Wednesday, June 1, 2011

T4T Awards

T4T Awards – Park Authority selected a global finalist in the Destination Stewardship Category.

The iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority was one of three global finalists in the Destination Stewardship Category of the Tourism for Tomorrow Awards.

200 applications from over 40 countries were reviewed by 22 judges. The awards took place in Las Vegas, USA as part of the 11th Global Travel & Tourism Summit, one of the highest-profile events in the industry.

The Tourism for Tomorrow Awards, now in their seventh year under the stewardship of the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), recognises global best practice in sustainable tourism within the Travel & Tourism industry worldwide. 
Given the growing concern about natural and cultural resources, these Awards are particularly important to WTTC and provide the Council with the opportunity to promote and partner with industry leaders in sustainability, highlighting the prime examples of best practice. 

Minister Van Schalkwyk, South Africa’s Ministers of Tourism who was present at the Awards dinner, commented that “iSimangaliso being one of three awards finalist is significant for South Africa.  It is an indication that the world recognises the efforts of government through the iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority in conserving iSimangaliso’s environment and developing tourism for the benefit of communities and visitors. It also challenges and motivates us to continue to compete on best practices and product offerings globally," Minister van Schalkwyk said.

Mr Ndabo Khoza says”iSimangaliso is an important provider of benefits to people in the region and key KZN tourism attraction.   This global recognition will help in deepening the many community and conservation programmes we are currently running, and will further strengthen the ongoing ties between the park and our neighbours. It is also a very strategic product for the area and this will help us fulfil our mandate for economic development as this award will help us attract more investors to the area which ultimately create more jobs for the people from the surrounding areas.”

“This nomination is international recognition for the collective effort of South Africans, and all others, who endorsed the vision inspired by Nelson Mandela.  iSimangaliso, meaning miracle,  is a place of healing and rebirth where people and nature connect.   We at iSimangaliso are motivated to continue creating a lasting legacy for future generations,” Said Andrew Zaloumis, CEO, iSimangaliso Wetland Park.

The iSimangaliso Wetland Park, South Africa’s first world heritage site, was established in November 2000 when sixteen pieces of land, covering 332 000 hectares, 9% of South Africa’s coast line (30% of KZNs) and 4 RAMSAR sites, were consolidated into a single protected area under the iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority. This followed the 1999 World Heritage listing in recognition of the beauty and biological wealth of iSimangaliso (iSimangaliso was the first South African site to be listed alongside Robben Island and the Cradle of Human Kind.

 The Park’s attractions include spectacular mountain ranges, access to the southern-most coral reefs in Africa and diverse flora and fauna, including dolphins, humpback whales, sea turtles, black and white rhino, elephants, buffalo and some 250 fish species as well as more than 3,000 plant types. 

In the words of former President Nelson Mandela “The Wetland Park must be the only place on the globe where the world’s oldest land mammal (the rhinoceros) and the world’s biggest terrestrial mammal (the elephant) share an ecosystem with the world’s oldest fish (the coelacanth) and the world’s biggest marine mammal (the whale).”

Improvements to iSimangaliso are built on increasing demand.  Visitor numbers to iSimangaliso have increased year on year since its establishment including during the current recession. In 2008/9 there was a 6.1% increase, 2009/2010 a 7.2% increase and 2010/11 around 6.4%.   iSimangaliso gate prices have not been increased for five years and it remains one of the cheapest parks in the country to visit.

R145mn park improvement is currently underway to enhance day and overnight visitors' experiences with new game viewing roads, hides, day visitor facilities, and viewing decks, including access for the physically challenged in many areas.  A new section, the Western Shores, will be open to visitors later this yearMajor game introductions include buffalo, cheetah, wild dog, black and white rhino, and tsessebe.  Land care programmes cover over 25 000 ha and have removed over 15 000 ha of commercial plantations.  Over 70 local SMME and 3500 local people benefit from these programmes yearly.

WTTC Awards Fact Sheet:

The Destination Stewardship Category award goes to a destination – country, region, state or town which comprises a network of tourism enterprises and organizations which show dedication to and success in maintaining a programme of sustainable tourism management at destination level, incorporating social, cultural, environment and economic benefits as well as multi-stakeholder engagement. Finalists in this category must demonstrate sustainable tourism planning and policies that enhance the natural, historic and cultural assets unique to a destination, this includes∙     

·         maximum positive benefits and minimum negative impacts to the environment,∙
·         tangible support for the protection of the destination’s natural and cultural heritage,∙   
·         promotion of sense of place and authenticity,∙    
·         direct economic and social benefits to the host community∙      
·         And educating visitors on the sustainable tourism efforts of the destination.