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Media Release: No proof that hotels cause environmental degradation in national parks - SANParks CEO

Date: 8th March 2011

Skukuza: Following media reports that hotel establishments in the Kruger National Park (KNP) will bring the end to the character of national parks and sense of place, the South African National Parks (SANParks), Chief Executive Officer, Dr David Mabunda challenged the validity of these claims.

He confirmed to members of the media this morning that it is true that two hotel style accommodations have been planned in the KNP as part of the diversification of product offering informed by scientific surveys conducted over the years.

Dr Mabunda said claims made in the media recently that ‘hotels’ in national parks are incongruent with the character and sense of place of a national park are rather very unfortunate and reckless. “In an actual fact hotels in the bush bear the hallmarks of environmental sensitiveness as opposed to the bling of multi-storied, neon lights and noisy disco entertainment of city hotels.

“It is important to note that hotels in parks are not new and they will never be like those found in the city. “We are already in a hotel business of a different kind that suits our purpose of existence and not that of a city or the beach.”

According to Dr Mabunda, parks have had “hotels” since the inception of the first national park in the United States - Yellowstone National Park in 1871. He said almost all the US parks offer hotel accommodation whose architecture and aesthetics do not detract from the national parks’ objectives. Notable amongst these is the Stage Coach Inn at Old Faithful and the Lake MacDonald Lodge, Glacier Park Lodge in Glacier National Park, to mention but a few. 

The same is happening in Canada for example Banff National Park, Jasper National Park and many others. There is the same trend in Australia (Kakadu Lodge, Gagudiu Crocodile Holiday Inn in Kakadu National Park) , Europe (Italy, Spain, Swiss Alps), Brazil, Costa Rica, Mexico, Tanzania (Bilila Lodge in the Serengeti), Kenya, Malawi (Protea Hotel in Kasungu National Park), Uganda (Muchisson Hotel in Muchisson Falls National Park), Zambia and RSA.

“Today we have better tools to plan tourism products than 20 years ago, including usage of expert planners who have due regard for the environment as much as ecologists and rangers who gave us the previous models, so what matters is not the type of accommodation provided but how it is crafted to match environmental ethos and how visitors will be managed.”

“So, there is no scientific evidence that having a hotel in a protected area has a negative impact on biodiversity - already there are two hotels in South African national parks, one at Paul Kruger Gate and the other at Golden Gate Highlands National Park in the eastern Free State and at these two facilities there is no species or wilderness qualities that has been damaged over 40 years,” said Dr Mabunda.

“People need to realise that we are no longer running tourism in parks on a gut-feel and luck but on industry knowledge and standards.”

According to Dr Mabunda the guests to these facilities will not be self-driving but will be driven in safari vehicles. “It is not true that the new facilities are going to add to the human footprint and congestion on the park's roads.”

He further informed the meeting that the public participation stage on the Malelane hotel is underway and an independent service-provider is conducting the EIA in terms of the law and invited members of the public to submit any objections if they have.

He said the Skukuza facility is still at its infant or planning stage. It will be constructed inside Skukuza Camp next to the new conference centre, replacing staff accommodation and 6 tourist chalets.

Please read David Madunda's briefing to the media.

Issued by:
Reynold “Rey” Thakhuli, SANParks, GM: Media, Events and Stakeholder Relations, Tel: (012) 426 5170 or 073 373 4999 e-mail: reyt@sanparks.org

For Media Enquiries:
wanda mkutshulwa: SANParks, Head of Communications, Tel: (012) 426 5170 or 082 908 2692 e-mail: wandam@sanparks.org

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