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  • Michael Wright

Case Study 1: Tourism planning solutions for protected areas

A key component for the protected area management planning of provincial and community reserves and the Lubombo Transfrontier Conservation Area

Context: To counter the current threats to biodiversity, protected areas are increasingly being expected to fulfill a greater role in terms of generating income both for conservation imperatives and community benefits. Responsible ecotourism provides the significant ability to provide sustainable development and enterprise, while promoting biodiversity, economic and social growth. Hence, ecotourism serves to return virtue and inspiration, natural capital, social capital and financial capital to the region.

The two core conservation areas on the South African side of the Lubombo Transfrontier Conservation Area (TFCA) sorely needing such returns include Tembe Elephant Park and Ndumo Game Reserve. They are seen as pivotal development nodes, both in their own rights, as well as being catalysts to their adjacent community conservation areas (CCAs), municipalities and across the border into the neighbouring countries of Eswatini and Mozambique.

Our Role: With funding, planning and administrative support provided by Peace Parks Foundation, and project management and logistical support provided by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, Sustain were contracted to provide these sorely needed tourism plans. The process included broad stakeholder engagement that also included the reserve co-management committees; the traditional authorities; national, provincial and local government departments and agencies; concession owners; NGOs; tour operators; and other interested and affected parties.

Outcomes: In a passionate effort to provide substantive impact toward restoring these great wildernesses, Sustain offered innovative, logical, sensitive, and implementable tourism planning solutions for these protected areas and the region. Sustain’s wide-ranging tourism solutions provide a critical missing component to the management planning of Tembe, Ndumo, the numerous current and planned CCAs, and the broader TFCA. The tourism sectors promoted include ecotourism, adventure tourism, cultural and heritage tourism. The plans also offer solutions to agricultural and enterprise challenges and seek to benefit each of the communities surrounding the reserves equitably.

Sustain is trusting that these plans will be implemented well by the multiple stakeholder entities, and looks forward to potentially assisting with their timely and thorough implementation. We are believing for great and diverse tourism experiences for all visitors, and for substantial benefit to be realized for nature, the local communities and the protected area management authorities in the region.

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