THE commercialisation of nature reserves in the Eastern Cape is one of the keys to ensuring that parks in the province are used to their full economic potential, according to the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency (ECPTA).
The ECPTA has finalised three small capital activity-based concessions where local businesses can come in and offer activities in its nature reserves, and is in the process of finalising two more, following a call for expressions of interest for activity- based tourism concessions.
Sybert Liebenberg, chief executive of the ECPTA, said these concession agreements in which it gave selected private entities rights to the commercial use of identified nature reserves in the province, would ensure parks were maintained, generated an income to ensure their upkeep and that tourism grew in the province.
Liebenberg said a concession was awarded for the Mkhambathi Game Reserve on the Wild Coast for R41-million last year and the project was faring well, with facilities now being upgraded.
He said three small activity-based concessions had been awarded for the Baviaanskloof Nature Reserve and this entailed hiking, biking, horse riding and camping activities to be made available at this park.
The other two concessions in the process of being finalised are for the Oviston and Thomas Baines Nature Reserves.
“In the end, we hope the park starts paying for itself and that this drives tourism and, in turn, builds the community because one of the goals is that the community living in the area benefits positively,” he said.
“Our aim is to enable private sector operators to become involved in our park commercial operations through tourism activities. Not only will this public-private partnership enable us to diversify our offerings at our nature reserves, it also presents us with an opportunity to promote sustainable development, poverty alleviation and employment creation in protected areas in the Eastern Cape.”