Cape Town - SANParks Tourism Investment Summit, which opened in Sandton on April 4, aims to showcase investment opportunities in national parks.
Minister of Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa, who delivered the opening address at the Summit, says that South Africa is “the third most mega bio diverse country on the planet” with “well-managed natural resources” that have made the country a popular tourist destination.
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According to Molewa, the 2016/17 financial year saw six million people visit 19 parks that are managed by SANParks.
Molewa says that the tourism sector is a vital source of investment and job creation - especially for rural areas – and that the government is committed to grow this sector by forging strong partnerships with the private sector.
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National parks, nature reserves and Marine Protected Areas are considered ecosystem services that are Nature’s Contribution to People (NCPs), which are categorised into regulatory, material and non-material.
Molewa says that the Summit aims to showcase the material category of NCP’s that national parks offer, with the minister adding, “National parks don’t just play a conservation role; they also provide business and investment opportunities."
These investment opportunities are part of the strategy for sustainable financing. “The returns from SANParks’ tourism arm are significant contributors to the sustainability of its conservation activities,” Molewa said.
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SANParks began 17 years ago with the commercialisation of national parks with eight sites. It has a total of 19 national parks within its portfolio and now manages partnerships with 54 private sector concessions in seven national parks.
The SANParks Strategic Plan for Commercialisation is being implemented through the Public Private Partnerships (PPP) concept. This strategy earned R101 million during the last financial year and over R817 million since its inception in 2000, through 45 PPP’s including Table Mountain Cable Car, the opening of the Skukuza Airport and a range of other hospitality, leisure and adventure initiatives.
Tourism and transformation
Molewa says “the State will drive transformation of the economy by utilising all available strategic levers - including legislation, regulations, licensing, budget and procurement, as well as the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment Charters to influence the behaviour of the private sector and drive transformation.”
Through new regulations that make it compulsory for large contractors to sub-contract 30% of business to black-owned enterprises, the State will be able to use its buying power to empower small and rural enterprises. “Greater private sector investment in our national parks is a fundamental part of our transformative agenda,” says Molewa.
According to Molewa, the development of sub-sectors of the tourism industry includes crafts made by people living in rural areas, laundry services provided to lodges and reserves, vegetable gardens, fresh fruit and meat supplies and restaurants, among others.
She also notes that “vast potential” exists coastal and marine tourism as South Africa has seven coastal national parks that were visited by more than three million people in 2015.
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