said Philips during the launch of SANParks’ 10-year tourism plan.

This plan has been devised because money is one of SANParks’ greatest challenges, exacerbated by the on­going battle to fight rhino poaching.

SANParks has already lost more than 116 rhino in the Kruger National Park this year alone as a result of poaching. Last year, 425 rhinos were killed in the reserve, and 252 in 2011.

Philips said the battle had “drastically swallowed” SANParks’ limited finances.

SANParks receives 15% for its parks from the government. It has to find the remaining 85% itself.

While SANParks’ profit over the past five years is estimated at about R800 million, operational costs amount to about R1,4 billion.

“If we continue at this rate, a frightening picture awaits us over the next 10 years,” Philips said.

The situation has also forced SANParks to up its rates at all its parks by the consumer price inflation index plus a further two percent.

“We have no choice. The conservation property under SANParks’ management has grown to 558 000 hectares since 2000, which makes conservation a very costly business.

“Besides the conservation duty and ongoing research, 4 223 km of roads have to be maintained for tourists.”

In the past 10 years (from 2002 to 2012), more than 1,4 million people have visited Kruger every year.

However, despite the reserve’s high occupancy rate, the income generated is simply no longer enough.

Philips said SANParks’ only option was to try to develop additional services and products in every park.

He said the strategy tried to develop better ways in which communities living close to the parks were able to benefit from protecting the parks.

“We are confident that with the co-operation of communities surrounding our parks, commitment from our staff and robust sales and marketing, we will be able to overcome whatever challenges might arise.”

Phillips said the “responsible tourism strategy” was an adaptive one that would see SANParks doing things differently in the next 10 years.

“We are not only seeing visitors’ needs and expectations changing, but government funding for the national parks is also changing.

“It is this new wave of change that necessitated a new thinking on how tourism in national parks will be run, measured and developed in the next 10 years.”

Phillips said the new crop of visitors would still be lured to the wilderness, but would also want to do more than drive around in their cars.

“The new visitors that SANParks hopes to attract are people who want to do more than just drive around in their cars in the hope of spotting the Big Five.

“They want to walk around in the veld, cycle, swim, canoe, mountain-climb and eat under the stars.

“They also expect more than a rondavel, clean ablution blocks and communal braai fires.”

The park also wants to attract more black visitors to the Kruger and other parks in the hope that this will compel the government to give it more funds.

Only 8,6% of black visitors currently stay over in the park, and only 29,7% of its day visitors are black.

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