by Melville Saayman

Commercial value of the Big Five

More than SA had banked on

Commercial value of the Big Five
Commercial value of the Big Five

The Big Five means significantly more for the South African tourism industry than was previously surmised. A recent study conducted in the Kruger National Park, under the direction of Prof Melville Saayman of the North-West University’s Potchefstroom Campus, has found that tourists visiting this park are prepared to pay more than R3 500 to see the Big Five.

 
The research indicated that visitors are prepared to pay R1 136.43 to see a leopard, R1 007.17 for a lion, R753.12 for a rhino, R658.91 for an elephant and R498.50 for a buffalo.
 
The Kruger National Park draws more than one million visitors every year and supports between 300 000 and 600 000 people living in the park’s surrounding areas. On average, visitors spend R10 302.21 on the park, of which they are prepared to pay R3 569 (or 34.64%) to see the Big Five.
 
To determine how many tourists are prepared to pay to see the Big Five, an extensive questionnaire was compiled, which included a ‘willingness to pay’ question. The research was conducted at the Olifants, Letaba, Mopani and Punda Maria rest camps where respondents were randomly approached, after which one person from every tour group or family completed the questionnaire (289 people in total).
 
Although 34% of the respondents felt neutral about the role that the Big Five played in their choice to visit the park, the majority pointed out the Big Five, and the opportunity to see them, was an important role-player in their choice.
 
An interesting finding was that English speaking people are prepared to pay more to see the Big Five than their Afrikaans speaking counterparts. Saayman’s study shows for the first time what the non-consumable value of the Big Five is, and it seems that it could surpass the consumable value of the species over the long term. For example, if the average lifespan of a leopard is 15 years and this leopard is viewed by 5 000 tourist per year, the leopard is worth R85 232 250 in its lifetime at the park.
 
It has been found that nature-based tourism in Southern Africa generates as much income as agriculture, water affairs and fisheries, with protected areas one of the fastest growing sectors in the tourism market. This can have far-reaching consequences for game conservation organisations and private game reserves. From a marketing point of view, the addition of the Big Five to more parks and private game reserves can be a very attractive lure for potential visitors.
 
 
 
 
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