A new tourism model for the Kruger National Park, which will see the construction of a luxury lodge to service a conference centre, as well as a new entrance, is being implemented by SA National Parks (SANParks).
Building on the Skukuza Conference Lodge began under contractors Murray and Roberts in April.
The 250-bed Skukuza Conference Lodge (SCL) is located next to the Conference Centre at Skukuza in the Kruger National Park (KNP).
Designed by architects Mashilo Lambrechts, the new lodge will cost R230 million, an amount which will be wholly financed by SANParks and which has been included in the organisation’s budget.
Glenn Phillips, managing executive of the KNP, said at a recent stakeholder meeting that KNP tents and huts contain 637 beds. In huts with facilities, there are 2 346 beds. A further 1 342 beds are in family houses and guesthouses.
There are presently 4 325 beds available for visitors. Camping facilities provide overnight space for 4 002 campers. In 2008, 1.3 million tourists visited the park. The projection for 2017 is 1.8 million.
“Emerging realities are placing enormous pressure on financial sustainability,” said Phillips, referring to proposed and new developments such as the SCL. “We need a new tourism model.”
In answer to questions on Kruger developments by TZ Hadebe of the DA, put to Minister of Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa, facts around the SCL and the conference centre came to light.
Molewa said since the completion of Nombolo Mdhluli Conference Centre in 2011, 613 reservations were made for 36 299 conference-goers. This produced revenue of R16.36 million.
“It is envisaged that the centre will make significant profits once the construction of the SCL is finalised and the lodge is open for business,” said Molewa.
She did not answer Hadebe’s question on how many of these conferences were booked by government institutions.
The construction of the conference centre cost R27.3 million.
In connection with the proposed Shangoni Gate, Molewa said the budget for the proposed development, including the gate entrance, tourist facilities, camping site, tented site, picnic site and tarred road, was R263 million.
She said the funding available was R25 million. Roads would be tarred at an estimated cost of R150 million.