iSimangaliso a finalist in global Tourism for Tomorrow Awards

The iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority was one of three global finalists in the Destination Stewardship Category of the Tourism for Tomorrow Awards held in Las Vegas, USA, on the 18th May 2011.
Two hundred applications from over 40 countries were reviewed by 22 judges as part of the 11th Global Travel & Tourism Summit, one of the highest-profile events in the industry under the stewardship of the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), that recognises global best practice in sustainable tourism worldwide.

Minister Marthinus Van Schalkwyk, South Africa’s Minister of Tourism who attended the Awards dinner, commented that “iSimangaliso being one of the finalists 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."

CEO of KZN Tourism Authority, Mr Ndabo Khoza, says “iSimangaliso is an important provider of benefits to people in the region and a key KZN tourism attraction. This global recognition will help iSimangaliso in deepening the many community and conservation programmes they are currently running, and will further strengthen the ongoing ties between the park and its neighbours. It is also a very strategic product for the area and will help them fulfil their mandate for economic development as it attracts more investors to the area which ultimately creates more jobs for people from surrounding areas.”

Lake St Lucia is Africa’s largest estuarine system, home to over 800 hippo, 1200 crocodiles, diverse birdlife and aquatic species.
Saved from potential dune mining in 1996, iSimangaliso was established in November 2000 when sixteen pieces of land, covering 332 000 hectares, 9% of South Africa’s coast line 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 beauty and biological wealth. 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.
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.

WTTC Awards Fact Sheet
The Destination Stewardship Category award goes to a destination 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, including:
• maximum positive benefits and minimum negative impacts to the environment,
• tangible support for 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 sustainable tourism efforts of the destination.