Tourists are showing interest in Game Resorts and National Parks under level 3 lockdown
DRBAN - Tourists were showing interest in the country’s wildlife facilities following the government’s that allowed for the gradual opening of some of the Game Resorts and National Parks under the Lockdown Alert Level 3.
Last week, KZN Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (EDTEA) and leader of provincial government business MEC Nomusa Dube-Ncube said that in an effort to reduce fiscal bleed in the tourism sector in the province, KZN Ezemvelo Wildlife had opened 15 of its 42 resorts under as guided by the national government.
"Since making that announcement we have received thousands of telephone calls from tourists from different parts of the province, the country and the globe. We have assured nature lovers and the public at large of unparalleled experience of wildlife and eco-tourism," said Dube-Ncube.
In the 2019/20 year, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife received a total of 740,130 total visitors which was a decrease of 5.3 percent(equivalent to 41,778) when compared to the previous year. Of this figure, 581,585 were day-visitors that also fell by 10.9 percent (equivalent to 71,347) year-on-year. The entity said it also recorded 158,545 overnight-visitors which was an increase of 22.9 percent (equivalent to 29,569) y-o-y.
Ezemvelo’s visitor profile for the same reporting period was 83.4 percent South African, 16.5 percent Internationals and 0.1 percent SADC citizens.
The international market visitors boasted German citizens who were the highest visitors with 9,948 people (a 274.1 percent increase) followed by the French with 8,532 (a 300.8 percent increase), the Dutch at 2,924 (a 47 percent increase), the British at 2,451 (a 193.5 percent increase), the Belgians at 1,649 (a 47.1 percent increase) and finally the Americans at 1,314 ( a 86.6 percent increase) visitors.
Ezemvelo manages more than 114 protected areas and close to 42 facilities that provided accommodation to 6500 people per night.
MEC Dube-Ncube said that despite the fact that the pandemic had posed a major setback to the province’s tourism sector, their vision remained that of building a strong and sustainable tourism sector that improved the lives of the people of KwaZulu-Natal.
"I have stated previously that we have resolved to use our entity, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife as part of efforts to attract tourists to the province of KwaZulu-Natal. Once domestic and international tourists are allowed to visit this province, KZN Wildlife will be a game changer" said Dube-Ncube.
Since the implementation of the Nationwide Lockdown, Ezemvelo has had no visitors rendering the entity unable to generate revenue from its ecotourism operations for this period. The estimated revenue loss between April and May 2020 was R46.8 million This excludes booking cancellations.
"However, we can reportthat we are still calculating these losses from cancellations of bookings but at this stage we have estimated losses of approximately R2.2 million," said Dube-Ncube.
Senior lecturer at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Graduate School of Business and Leadership Dr Macdonald Kanyangale said that diversifying the province’s tourism in addition to its popular beach related tourism was a very good strategy to assist this sector to recover.
"Maybe the Wildlife tourism would grow to be as popular as the beach related tourism was. It will also be important that these wildlife tourism is also marketed to domestic tourists. When doing that, greater emphasis should be placed on the pricing of the packages," said Kanyangale.
South Africa National Parks (SANParks) also opened to allow self-drive excursions for day visitors in their parks that catered for self-drives. SANParks CEO Fundisile Mketeni said SANParks appreciated that after two months of confinement, the public would be keen to engage with nature and the excitement that was shown by enquiries from their loyal visitors was encouraging.
He said they were obligated to ensure that the opening of the national parks for self-drive excursions was done under the strictest health protocols to safeguard both staff and guests.
Namaqua National Park, Boulders and Cape Point in Table Mountain National Park remained at the time and the majority of gates at Kruger National Park were opened except for the Pafuri and Numbi gates. Gate quotas for Kruger have been revised to approximately a third of what they were prior to the pandemic outbreak.
Meanwhile, Tourism KwaZulu-Natal and Airbnb announced that they would be working together to lift the sector that was reeling under the lockdown.
Airbnb, the global social marketplace for accommodation said that it would join forces with Tourism KwaZulu-Natal to promote domestic travel as lockdown measures eased.
According to Airbnb data, domestic tourism had traditionally been strong in South Africa making it the second country worldwide in terms of popularity at the beginning of the year. Over 80 percent of local trips booked on Airbnb this January and February were booked by South Africans. Additionally, in 2015, just under 40 percent of bookings by guests from South Africa were domestic but by 2019 that had risen to nearly 75 percent of bookings.
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