With year-round visitation on the rise, general manager, communications and marketing, Kruger National Park, William Mabasa speaks to Panayiotis Markides about how South Africa’s iconic national park is a beacon for tourism along with the strategies it is taking to further promote the Park and the destination.
TTG: With Kruger National Park being the largest game reserve in South Africa, how did this amazing feat come about over the years? What is its significance?
Kruger National Park is a National Park, not just a game reserve. It is indeed the largest in South Africa and was established in 1898 to protect the fauna and flora of the country. It is managed by South African National Park together with 19 other parks – a parastatal, which was formed in 1926 as ‘National Parks Board’ to manage National Parks in this country. The Park established itself over the years and become the flagship of National Parks in Africa that it is today and one of the icons of this country through the way that it is managed.
TTG: Please also explain to us the fascinating cultural and historical importance of the Park?
The Park was established more than 115 years ago and it is obvious that some areas of what it is today were homes to some people – the majority of whom can still be traced to the villages that are neighbouring the park.
TTG: What makes the Park unique in terms of nature conservation and as a tourist destination?
The uniqueness of the park is its size, which is about two million hectares – which is bigger than some countries of the world; its rich biodiversity; and the fact that it is one of the best managed National Parks in the world.
TTG: When is peak season for visiting the park? Who mainly comes to visit?
Traditionally the peak seasons would be school holidays but that situation seems to be slowly fading away because nowadays the park is almost full throughout the year.
The majority of visitors to the park are South African who account for 70 per cent of the 1.7 million visitors and 30 per cent come from the rest of the world. The top five foreign markets are the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region [which in addition to South Africa, includes Angola, Botswana, DR Congo, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe]; the Netherlands; Germany; the US; and the UK.
TTG: How are you promoting the Kruger National Park to Middle East and North African travellers? Are you collaborating with any third parties to achieve this?
We are not doing much in those areas at the moment and we are not in collaboration with anyone. [However,] we are looking at increasing our presence in the Eastern Asia block and Middle East. This is an area we will be looking at in the future in terms of our marketing.
TTG: What projects are currently being undertaken to maximise the Park’s touristic potential?
We do simple conventional marketing such as shows and exhibitions as well as advertising. Shows we attend include: Indaba (South Africa) and many other local shows in South Africa; and those in London and Germany.
TTG: Can you highlight any one-of-a-kind activities that travellers can engage in whilst visiting the Park?
A walk of any form in the park would be the highlight for any nature lover because it takes one closer to nature, where one can touch and smell things. We have day walks and trails to choose from also.