Research: Socio-economic impact of the Table Mountain National Park Reply

Our Research posts are about the latest academic research being done in the School of Economics. This week:

Socio-economic impact of the Table Mountain National Park

By Melville Saayman, Riaan Rossouw & Andrea Saayman

This article investigates the socio-economic impact of South Africa’s largest urban national park, and the one that attracts the most visitors. Because national parks have more functions than mere conservation, the questions arise: “What economic and social impacts are created by such parks?” and “How do communities benefit from allocating land for conservation?” Little research on this topic has been conducted in Southern Africa, and this research therefore contributes to our knowledge. Two surveys were conducted. One focused on the communities surrounding the park and the other on visitors to the park. A Social Accounting Matrix (SAM) determined the economic value, whereas factor analysis was used to determine the social constructs of visitors to a national park.

The key results and findings can be summarised as follows:

  • First and foremost the results from the research show that the residents’ perception are that the park has a positive economic and social impact. Results also confirm a greater economic than social impact.
  • Based on the results from the economic analysis, the second finding reveals that the park generates approximately ZAR278 million for the region. This is significantly more than national parks, such as Addo Elephant (ZAR58,5 million); Karoo (ZAR10,5 million); Wilderness (ZAR15,1 million) and Tsitsikamma National Park (ZAR32,5 million).
  • The third finding shows that foreign visitors spend significantly more than the rest of South Africans (excluding visitors from the Western Cape), which, in turn, spend significantly more than visitors from the Western Cape.
  • Fourthly, concerning job creation, results show that 871 people are dependent on the park and its activities which is again significantly lower than that of the Kruger National Park (10 150 people); but more than Addo Elephant (434 people); Tsitsikamma (244 people); Wilderness (288 people) and Karoo National Park (244 people). More facilities and activities will have a direct impact on the number of people employed.
  • Fifthly, the results show that the park is achieving its objectives of conservation, economic contribution and social upliftment. However, it is clear that with such large number of visitors the park could do much better, especially from an economic point of view.
  • The last finding is from a methodological point of view where this study shows that in the case of research conducted in a community with both extremely rich and poor residents, using the same questionnaire requires taking cognisance that some items for the poor community might be rated as negative, whereas the rich community rate them as positive. A good example is property value increases due to the park.

To summarise, the results clearly show that the park contributes to the quality of life of communities surrounding it. Results also reveal that the park has a significant economic impact although it could do much better. Clearly this research confirms that conservation can make a significant contribution to regional economies. It also showed that park management should carefully consider what a park offers to tourists and communities alike. Most of the residents are of the view that the biggest contribution of the park is on an economic and conservational level although certain conservation activities are questionable. Social problems include increase in crime, increase in prices and increased number of people as aspects that should be addressed by park management.

To be published in the South African Journal of Economics and Management Sciences in 2013.

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