SANParks has released a statement stating that there is no proof that hotels cause environmental degradation. This is in response to reports that have said that the two hotels planned for the Kruger National Park (KNP) will bring the end to the character of national parks and sense of place.
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SANParks CEO, David Mabunda, says: “In an actual fact hotels in the bush bear the hallmarks of environmental sensitiveness as opposed to the bling of multi-storied, neon lights and noisy disco entertainment of city hotels. It is important to note that hotels ın parks are not new and they will never be like those found in the city. We are already in a hotel business of a different kind that suits our purpose of existence and not that of a city or the beach.”
According to Mabunda, parks have had hotels since the inception of the first national park in the United States – Yellowstone National Park in 1871. He said almost all the US parks offer hotel accommodation whose architecture and aesthetics do not detract from the national parks’ objectives. Notable amongst these is the Stage Coach Inn at Old Faithful and the Lake MacDonald Lodge, Glacier Park Lodge in Glacier National Park, to mention but a few. He says the same is happening in Canada, Australia, Europe, Brazil, Costa Rica, Mexico, Tanzania, Kenya, Malawi, Uganda and Zambia.
“Today we have better tools to plan tourism products than 20 years ago, including usage of expert planners who have due regard for the environment as much as ecologists and rangers who gave us the previous models, so what matters is not the type of accommodation provided but how it is crafted to match environmental ethos and how visitors will be managed.”
“So, there is no scıentıfıc evidence that having a hotel in a protected area has a negative impact on bıodıversıty – already there are two hotels in South African national parks, one at Paul Kruger Gate and the other at Golden Gate Highlands National Park in the eastern Free State and at these two facilities there no species or wilderness qualities have been damaged in over 40 years ,” says Mabunda.
“People need to realise that we are no longer running tourism in parks on a gut-feel and luck, but on industry knowledge and standards.”
He further informed the meeting that the public partıcıpatıon stage on the Malelane hotel is underway and an independent service-provider is conducting the EIA in terms of the law and invited members of the public to submit any objections if they have.
He said the Skukuza facility is still in a planning stage. It will be constructed ınsıde Skukuza Camp next to the new conference centre, replacing staff accommodation and six tourist chalets.