Make your mark in SA's National Parks: 54 New eco-tourism opportunities to embrace

2017-04-10 14:46 - Louzel Lombard Steyn
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Cape Town - Travellers to South Africa's National Parks can expect some exciting new additions in the coming decade, including new adventure activities, accommodation and more, all focused on the expansion of SA's eco-tourism offering. 

A total of 54 new eco-tourism investment opportunities has been unveiled for 10 of SA's National Parks, namely Addo Elephant, Agulhas, Garden Route, Golden Gate, Groenkloof (the SANParks Head Office) Karoo, Kruger, Marakele, Table Mountain as well as West Coast National Parks. 

The new public–private partnerships (PPPs) include opportunities to implement and run activities, restaurants and retail, accommodation as well as lodge concessions. 

Some of the exciting opportunities include the chance to offer commercial helicopter flights to Bird Island in Addo Elephant National Park, to develop cross-border tours in the Maloti-Drakensberg Transfrontier Conservation Area in the Golden Gate Highlands National Park, to erect and manage mobile tented camps in the Kruger National Park and to create and manage events - including weddings - in the Kruger. 

You can view all the development opportunities in the 10 outlined National Parks here

According to Hapiloe Sello, Managing Executive for SANParks Tourism Development and Marketing, "The opportunities are derived from the SANParks 2022 Responsible Tourism Strategy, which is premised on connecting to a broader South African society without compromising conservation standards. 

He says the new PPPs will operate with the "aim of filling major product gaps to widen the appeal of the parks to new markets while ensuring that the principal drawcards to our parks are not diluted and continue to hold appeal for our loyal traditional markets."

Entering the commercialization phase 

The announcement, made by SANParks CEO Fundisile Mketeni, saying that "SANParks is embarking on a new phase of its commercialization strategy". 

Speaking at the SANParks Tourism Investment Summit in Sandton last week, Mketeni outlined successful public–private partnerships currently in operation such as the Table Mountain Cable Car, the Skukuza Airport as well as a range of other 5-star lodges, restaurants and adventure activities as an example of how SANParks investment opportunities are able to be utilized. 

According to SA's Minister of Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa, “Nature-based tourism has grown in popularity worldwide and it is recognised as a driver and critical component to the sustainability and efficacy of conservation management.” 

Accentuating the inter-dependency between the private and public sectors and the pivotal role the effective management of South Africa’s conservation estate plays in enhancing the country’s allure to tourists, Molewa stated that as the third-most mega-biodiverse country on the planet, South Africa’s well-managed natural resources have made it a premier tourist destination.

SEE: How can you help protect Kruger National Park?

Conservation before tourism 

SA's national parks recorded over 6 million visitors in the past year, a figure which holds immense tourism and economic growth potential. SANParks' Vision 2040 estimates the growth of visitors to the 19 parks at 17 million in the next two decades.  

HAVE YOU SEEN: How SANParks aims to improve on 6m visitors to its 19 parks in 2017

To date, SANParks has garnered 45 PPP’s that have contributed to infrastructure developments worth over R712 million and guaranteed small, medium, micro enterprises spend of R57 million per annum. But going forward, there will be an even greater investment into SANParks and its eco-tourism facilities. 

In relation to the National Development Plan (NDP), the Minister also said that SANParks' plan highlights tourism as a sector where millions of jobs can be created, small businesses can be developed, and spin-off investments can take place.

Despite the massive plans for eco-tourism development and the economic potential it holds, SANParks Chairperson of the Board Joanne Yawitch emphasised that “SANParks are conservationists doing tourism and not the other way round.” 

No time wasted 

Development plans with strict environmental requirements are already underway in some of the aforementioned parks. Most prominent, is the announcement of the new R269.5m Skukuza Safari Lodge to open in Kruger in 2018, along with five other major developments in the Kruger National Park. 

SEE: 5 New Kruger developments you need to know about 

On a more technical level, the implementation of the new Postcode Meerkat Innovative wide area surveillance technology, as well as e-guides aimed at helping visitors spot more wildlife all fall within the eco-tourism development of SA's most iconic wildlife destination. 

SEE: Self-drives made easy: Kruger e-guide helps you spot more wildlife

In the Garden Route National Park too, a new zipline attraction in the park near Knysna and Plettenberg will also be a hit with visitors. Guests will zipline in a massive gorge with a fantastic view over the ocean below. 

SEE  PICS: New zipline attraction coming to coastal area of Garden Route National Park

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