The iSimangaliso Wetland Park in KwaZulu Natal is preparing a R4bn (€224m) development and expansion of its tourism products.

At an investors’ summit on August 26, the park will present 48 tourism offerings for privatisation as part of its commercialisation strategy.

“We are very grateful to Tourism KwaZulu-Natal, who funded our commercialisation strategy,” said iSimangaliso Executive Manager for Tourism and Business Development, Jabulani Ngubane, adding that the park’s partnership with the tourism authority had been fruitful.

He said developing the park through private investors would be beneficial in a number of ways, including optimising marketing strategies. “That’s what we’ve seen SANParks do and we’d like to replicate that model.”

Another potential benefit, said Ngubane, was to the communities surrounding the park, with whom the park had had long-standing relationships. “It’s important to us that the communities support and understand the tourism value chain in the park.” He added that the way to do this was to make the people feel supported by tourism.

“In terms of the development project, we have earmarked some of the offerings whose profits will go towards the community.” He said investors in the development would also be providing job opportunities to the local people.

The development project will focus on accommodation and activity offerings within the park and, to ensure investors are enticed, the park has already put R250m (€14m) toward developing infrastructure in the park. “We have got a head start on this before presenting to investors. In particular, we are focusing on an extensive road network within the park,” said Ngubane.

He told Tourism Update that there had already been interest from investors internationally, which he said was encouraging. “I think our timing is good, tourism is recovering and iSimangaliso is a sleeping giant that we need to awaken.”

The park’s Marketing and Brand Manager, Thandi Shabalala, described the park as a goldmine. iSimangaliso welcomes, on average, 278 000 guests a year and, according to Ngubane, the park hopes that the development project will increase this number.

iSimangaliso representatives Jabulani Ngubane (left) and Thandi Shabalala are optimistic about new plans

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