South Africa: Minister Barbara Creecy – Sanparks Tourism Investment Summit
The Minister of Forests, Fisheries and the Environment, Ms. Barbara Creecy, delivers a keynote speech at the SANParksTourism Investment Summit
Director General, Forestry, Fisheries and Environment Department, Ms. Nomfundo Tshabalala;
SANParks Board Chair, Ms. Pam Yako and Board members present;
Deputy Directors General of the Departments of Tourism and of Forests, Fisheries and the Environment;
Mr. Dumisani Dlamini, interim CEO of SANParks, and members of your executive;
Tourism industry partners represented here by their CEOs;
representatives of organized business and commerce;
Delegates in the room and on virtual platforms;
Members of the media;
Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen, I welcome you today to the second South African National Parks Tourism Investment Summit. SANParks held its first Tourism Investment Summit in 2017 as part of its drive to attract a diversity of investors to its public-private partnership program; the success of this Summit is evidenced by the number of new private sector partners who have since invested in several business opportunities in the tourism services of our national parks.
Most exciting is the increase in the number of small and medium entrepreneurs who have taken the opportunity to run businesses such as spas, retail businesses and adventure activities for our valued tourists.
Today’s event comes a week after the annual South Africa Investment Conference. The South African Investment Conference, as you may know, was launched in 2018 as part of a presidential campaign to raise R1.2 trillion in new investment over a 5-year period. We are confident that the opportunities we share here today as SANParks will help realize the President’s investment ambitions, particularly in the ecotourism sector.
The contribution of tourism as a catalyst for the growth of the South African economy cannot be understated. Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, this sector accounted for around 4.5% of total employment in South Africa and 3% of national GDP. As we all know, this status has changed drastically due to the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the tourism sector.
In 2020, South Africa experienced a 72.6% drop in tourist volume; SANParks’ own drop in tourist numbers was in many ways a reflection of declines nationally.
Damage to the sector is by no means irreversible, ladies and gentlemen. South Africa’s Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan identifies labour-intensive sectors such as the tourism industry as key growth focal points and as such the government in general and of course Minister Sisulu in particular, is investing considerable efforts to ensure post-pandemic recovery. .
The tourism industry is not only labor intensive and therefore a major job creator when it thrives, it is also an industry with one of the highest multiplier effects, contributing both directly and indirectly to several other primary and secondary sectors of its value chain. The central role of the tourism sector in stimulating job creation must be more important than ever. As we speak, it is against the backdrop of Statistics South Africa’s latest report that the official unemployment rate stood at 35.3% in Q4 2021.
Not only will this sector recover; but I firmly believe that with our joint, deliberate and focused efforts, it will rise and exceed all previous thresholds.
Communities living near national parks are key stakeholders for SANParks. The majority of national parks are located in rural areas characterized by high levels of poverty, unemployment and inequality.
In some of these areas, national parks are the only means of economic activity and employment SANParks employs more than 4,000 employees and its concessionaires another 2,100 employees; more than 80% of employees are recruited from neighboring municipalities.
Therefore, in many ways, SANParks is one of the state entities that has the capacity to play a crucial role in breaking the vicious cycle of underdevelopment in these communities. We have specific interventions in our public-private partnership program that aim to ensure that the economic inclusion of women and young people is a primary outcome, as well as supplier and business development – per year, our dealers or partners in as part of the private partnership spend in the region of R75 million per year with local community SMEs, specifically those living in areas adjacent to our national parks.
Our relationship with our communities as protected areas in South Africa has its share of complexities. In South Africa, the very existence of national parks is a result of land dispossession Ladies and gentlemen, this presents complexities in our community relations and specific obligations to these communities.
That being said, these are complexities that we as SANParks are committed to addressing by ensuring that in our conservation and business activities our efforts are channeled towards achieving inclusive growth.
We see land claim communities in particular as our partners; partners in the management of parks and the conservation of biodiversity and cultural heritage; and partners in our commercial tourism activities. As such, as you will learn more about today, these partners are integral to how our public-private partnership business model is shaped.
This model also includes setting aside tourism products for land seekers, a minimum of ten percent equity, preferential sourcing and providing much needed jobs as well as industry training to name a few. .
A thriving, performing and sustainable network of national parks is therefore one that has a multiplicity of high-impact areas for economic growth, ladies and gentlemen.
Our core mandate as SANParks is the conservation and protection of biodiversity and cultural heritage.
Biodiversity and healthy ecosystems are some of tourism’s greatest assets, its natural capital, and fundamental to its long-term growth; after all, leisure travel is primarily driven by the opportunity to engage with nature and culture.
Conservation and tourism are therefore interdependent in many ways. When developed and managed in a sustainable and responsible manner, tourism can play a key role in safeguarding biodiversity.
Globally, tourism revenues are essential for financing the protection of biodiversity, it is therefore appropriate to conclude, as we do at SANParks, that tourism is a strategy for the conservation of biodiversity in the management of national parks.
This means that SANParks, as the largest conservation entity in South Africa, is essential to the growth and sustainability of South Africa’s tourism industry.
As we continue to reflect on the potential of the South African tourism industry, we must recognize that its growth cannot be driven by the private or public sector independently of each other. It is by recognizing and leveraging our mutual dependence that we can meaningfully harness each other’s strengths.
In his State of the Nation Address this year, the President made a clear call for government and the private sector to work within a consensus framework in which the government creates an economic environment conducive to growth. of the private sector – one sector, which I must add, employs 80% of all employed citizens.
Harnessing the private sector to improve delivery is not new to SANParks; the organization has 22 years of experience in managing successful public-private partnerships in the provision of tourism services. Over the past two decades, SANParks has built a portfolio of 60 PPPs including housing, restaurants, retail, businesses, an airport and a cable car.
During these two decades, the contribution of the private sector to the sustainability of SANParks cannot be ignored. At the end of the last financial year ending March 2021, SANParks’ cumulative PPP revenue was R1.394 billion; it has indeed been a mutually beneficial relationship. To underscore this point, SANParks concession revenue prior to the COVID-19 pandemic showed year-over-year growth of between 13% and 17%.
The benefits accrued by SANParks are not just limited to money, our private partners have contributed to improved service levels, innovation, commercial dynamism and diversification of product offerings; it allowed us to comfortably focus on our core skills and execute them.
As we showcase the 100 business opportunities available in our national parks, SANParks is currently experiencing a recovery in our tourism industry. I must point out with gratitude that this recovery has been solely thanks to domestic tourism.
We are cautiously optimistic about the rebound in the international tourism market. Although not more important than the internal market, we must recognize that it has intrinsic merits, including higher spending and longer stays. The UNWTO World Tourism Barometer indicates that rising vaccination rates, combined with the easing of travel restrictions due to increased cross-border coordination and protocols, have all helped to release pent-up demand, which is welcome. bodes well for international tourism in our country.
And so ladies and gentlemen, we are optimistic that we can now look forward to a revival of the era when SANParks was relatively self-funded, generating 80% of its operating budget from tourism revenue. A time when our private partners prospered together with us. We are confident that time is near, and so I confidently encourage you to explore the investment opportunities that SANParks presents because returns are guaranteed.
I think it is appropriate, in conclusion, to leave you with the words of His Excellency President Ramaphosa who said last week at the Fourth Infrastructure Investment Conference, and I quote:
“We therefore invite you to be part of South Africa’s growth story. We invite you to be part of a young, dynamic and resilient nation that is positioning itself at the forefront of progress and change. We let us move forward to transform our economy, to unlock our country’s potential and to create meaningful livelihoods for all our people. And we are determined to leave no one behind.”
I thank you.