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The 150% increase in conservation fees that Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife had announced for tour operators from March 1 will not take effect.
Last week, Jeffrey Zikhali, spokesperson for the KZN Department of Agriculture and Environmental Affairs, told Tourism Update tour groups would have to pay an additional R300 for entrance to Hluhluwe, and that the new fees were market-related. “We do not believe that the hike will stop visitors who planned to visit Hluhluwe. The increase will give us extra money that we can plough back into our marketing initiatives. There is not much difference between the new tariffs and what Kruger National Park is currently charging.”
Zikhali said that, although Ezemvelo had made every effort to avoid price increases, this was no longer possible as a result of the increasing overheads the organisation faced. “With the last increase in labour and associated costs, we have had no option but to increase the entrance tariff at all of Ezemvelo’s facilities.”
Tour operators in KwaZulu Natal strongly objected to the planned increase saying it would have massive repercussions for the tourism industry. They said it would see international tourism organisations re-route their clients to other reserves.
To voice the concerns of the industry, the Southern Africa Tourism Services Association (SATSA), together with the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA), secured a meeting with the CEO of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife. The outcome of the meeting led to the suspension of the increase in fees.
The key points agreed during the meeting were:
• The expected increase of entrance fees on March 1 has been postponed until November 1.
• On November 1 the entrance fees will go up by 20%.
• The increments for the years following will be phased in once negotiated with the private sector using the structures proposed in the meeting.
SATSA further communicated that the private sector would, from now on, engage with Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife on a regular basis, both at a high level under the leadership of the TBCSA and at local level under the leadership of SATSA.
CEO of SATSA, David Frost, said: “I would like to thank the CEO of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, Dr. Mkhize, and his team, for the vision he is crafting for the way forward. I am encouraged at the willingness to on-going engagement and input, which can only augur well for increased competitiveness.”