The National Environmental Management Protected Areas Act mandates SANParks to create destinations for nature-based tourism in a manner that is not harmful to the environment. As SANParks is primarily a self-funding entity generating approximately 80% of its operating budget from its ecotourism business; fulfilment of its conservation mandate is heavily reliant on a thriving and sustainable tourism operations.
SANParks’ business operations are founded on three important core pillars:
- Conservation – the primary mandate of the organisation is the conservation of South Africa’s biodiversity, landscapes and associated heritage assets through a system of national parks.
- Responsible Tourism – the organisation has a significant role in the promotion of South Africa’s nature-based tourism, or ecotourism business targeted at both international and domestic tourism markets. The eco-tourism pillar of the business architecture provides for the organisation’s self-generated revenues from commercial operations that are necessary to supplement government funding of conservation management. A significant element of the ecotourism pillar is the Commercialisation Strategy, which (through the implementation of Public Private Partnerships) SANParks has adopted to expand tourism products and the generation of additional revenue for funding of conservation and socio-economic development.
- Socio-Economic Development – SANParks has taken a strategic decision to expand its role in the developmental support provided to neighbouring communities as an entity of the developmental state. In addition, SANParks is required to build constituencies at international, national and local levels, in support of conservation of the natural and cultural heritage of South Africa through its corporate social investment. It has to ensure that a broad base of South Africans participate and get involved in biodiversity initiatives, and further that all its operations have a synergistic existence with neighbouring or surrounding communities for their educational and socio-economic benefit, hence enabling the broader society to be connected to national parks.
SANParks is on a positive trajectory towards making the management of its conservation and tourism estate relevant to the people of South Africa and the World, by ensuring co-operative governance and the continued flow of socio-economic benefits.