THE Department of National Parks has hiked wildlife and safari operation leases by between 350% and 850%, a move which could force a number of operators to close shop co
nsidering the decline in the tourism industry.
Operators who spoke to the Zimbabwe Independent said the department was now demanding an annual rental of between $36 million and $85 million. They said the fee would be determined by the nature of the camp’s business. Some camps operate on a commercial basis while others operate as recreational facilities. The recreational facilities charge nominal fees and do not operate on profit lines.
The operators said the new development was communicated to them during a series of meetings that were held throughout the country in December.
“Department of National Parks officials held several meetings with safari operators where the new fees were announced,” one operator from the Umfurudzi Safari Area said.
Operators from the Zambezi Valley and Chirundu areas also confirmed the development saying it was communicated at a meeting held at Marongora Lodge in December.
“In the past we used to pay $10 million per annum in the first year of the lease term,” an operator from Chirundu said. “The fee would attract a 15% increment each year until the lease term lapses.”
The operators said if the department enforces the new fees, they would be forced out because of the lull in tourism activities.
The number of visitors coming into the country has been on the decrease over the past five years, negatively impacting on safari operators.
A Zimbabwe Tourism Authority report for January to September 2004 says tourist arrivals slumped by about 29%.
“During the period January-September 2004, a total of 1 271 904 visitors visited Zimbabwe, representing a 29% decrease when compared to 1 793 128 visitors during the same period in 2003,” the report said.
“The visitors during the first nine months of 2004 included 254 842 from the overseas market, a 1% decline from 258 150 from mainland Africa, and a 33% decline from 2003 figures.”