Cape Town - South African National Parks has welcomed the approval of a new 240-bed Kruger National park hotel, saying it will have the lowest development footprint in the world at less than 4%.
The proposed Radisson Blu Safari Resort ‘hotel’ will be a full-service facility that will be constructed on the periphery of the park at the Malelane Gate Precinct.
Glenn Phillips for KNP says "the 240-bed facility is not going to be a high-rise building in the mould of the general perception of a hotel with the “bells and whistles” of a city hotel but a development in line with the hallmark SANParks environmental ambiance that will complement its surroundings”.
The lodge is meant to operate at level higher than our ordinary camps in the park, which serves the traditional self-catering market. In the initial fact sheet on the development, SANParks said that "international visitors are accustomed to resort-style accommodation in national parks around the world, and expect the same when visiting the Kruger National Park".
According to Phillips, "there is a demand from the emerging market for a product that provides a full service in addition to the safari experience of the park”.
Kruger currently offers self-catering facilities throughout the park, which are hugely popular but fall short in meeting the needs of the emerging market.
SANParks recently launched their newest camp, the Pafuri Border Camp, but it says these small developments are not enough to sustain the demand of visitors.
SEE: New Kruger accommodation - Pafuri Border Camp - opens for bookings
Phillips says the new hotel development is in line with the peripheral development policy, which allows for development on the outskirts of the park rather than within the park, where there is greater risk of ecological impact.
"The geographical location of the facility will make it accessible for 24 hours and eliminate the undesirable risk associated with late arrivals and driving to the nearest camp," he says.
The approval comes after a comprehensive independent environmental scrutiny, SANParks says.
Regardless of the promise of low ecological impact, Kruger National Park lovers aren't as optimistic about the development as SANParks.
Noel Brady commented on the official SANParks Kruger National Park Facebook page saying, "This is very sad and very short sighted! They can't cope with the current flow of visitors how are they going to cope with that many more?
"Can you imagine the traffic and chaos around a sighting? This will also have to lead to bigger restaurants creating more waste, more noise, more disturbance to the wild life to feed more faces who probably don't really care about the real attraction and purpose of the park!"
Also Charlie Cawood criticized the idea saying, "Money is destroying our natural heritage at a rapid rate and this new encroachment will only serve to destroy more valuable "animal land" in the name of Tourism, which currently serves to top up the "bottomless" pits of our leaders. Developers only see money and do not recognise the value of our natural heritage..."
SANParks however says “all applicable environmental scrutiny has been applied independently and all EIA’s are reflecting the ecological feasibility of the development".
"Its impact will definitely be far less than the sprawling towns of Skukuza and Satara… in fact it should be noted that the total development footprint in the Kruger National Park is still less than 4% making it a national park with the lowest development footprint in the world.”
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