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How To Sustain And Grow Tourism While Ensuring Equitable Access For Citizens


Table Mountain National Park (TMNP) was established in 1998 when land and resources were transferred from the City of Cape Town to SANParks. It is one of the world's most biodiverse and dramatically beautiful urban national parks, set entirely within a metropolitan Cape Town. The primary solution ensuring equitable access was the requirement in the founding agreements that the TMNP would forever be an “Open Access” national park. This came about through citizens insisting that most of the park remain free to the public, with only four sections where entrance fees are paid (Swanepoel 2013). Any fee increases, or changes in the Open Access arrangements would need to be approved by the Park Committee, an advisory structure giving citizens this important power over affordability.

Problem, challenge or context: 

The Park creates significant recreational and aesthetic value for the people of Cape Town. It offers hiking, biking, swimming picnicking, fishing, bird watching, wildlife viewing, etc. all conveniently close to a number of urban areas. Table Mountain, Cape Point and other natural features make a highly significant contribution to the aesthetic appeal of Cape Town. In order to improve its effectiveness, the Park embarked on a management plan that could promote Table Mountain National Park and provide an important financial contribution to national biodiversity conservation. The sustainability of the Park depended on unlocking the full tourism potential of the Park in a balanced approach that does not impact negatively on the unique nature of its biodiversity. As part of the strategy to increase revenue streams and tourism growth in Table Mountain National Park the private sector was granted an opportunity to operate within the parks under strict environmental conditions and social requirements. Both Cape Point and Table Mountain are operated by private entities, as concessions with agreements in place for TMNP to receive a 10% share of turnover. Other private operators have since been allowed the same agreements.

Specific elements of components: 
  • To supplement the dwindling budget allocation from Government and to create other revenue streams, TMNP developed a strategy that would grant private businesses the opportunity to operate within the Park. Concessionaire agreements were negotiated with Parks receiving roughly 10% of total turnover.
  • Additional high investment in infrastructure was undertaken to unlock other business opportunities that would serve other demands.
  • Access to the park was improved to draw more visitors to the Park, the footpath networks and tracks were improved for the use of locals.
  • The uncontrolled use of the park for recreational purpose was managed through an impact permit system (e.g. horse riding, cycling, paragliding, trail running, dog walking etc.).
  • Constructive relations built on trust and respect was established between the TMNP, City of Cape Town, the broader Community, recreational groups, and spiritual groups, community organization adjacent to the Park and the safety and security forums.
Key lessons learned: 

Strengthening of relations 
The Park has a broader economic impact on the local economy. Part of this broader economic impact is its contribution to tourism sectors, as it plays a major role in attracting tourists to the city. The Table Mountain National Park is Cape Town’s most significant tourism asset. Its inauguration as one of the new 7 wonders of nature and the only one to be located in an urban area, has brought tremendous direct economic and socio-economic benefits to South Africa and Cape Town, the economic impact of the accolade is being felt by TMNP. TMNP immensely contributed to the national and local economies; particularly in terms of contribution to gross domestic product (GDP) and job creation. 

Stakeholder participation
Collaboration with local communities led to the unlocking of employment opportunities within TMNP in the form of contracts to maintain footpaths, alien invasive species clearing and maintaining of firebreaks. Temporary jobs were also created in the tourism establishments within the park. Environmental Education As a result of continuous stakeholder interaction and the need to educate communities in close proximity, two buses were acquired to ferry children, students and their teachers free of charge to the Park for environmental education. The imitative built a constituency for conservation among teachers and environmental service providers, surplus funds provided the opportunity to reach out to schools that do not currently visit the Park and create awareness on EE opportunities in Parks. Additionally there is a vibrant volunteer and friend's community. These devoted citizens give freely of their time in order to assist the Park in a multitude of activities such as alien invasive species clearing, fire-fighting, path maintenance, guiding and education. Youth Outreach programmes fall into this category - they coordinate and integrate portfolios of youth conservation awareness projects and tasks. The People’s Trail at TMNP is one such programme and is designed for youth from previously disadvantaged communities of Cape Town.

Impacts and outcomes: 

Promoting the Park and make it accessible to all
The Park plays a major role in attracting tourists to the city. Visitor profiles excluded the previously disadvantaged communities and primarily benefited Caucasians and foreign visitors. The Park embarked on a process of promotion amongst local communities through a permitting system to add to its diversity. The TMNP My Green Card is available exclusively to residents of Cape Town, it costs R105 and provides the holder with 12 free entries into any of the Table Mountain National Park’s pay points: Cape of Good Hope (Cape Point); Boulders Penguin Colony, Oudekraal and Silvermine, as well as to the braai and picnic areas at Tokai, Newlands and Perdekloof. It offers fantastic value as without the card, just one adult entry to Cape Point costs R105.

Secondly, the TMNP My Activity Permit that is acquired by individuals who make use of the Park to undertake a specific/variety of activities such as (dog walking, mountain biking, fishing, crayfishing, paragliding etc.) and/or permits for commercial purposes (special events, filming, photography, tour guiding, etc.)

Development of hiking trails (The Hoeriekwaggo trail)
An iconic 5 day, 4 night hiking trail traversing 75km through the world heritage site of Table Mountain National Park (TMNP), the Hoerikwaggo Trail gives hikers an unforgettable experience of travelling in the footsteps of the Cape’s ancestors and experiencing the unsurpassed beauty of the Hoerikwaggo – the “mountain in the sea”. Hoerikwaggo is a Khoisan name given to Table Mountain by the nomadic Khoi people who hunted and gathered on these mountains. Linking Cape Point to Table Mountain, the trail was constructed by previously unemployed people from the townships of the Cape Peninsula with a great emphasis on leaving little or no environmental impact on the earth. Hikers pass through peaks, forests, beaches and restricted conservation areas of Table Mountain National Park, while journeying through the smallest and most diverse of the world’s floral kingdoms. Along the trail, hikers are also exposed to breath-taking views; and flora and fauna unique to the Western Cape.

Visitor Safety Programme
Providing safety and security for our visitors is a key factor. Currently the Park has a dedicated team of 60 trained Visitor Safety Rangers who are well equipped with dogs, vehicles, and radios who patrol the Park. They cooperate closely with the South African Police Service and ensure a visible presence and rapid reaction to all crime hot spots within the Park.

Financial sustainability
Cooperative relationships built and strengthened with all stakeholders resulted in huge surplus revenue to support funding initiatives that assist the TMNP’s conservation objectives, to fund research programmes within SANParks, and to financially support other Parks to ensure the preservation and conservation of the environment to benefit future generations.

Contact details: 
Bonakele Wana Bacela, SANParks
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