To many local travellers, the Kruger National Park represents the ultimate break from the buzz and hype of city life.
So, it comes as no surprise that SANParks' decision to allow a variety of branded restaurants and coffee shops, including Wimpy, Mugg & Bean and Cattle Baron to operate in a few of the game reserve's rest camps caught Kruger regulars somewhat off guard, sparking furious debate.
SANParks was quick to respond to the uproar, explaining their decision in a statement released on Friday. They highlighted three key areas that people seemed concerned about: research done to inform the decision, a rise in road kill due to speeding delivery vehicles and litter due to take-aways.
According to the statement, mounting complaints from visitors regarding service delivery and two failed contracts with private partners, led SANParks to consider the implementation of a new mode Public Private Partnership (PPP) for their restaurants. It was on this basis that the decision was made to look into the options of contracting with successful South African restaurant brands.
In order to gain clarity on the main issues driving complaints as well as the needs and preferances of local customers, SANParks conducted an online survey, as well as an independant one through the University of the North West’s Tourism Research unit, and finally based on this, revised their restaurant PPP model.
SANParks ensured visitors that the brands have committed to toning down the signage and interior décor in order to be in more in keeping with the sense of place. Apart from this, they also confirmed that all operators have subscribed to environmental friendly initiatives, including recycling, use of biodegradable packaging, optimal water use and limiting litter.
We asked our readers whether they thought bringing franchise restaurants into the Kruger National Park was a good move as far as service delivery was concerned, or whether it would impact the unique atmosphere negatively.
This is what they had to say.
What are your thoughts? Tell us in the comment section below
Erich Mayr - Moving into the right direction, at last. Let's trust that the sloths, disguised as waitrons, will be swept up in these positive changes. Would be great if part of the menus would include venison products.
Arthur Dickerson - Any thing will be better than the present food/service
Jack van Heerden - Finally, anything but the rubbish that is currently available
Carina Red-Fox - I also think this is a step in the right direction...times have changed and many people that still love visiting KNP have developed a far more sophisticated way of living...that includes eating at restaurants and frequenting coffee shops while on holiday...the areas outside the camps will retain its bush charm ( if the visitors do not put mementos of their deceased family all over the park ). I clearly remember the grumpy and unfriendly white pensioners that used to work at the park and in the shops and restaurants( Skukuza in particular) and I have to say the current personnel is a huge improvement...
Abrie Venter - This is sensible business and should have been done long ago. I don't agree that it takes anything away from the experience. They have (inferior) restaurants there anyway, and will always need to have it. Might as well rather let people who know what they're doing handle it. The rest camps will finally offer a good place to rest and have a pleasant drink/meal.
Great move on SANP @News24Travel. Those who say its an atmosphere killer are the day-visitors. Makes sense for those that spend nights there— Nsovo Baloyi (@Khalanga) October 31, 2013
@News24Travel Best idea ever, past weekend got a "tramezzini" that was a pita cut in half masquerading as a tramezzini with grated cheese— Shaina Boswell (@Shaina_Jade) October 31, 2013
@News24Travel Not to mention the "roasted mediterranean vegetable" toasted sandwich which was canned peas and carrots... with grated cheese— Shaina Boswell (@Shaina_Jade) October 31, 2013
Lee De Marco - I don't know man.To introduce commercial franchises into an that kind of environment just doesn't seem right. By all means have better restaurants, but let's keep it looking as local and cohesive with the environment as possible. I don't want to see a Wimpy sign as I scan across the beautiful nature before me...
hansieenelmien.myburgh - This is ridiculous!!!! Sanparks are too lazy to operate the restaurants themselves. Now they are selling off our biggest treasure to the highest bidder.
Pieter Cloete - Sanparks are showing their ineptitude again! They are ruining our prized National Park beyond recognition. A National wildlife Park is exactly what the name states a place where our wild life can proliferate for us and our children to enjoy and treasure. We have visited the Park for the last 30 tears every year and we DEFINITELY do not make use of the SANPARKS restaurants or shops ever. See my comments on the Sanpark website where I refer to the bats hanging upside down on a washing line. We bring and prepare our own food as this is part of the experience in the "wild". SANPARKS are not catering for the local market anymore. In their greed they have only eyes for the foreign market with their dwindling exchange rates. How short sighted!
Peter Hunt - I go the mall every weekend and eat at Wimpy/Mug and Bean. We don't need them in the Kruger Park. Will rather do the Serengeti now
@News24Travel Atmosphere killer— Lebogang (@LLroqSTAR) October 31, 2013
“@News24Travel: Kruger Park will soon feature restaurants like Mugg & Bean and Wimpy. Good move OR atmosphere killer? Thoughts?" Worst idea!— Valentino Naidoo (@BulletToothVal) October 31, 2013
@News24Travel Terrible move. Wimpy and M&B must stay in the cities. Absolute atmosphere killer.— Nxali Mkhombo (@Nxalati_M) October 31, 2013
@News24Travel f+b brands in Kruger terrible idea, there have to be places we can escape this "brandscape" we spend our day to day lives in.— retailmigrant (@retailmigrant) October 31, 2013