SanParks doors open free next week

It’s Tourism Month and the ob­jec­tive is to cul­ti­vate a cul­ture of pride with SA’s nat­u­ral, cul­tural and his­tor­i­cal her­itage NEWSSHORTS

The New Age (Free State) - - FRONT PAGE - NONHLANHLA MASEKO

TOURISM Month is in full swing, with South African Na­tional Parks (SANParks) once again of­fer­ing free en­try to its parks next week.

SANParks man­ages at leas 19 na­tional parks in seven prov­inces with a to­tal area of more than 4 mil­lion hectares.

Parks are pri­mar­ily self-fund­ing, gen­er­at­ing 80% of op­er­at­ing bud­gets from eco­tourism.

SANParks CEO Fun­dis­ile Mketeni says tourism rev­enue grew by 14.5% this year.

SANParks, through its Ex­panded Pub­lic Works Pro­gramme, cre­ated more than 6000 per­ma­nent jobs dur­ing the past year through a range of projects such as the en­vi­ron­men­tal mon­i­tor pro­gramme.

Em­ploy­ees were re­cruited from 360 com­mu­ni­ties ad­ja­cent to na­tional parks.

TOURISM Month is in full swing, with South African Na­tional Parks (SANParks) once again open­ing its doors for free next week from Mon­day to Fri­day.

The ob­jec­tive of the week is to cul­ti­vate a cul­ture of pride in all South Africans in their re­la­tion­ship with the coun­try’s nat­u­ral, cul­tural and his­tor­i­cal her­itage.

SANParks man­ages a sys­tem of 19 func­tional na­tional parks in seven of the nine prov­inces of South Africa with a to­tal area of just over 4 mil­lion hectares, com­pris­ing 67% of the pro­tected ar­eas un­der state man­age­ment.

In the last two decades, seven new na­tional parks have been es­tab­lished, to­talling over 700 000ha, with much of it be­ing con­served biomes such as the suc­cu­lent Ka­roo and the fyn­bos ar­eas.

Parks are pri­mar­ily self-fund­ing, gen­er­at­ing 80% of op­er­at­ing bud­gets from eco tourism.

SANParks CEO Fun­dis­ile Mketeni said they wit­nessed a cor­re­spond­ing in­crease in the tourism rev­enue, which grew by 14.5% from the pre­vi­ous year.

“Over­all, SANParks’ per­for­mance in the 2016/17 fi­nan­cial year has been im­pres­sive and to­tal rev­enue in the last fi­nan­cial year was about R2bn, or R221m more than ex­pected,” Mketeni said.

Con­ser­va­tion fee in­come grew by 28%, ac­com­mo­da­tion in­come in­creased by 8% and in­come from con­ces­sion­aire fees by 6%.

Key to the sus­tain­abil­ity of the eco­tourism busi­ness is a mar­ket­ing strat­egy that at­tracts growth mar­kets, a prod­uct de­vel­op­ment strat­egy con­gru­ent with needs and pref­er­ences of all mar­kets and pub­lic pri­vate part­ner­ships that lever­age pri­vate cap­i­tal and ex­per­tise in di­ver­si­fy­ing fa­cil­i­ties.

The year 2016-17 for SANParks brought a record break­ing 14.1% growth in tourist num­bers.

“We had about 6.7 mil­lion guests vis­it­ing SANParks des­ti­na­tions, with an in­crease in tourism rev­enues by 15%,” the SANParks CEO said.

In the 2016-17 fi­nan­cial year, about 68% of vis­i­tors were lo­cals.

Vis­i­tor num­bers have been in­creas­ing steadily, with SANParks record­ing growth in this key in­di­ca­tor of 5%, 5.9%, 6.6%, 6.1% and 14.1% growth in the years 2012-13, 2013-14, 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17 re­spec­tively, av­er­ag­ing 7.54% growth in the five years.

Na­tional parks are strate­gi­cally lo­cated and can thus play a crit­i­cal role as cat­a­lysts and driv­ers of lo­cal eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, par­tic­u­larly in the ru­ral ar­eas.

“SANParks is per­fectly po­si­tioned to ad­dress the press­ing eco­nomic and so­cial is­sues fac­ing our so­ci­ety – par­tic­u­larly through the pro­vi­sion of jobs for ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties liv­ing near these con­ser­va­tion ar­eas and the pro­vi­sion of sup­port for small, medium and mi­cro en­ter­prises,” Dr Edna Molewa, Min­is­ter of Wa­ter and En­vi­ron­men­tal Af­fairs said.

SANParks, through its Ex­panded Pub­lic Works Pro­gramme (EPWP), cre­ated 6013 full time equiv­a­lent jobs dur­ing the past year through a di­verse range of projects such as the en­vi­ron­men­tal mon­i­tor pro­gramme and the eco-fur­ni­ture pro­gramme.

Em­ploy­ees were re­cruited from 360 com­mu­ni­ties ad­ja­cent to na­tional parks, cre­at­ing tem­po­rary em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties for 11879 peo­ple, while youth made up 70%, women 55% and peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties 2% of all jobs cre­ated.

In ad­di­tion, over the past year, 856 SMMEs were sup­ported by the pro­gramme and R193m was paid to these small con­trac­tors.

PIC­TURE: BIOSPHOTO

BACK TO NA­TURE: Vis­i­tors can view quiver trees in the koker­boom for­est of Na­maqua­land among other at­trac­tions free of charge next week dur­ing the SANParks Tourism Month pro­mo­tion.

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