It is time for KNP’s concessions to be renewed

KNP sunset

The Kruger National Park private concessions granted almost two decades ago are coming up for renewal. Existing lodge owners had been been an example of successful public-private partnerships. However,  existing concession owners are worried that  new regulations for the second round of concessions would be so accommodating.

According to Daily Maverick (DM), private lodges such as Lukimbi charge R30 000 per night. This 5-star lodge is the epitome of luxury and have held a concession for the past 18 years.

DM said that when the first concession  were awarded 19 years ago, these lodges a new phenomenon to the Kruger and any national parks in South Africa. There is one in Addo National Elephant Park and one in the Kgalakgadi Transfrontier Park.

According to South African National Parks (SANParks) CEO at the time, Mavuso Msimang, “the concessions were introduced to boost the income of SANParks, and improve the brand.” He said that the concession lodges boasted at least an occupancy rate of 80%. All these lodges had applied for renewal of their leases.

Over the next four years,  18 Kruger lodge concession leases would be up for renewal. It would start with the first  concession granted – to Jock Safari Lodge in the south-west of the park.

Current concession holders are worried that the lease renewals would be “onerous”. and thatthe concessionaires had not yet been informed of specific conditions for the new lease re-applications.

The owner of Lusiki told DAM that, “they [SANParks] don’t tell us when we will see the lease renewal conditions. It’s very difficult for business. We can’t plan, we don’t even know if we’ll be allowed to tender in three years.”

Jock Safari Lodge general manager, Louis Strauss, said he was not concerned. He said lodge owners are  kept in the loop at the SANParks concession information sessions.

The word “onerous” was uttered more than a few times by a few concessionaires describing the initial Letaba concession requirements. Among them were claims of lodges having to offer communities equity “for free”, and some paid for.

SANParks’ acting head of its Tourism Division Business Development Unit, Annemi van Jaarsveld, said that for the moment there was no news. “The re-tendering principles would be subjected to executive management and board approval at the end of November. Until then, we cannot engage in any discussions on these principles.”

No one denied that SANParks Kruger management had a difficult job in balancing conservation, financial pressures  land claims and BEE requirements. However, most concessionaires felt that their documents are thorough and transparent.

(It is sad to note that most South Africans would never get to partake of the various offerings of some private lodges which charge astronomical amounts. After all, the Parks and its rich offerings are there for the country’s residents as well and not only for the benefit of the international community and the super-rich. – Ed)

The original DM article had been shortened.

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