A lack of tourism due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the subsequent national lockdown in South Africa for over four months, has resulted in hard financial times for the Makuleke Concession in the northern region of the Kruger National Park.
The concession was restored to the Makuleke community in 1998 after they were removed in 1968. Since then, the community has made a living by hosting tourism activities within the concession.
However with intra- and inter-provincial leisure travel still tightly restricted – with only day excursions currently allowed – the community of Makuleke fear the progress they have made over the last two decades is in jeopardy.
As reported by Petro Katz for the Thomson Reuters Foundation: “The coronavirus lockdown has cut off the Makuleke community's source of income, pushing businesses in the conservancy to the brink of collapse and causing some families who had been earning a good living for years to turn to aid.”
EcoTraining, a company that trains safari and wildlife guides, has a camp on the Makuleke Concession. Head of Sales and Product Development, Corne Schalkwyk, told Tourism Update that things had been difficult since the beginning of lockdown.
“We had to vacate the camp once lockdown was announced, and it happened to be at 100% occupancy,” said Schalkwyk, adding that EcoTraining had to assist many of its international students with returning home.
The lack of income at EcoTraining’s camp had meant that 15 staff members had been furloughed said Schalkwyk. “I guess we’re in the same boat as most of the tourism industry at the moment.”
He said although finances had been tight, EcoTraining was still reaching into its savings to continue to support the community in the concession. “We are still committed to the communities we operate in and are supporting them where we can.”