Anthony Benadie MPL
Provincial Leader – Mpumalanga
Mpumalanga’s flagging tourism industry can be rescued from further decline if government takes a bold step, places all of its game lodges under concession management, increasing job creation, infrastructure improvement and revenue generation.
Provincial parks in Mpumalanga are in a sorry state, and the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency (MTPA) lacks the funds to maintain and improve infrastructure. As parks, lodges and attractions steadily decline, so is the revenue stream.
Premier David Mabuza last year announced that R44 million would be made available to upgrade and improve the infrastructure at the Songimvelo, Loskop, Blyde and Manyelethi reserves, but these funds were channelled away “to deal with pressing commitments”, such as salaries and bad debts.
This year, yet another R33 million was made available, but given the MTPA’s continued deplorable financial situation, it raises the concern that these funds too will go to other “pressing commitments”.
Government cannot continue to throw good money after bad, and has to take the bold step to explore the possibilities of placing game lodges in our reserves and tourist attractions under private concession.
The benefits of such a move are obvious:
- The MTPA would only be required to create the environment for tourism to flourish, while not having to deal with the day-to-day operations of these facilities;
- More funds will be freed up to market Mpumalanga both locally and internationally;
- More funds will be available to improve conservation practices;
- The MTPA revenue stream as will increase from levies and conservation fees, making it less dependent on provincial government – and making more funds available for government’s crucial service delivery programme.
Concession management has been highly effective in many provincial and national parks, and by systematically exploiting this option would stimulate much needed job creation and growth for the province.
Government has a golden opportunity in the war against unemployment and poverty, and must take a decisive step to improve the state of tourism in our province.