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05 Jul 2022
TRANSFRONTIER parks are the lure that will bring seven million tourists to South Africa – all with the same dream: to enjoy our wildlife and natural beauty.
This rosy prediction for the country`s future potential was painted by Environmental Affairs and Tourism Minister, Marthinus van Schalkwyk, during his address to the Tourism Business Council of SA, at its annual general meeting in Johannesburg on Friday.
Van Schalkwyk based this prediction on a Peace Parks Foundation study which analysed the SADC region.
“This study found that our region could support as many as 22 Peace Parks in 14 clusters,” he said. The study also found that the carrying capacity of these parks could be as high as seven million visitors a year. As only about two million people visit our parks currently the potential was staggering.
The right marketing recipe, combined with the global exposure SA would receive as a result of the World Cup Soccer in 2010, could see such glowing predictions become a reality.
However, to realise this dream SA could need as many as 15 000 additional beds in our parks – four times the current accommodation capacity of the Kruger National Park.
The government, the minister said, would be investing R193 million in transfrontier parks over the next three years – creating visitor centres, upgrading access routes, building camps and improving tourism infrastructure.
Van Schalkwyk called on business to play its part in this.
Speaking about plans to attract international investors, he said this year SA would be launching a major international investment drive around the commercial opportunities in transfrontier parks.
Countries like the US and Europe would be prime targets. But the focus would be firmly fixed on local investors.
The opening of the Giriyondo border post in August whichwould allow the flow of visitors between the Kruger National Park and Limpopo National Park in Mozambique – was just one of the moves aimed at enhancing tourism.
Pointing to the fact that the transfrontier conservation initiative had originated in Africa, Van Schalkwyk said there were now 169 areas, involving 113 countries and 667 protected areas. “Conservation knows no national boundaries,” he said. “Tourism, and investment in tourism, needs to follow the same approach.”
Official international tourist arrival figures in SA for 2004 were higher than expected, growing by 2.7%. Globally the tourism industry grew by 10%. Africa saw a growth of 7%.
“We clearly have our work cut out for us to take advantage of this growth,” said the minister. Transfrontier parks were part of this strategy