Lessons of success from iSimangaliso: International Tourism Partnerships

10 Jul 2017

The iSimangaliso Wetland Park was recently chosen as the host Park and case study for a multinational team of tourism representatives from 13 countries, including some of Africa’s most iconic parks, to witness first-hand the best practice standards employed by the managers of the World Heritage Site. Protected areas represented included many of Africa’s finest such as the Okavango Delta, Ngorongoro Crater, Selous Game Reserve, North Luangwa, Zimbabwe’s Gonarezhou, Malawi’s Nkhotakota, Kasungu National Park, Lake Malawi National Park and, of course, iSimangaliso.

Organiser, Dr Anna Spenceley of the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) Tourism and Protected Areas Specialist Group said she was “really thrilled when the iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority agreed to host a 4-day meeting on tourism concessions and partnerships for southern African protected area managers. Not only were they able to showcase their strong partnerships with the private sector and excellent visitor facilities, but delegates also gained immensely from presentations made by staff, community members and concessionnaires during field visits.”

“We especially thank iSimangaliso’s Business, Director Terri Castis, for contributing her time and sharing her depth of knowledge at the meeting, and leading a coaching exercise on the use of financial modelling tools. This really helped to de-mystify how to establish value for money from tourism concession opportunities and investors.”

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The first networking meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity / IUCN ‘Tourism partnerships and concessions in protected areas: Cooperating for success’ took place at the iSimangaliso Wetland Park World Heritage Site between 30 May and 2 June 2017. Participants included 32 representatives of 13 countries: Botswana, Canada, Lesotho, Madagascar Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. The delegates were representatives of government ministries of tourism and environment, protected area agencies, and tourism boards. iSimangaliso’s Business Director, Terri Castis, is front centre.

Over the course of four days in iSimangaliso, the delegates worked through a series of presentations and working group sessions that provided opportunities to share experiences, and learn from one another. They shared stories of their successes and challenges they had experienced, and also options for improving concessioning and partnership processes in their protected areas.

Following the resounding success of this first meeting, the group met in Namibia, hosted by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET), and in Mozambique, hosted by the Administracao Nacional de Areas de Conservacao (ANAC). iSimangaliso’s Terri Castis was asked to lead these financial sessions.

“Basically, one of the needs identified was a toolkit to help countries with the Public Private Partnership process/commercialisation. iSimangaliso was asked to host the first workshop and share its experiences and lessons. A huge thanks to Anna and her team for affording iSimangaliso the opportunity. It was a tremendous privilege to work with my counterparts and exchange ideas. The workshops mark the beginning of great collaborations in the fields of conservation and tourism,” said Castis.

According to Dr Spenceley, “The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)/IUCN initiative (with generous financial support of the Governments of Germany and the Republic of Korea) aims to support the development of national capacity and technical and scientific cooperation between countries in southern Africa. The Maputo meeting provided us with the chance to explore concession financial models, discuss contracting, negotiation and monitoring systems – all critical elements for protected area authorities to have in their tool boxes. The networking between countries, and the field trip to Maputo Special Reserve to meet with concessionaires and community members, gave us a great opportunity to understand our common challenges, and learn about each other’s successes.”

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Field trips into the iSimangaliso World Heritage Site allowed people to discuss investment and community issues with park staff, discuss issues with concessionaires, and also see the type of infrastructure to enhance the visitor experience. From top left: iSimangaliso Park Operations Director Sizo Sibiya addressed the group at the kuMziki Lookout on the Eastern Shores; iSimangaliso Finance Manager Basil Bafana explained the process of awarding and managing tourism activity concessions within the Park; Project leaders Dr Anna Spenceley, Dr Paul Eagles and Dr Susan Snyman.

Feedback and highlights

iSimangaliso’s presentations and case studies elicited highly positive responses from the participating delegates about their individual highlights:

Fara Mihanta (Madagascar): “Very good coordination. Infrastructure was beautiful.”

Titie Nkumane (Swaziland): “We learned about the good successes of iSimangaliso in implementing and managing their concessions; incorporating the communities; field trips gave an opportunity to understand operations on the ground which encompass biodiversity and sustainability; the way they implement the processes.”

Lieketseng Selinyane (Lesotho): A highlight was the processes for concessioning (from initial scoping up to signing of contract), and also iSimangaliso as a case study, including the trips to the Park.”

Mayando Chilembo (Zambia): “The step-by-step procurement and contracting was informative and provided a framework for my work. Effectiveness of planning; open mind to conservation and involvement of communities were key lessons.”

Seth Maphalala (Swaziland): “The good practice of concession monitoring; ground breaking tools available for planning and managing successful concessions; realistic community benefit structure not creating unrealistic expectations.”

Ananias Lugendo (Tanzania): “Presentations were wonderful, especially the presenters’ abilities to explain what is being done. We learned how the iSimangaliso Authority involves communities and the benefit-sharing scheme.”

Tsvakai Chiwunya (Zimbabwe): “The iSimangaliso team is switched on, highly confident in their respective areas of operation and the Park is a success story.”

For media enquiries and photographs contact Bronwyn Coppola on 083 450 9111 or bronwyn@abetterworld.co.za.