The expression ‘the tide has turned’ sums up succinctly the work achieved by the iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority in the period under review. In the subsequent years building up to this financial year, the Entity has been carefully laying a strong foundation for success. The Entity’s Business Plan and Annual Performance Plan targets set out a clear course to take it to greater heights. It is fulfilling to note that iSimangaliso has succeeded in achieving 100% in the year under review: truly ‘the tide has turned’.
iSimangaliso Wetland Park’s Board, in partnership with Tourism KZN, has developed a commercialisation strategy that sets out the strategic direction for tourism development over the period 2020-2025. It builds on the situational analysis, which reviewed the available baseline information and identified the tourism needs, site identification, analysis and prioritisation process. The strategy has been compiled following eight months of consultations, industry analysis and detailed scrutiny of international tourism and market trends. The Park is divided into five tourism development opportunities within which there are currently 48 tourism development opportunities.
Infrastructure investment is a critical driver of the future growth of iSimangaliso Wetland Park tourism and the regional economy. The provision of superior-quality infrastructure allows tourism and the economy to be more efficient, improves productivity and raises long- term growth and living standards. iSimangaliso requires the right kind of infrastructure investment that will not only contribute to higher long-term growth, but should address spatial disparities, transform tourism and the economy and create much-needed jobs. During the year under review, iSimangaliso invested over R313 million in an infrastructure upgrade and maintenance, including, among other things, six tourism facilities, 16 conservation infrastructures, 12 road networks, 13 boreholes, park furniture and signage. This infrastructure investment will go a long way to reignite and bolster tourism in iSimangaliso and the KZN province.
Since its appointment, the new Board has been able to hold critical strategic meetings with its counterparts Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and Tourism KwaZulu-Natal. iSimangaliso Wetland Park has been honoured by the visit of both the National and Provincial Portfolio Committees. They made valuable inputs during the interaction that will help to build and shape the direction of the Park going forward.
The inception of the new iSimangaliso Board has not been without challenges as it had to deal with various unforeseen challenges presented by the outbreak of COVID-19. From its inception, the Board could not meet physically due to lockdown, nor could it perform physical visits to the Park as part of its induction. Notwithstanding the challenges, the Board managed to do business under the ‘new normal’, conducting most of its meetings virtually.
The Board wishes to express its gratitude to all the stakeholders, Provincial and Local Government, Amakhosi, and Community Structures, without whom the realisation of the set targets would have remained a pipe dream.
Prof. A.T. Nzama
Chairperson: iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority