SANParks is still under financial pressure that may result in budget cuts and a decrease in maintenance.
SANParks’ Head of Communication, Reynold Thakhuli, told Tourism Update that the national authority was not going to meet its financial targets for the 2020/2021 financial year due to the effects of the lockdown and ongoing restrictions following a resurgence in COVID-19 infections.
He said the relaxing of regulations had helped the parks and they had seen an increase in visitors once travel was permitted, but, with certain restrictions on open safari vehicles and park facilities, there were still challenges to be faced.
“We are 100% open at the moment and we have seen an increase in booking numbers, but of course after seven months with no visitors our overall occupancy is still down.”
Thakhuli said the results of not meeting targets would be severe. “Obviously there would have to be cuts to our operational budget and we may not have funds to maintain all of our facilities.”
The parks are hoping for the return of international tourists, who make up 85% of all conservation fees, according to Thakhuli. “It’s difficult to say when they will return, because we are relying entirely on announcements from the government and, of course, willingness from travellers.”