11 December 2003
The Greater St Lucia Wetland Park, the jewel of South Africa’s north-eastern coastline, is set for R432-million in development which will create thousands of jobs and make the World Heritage Site one of the country’s premier eco-tourism destinations.
This follows the announcement by Environmental Affairs and Tourism Minister Valli Moosa of eight concession deals that will see the development of lodges, self-catering resorts, camping facilities and adventure travel activities at eight sites in the park.
The investment is expected to create 900 permanent and thousands of temporary jobs in KwaZulu-Natal.
More than 800 new and upgraded rooms will be developed, offering a range of luxury and affordable accommodation to domestic and international tourists.
The new facilities at the park will accommodate between 80 000 and 100 000 guests a year, who will spend about 200 000 nights in the park annually, generating over R300-million a year in direct spending.
This excludes the “knock-on” effect of secondary development, indirect expenditure and ancillary spending in and around the region.
“This latest investment is the culmination of efforts by the national government to uplift one of the poorest regions in the country,” Moosa said, adding that it was a major step in the transformation of the tourism industry.
“The developers represent investment companies with more than 70% black ownership, demonstrating in another way how tourism can be used to restructure the ownership of the country’s economy, and setting a new record in black economic empowerment.”
Up to 50% of the construction work for the new resorts will be conducted by local small businesses.
The development forms part of national government’s Lubombo Spatial Development Initiative, which has so far seen the completion of the Lubombo road from Durban to the Mozambique border.
It follows the successful implementation of a malaria control programme which has resulted in a decrease in infection rates in the area of up to 94%, and the consolidation and redevelopment of the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park under a new dedicated World Heritage authority.
This has included the reintroduction onto the shores of Lake St Lucia of the oldest, fastest and largest land mammals – the rhino, cheetah and elephant – which now live alongside the oldest and largest sea mammals, whales and turtles.
“The Greater St Lucia Wetland Park is set to become an international model of the way in which the protection of wilderness can contribute to the alleviation of poverty and benefit social groups way beyond their boundaries – in accordance with new conservation principles recently adopted at World Summit on Sustainable Development as well as the World Parks Congress in Durban,” Moosa said.
Moosa said the investments will conform to strict international guidelines designed to preserve the biological diversity of the St Lucia Wetland Park, and the developers will be obliged to conduct environmental impact assessments at their sites.