Pretoria - Of the 75 percent of all visitors to national parks who are South African, only 26 percent are black, says South African National Parks (SANParks), which released its latest statistics at a National Press Club event in Pretoria.
The statistics were measured at selected parks and did not include all 20 of them.
General manager, strategic tourism services at SANParks, Joep Stevens, said that although tourism performance for the 2015 to 2016 financial year had improved, the organisation was concerned about the scarcity of black tourists in the country’s parks.
While the numbers were steadily growing they were low, even though there was a growing black middle class in the country.
“The research looked at black people in terms of the government definition of what black means in South Africa,” said Stevens.
In 2011 to 2012, the number of black domestic guests to parks was 386 324 but this grew to 554 565 in 2015 to 2016.
Stevens said the number was extremely low in comparative terms.
It would be welcomed if black people embraced the culture of visiting the country’s national parks, he said.
The number of guests to national parks grew from 5 535 095 in the 2013 to 2014 financial year to 5 917 741 in 2015 to 2016.
SANParks was very excited about this figure because it meant that more South Africans and international tourists were becoming interested in the country’s 20 national parks.
According to the statistics released by SANParks, 73.6 percent of all visitors to the parks were South Africans, 1.8 percent of visitors were from the Southern African Development Community and 24.6 percent were international visitors.
Hapiloe Sello, managing executive, tourism development and marketing, said there was still a lot to be done in terms of marketing SANParks because it was clear that a lot of black people still had negative perceptions about the country’s national parks.
She said not only did SANparks recognise the paucity of blacks visiting the country’s 20 national parks, but also felt there was a huge gap that ought to be closed when it came to young visitors to the parks.
“Young people say that there are no diverse activities in the parks; some even ask what they will do at the parks,” she said.
“They had no idea that we have diversified activities in the parks.
“These are some of the misconceptions we must change, and to achieve that we rely on the media to help us promote the country’s national parks,” said Hapiloe.
To promote the country’s 20 national parks, the general manager, media,events and stakeholder relations, Reynold Thakhuli, said that SANParks would open its doors for free in September as part of the annual South African National Parks Week.
“The campaign under the established theme Know Your National Parks’ will allow locals with valid identity documents an opportunity to spend a day at a national park of their choice, free of charge,” said Thakhuli.
According to Thakhuli, 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.
“When people start to take pride in the national parks, then we believe that they will start to understand the importance of conservation,” he said.