A man looks out for animals along the banks of the Sabie River at the Skukuza Rest Camp. File picture: Karen Sandison/African News Agency (ANA)
Johannesburg - My wife and I have been regular visitors to the Kruger National Park ever since we married in 1965. In those days, we could afford to visit up to three times a year.

When we progressed to well over 70, we were grateful for the senior citizens discount we originally received.

Then one year they drastically cut the concession and we found that we would only receive the benefit at certain times of the year.

The better concessions were given from about January 15 to March 19 and also from October 10 to November 28.

Note that these dates are at the hottest time of the year.

The third concession is from about May 5 to June 13, which doesn’t include most of the better camps in the park and is basically for camps north of Satara.

Looking at the senior citizen discounts for 2019, I note that they have reduced the discount during the May-June period at Pretoriuskop and Shimuwini from 40% down to 20%, and removed Malelane entirely.

SANParks is obviously doing its level best to get rid of senior citizens, even though we have supported them for more than 50 years.

Their prices without discount are prohibitive for most average senior citizens.

About four or five years ago they also discontinued issuing wild cards to over-70s. Would it really have crippled SANParks financially to have kept on giving wild cards to senior citizens?

I had ideas of celebrating my 80th birthday at the end of March next year in the Kruger, but that is now possibly only a pipe dream.

I can see that soon we senior citizens will be saying “thanks for nothing, SANParks”.

Wesley Stevens

Joburg

SANParks responds: 

The senior citizen discount framework is revised on an annual basis, and as per SANParks pricing policy done so on yielding principles.

This implies that facilities that operate at increasing occupancies will have their discounts reduced, while facilities that operate at diminishing occupancies will have their discounts increased.

SANParks is reliant on its own revenue to a very significant degree in order to execute and fund its mandate of managing national parks on behalf of South Africans.

This in an environment of growth in expenses (for example, anti-poaching) at a higher rate than growth in revenue.

We acknowledge the difficulty that many South Africans, including senior citizens, have in affording to visit and/or stay in national parks.

We try to make it possible for as many as possible income groups to access their natural heritage by, among others, maintaining the budget accommodation in many camps, even the very popular ones such as Lower Sabie and Skukuza.

We further believe that the framework provides ample opportunity for senior citizens to still choose an attractive itinerary at discounted rates in the Kruger National Park (and others) over the indicated timeslots (https://www.sanparks.org/docs/tourism_tariffs/SeniorCitizenDiscount2018.pdf).

I trust that Mr Stevens will understand our position and that financial sustainability is of crucial importance to the well-being of SANParks and hoping that he will be able to enjoy the national parks for many more years to come.

Joep Stevens

General Manager, Revenue and Yield, SA National Parks

* The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.