SANParks reveals new 10 year plan

2013-03-27 12:05

Johannesburg - South African National Parks launched a brand new tourism drive on Tuesday, named 2022 Responsible Tourism Strategy (2022 RTS).

According to Glenn Phillips, SANParks Managing Executive: Tourism and Marketing announced that in the next 10 years SANParks will be doing things differently to keep up with visitors' changing needs as well as the ever changing landscape of government funding. 

"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," said Phillips.

He said this new strategy takes its lead from a ground-breaking move that the SANParks Board adopted in 2011, which seeks to define the objectives, guiding principles and values, as well as an implementation and monitoring plan for Nature-Based Responsible Tourism in National Parks. It also incorporates the aims of the National Tourism Sector Strategy (NTSS) launched in 2012 by the National Department of Tourism.

Among other things SANParks will aim to encourage the communities that live around the National Parks to protect the areas by highlighting the benefits it will hold for said communities. Phillips added that they will also be responding to the needs of a new crop of visitors to the National Parks "whose preference is different to those of yesteryear." 

The new crop of visitors that SANParks wishes to attract, according to Phillips will still respond to the lure of the wilderness "but they want to do more than drive around in their car, hoping for a glimpse of the Big Five. They want to be out in the veld, hiking, biking, swimming, canoeing, beachcombing, mountaineering, dining under the stars. They expect more than a rondavel, a clean ablution block and a communal fire."

At the moment the major challenge facing SANParks is funding. Since 2000, the conservation estate under management of SANParks has grown by 558 000 hectares, which has pushed up the cost of conservation greatly. 

 "The scope of SANParks' responsibilities is staggering. Apart from the conservation aspect and ongoing research, there are, for instance, 4 223 kilometres of tourist roads that have to be maintained, " Phillips explained. 

He added that if they had to extrapolate the Revenue and Operational cost trends of the last five years, over the coming ten, a scary picture would emerge. 

"It is estimated that ‘profit' from tourism operations should be in the region of around R800 million whilst operational costs are expected to reach around R1,4 billion, that is a massive shortfall," he said, adding that the fight against the scourge of rhino poaching has also sucked in significant financial resources that SANParks simply does not have.

He said SANParks tourism operates at very high occupancies and the opportunities to grow simply out of annual rate increases is just not sustainable. 

"Our only option is to develop additional products and services that lend themselves to the natural attributes in each specific park, but to do so in a responsible and sustainable manner, thereby still being able to deliver on the core mandate of biodiversity conservation."

Read more on:    travel south africa

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