Safari operators see 20% revenue decline

The Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe (Soaz) has projected a further 20% slump in revenue this year owing to various internal and external challenges affecting the sector, businessdigest has learnt.

By Kudzai Kuwaza

Cecil-the-lion

Safari operators last year suffered a 30% reduction in revenue as the continued ban on the importation of sport hunted elephant trophies from Zimbabwe imposed in April 2014 by the United States government took its toll on the sector.

Soaz president Emmanuel Fundira told businessdigest last week that the tightening of regulations by the government since the killing of the famous lion, Cecil, last year, among other challenges, is having adverse effects on their operations.

“The season has commenced in earnest albeit with many challenges which are both internally and externally driven,” Fundira said. “Internally, the demise of Cecil the Lion has prompted the authorities to introduce a myriad of controls and measures not conducive to the running of efficient and profitable operations. For example, of late there has been a tightening of controls over the issuance of permits and supervision of hunts which have become both costly and cumbersome.”

He added that externally there has been “massive” lobbying against sustainable wildlife use compounded by the continued ivory ban and the decision by the United States in January this year to uplift lions by introducing a cumbersome permit system “has not helped either”

Given the challenges, Fundira said although it was too early in the year to forecast revenue projections, a decline of not less than 20% was forecasted from last year’s figures.

The Soaz president said the sector continues to develop new markets, adding responses from Central Europe and Russia “are somewhat a bit encouraging.”

He said developing new markets was a long drawn exercise and is bound to take time.

Fundira expressed relief that the attempt by the European parliament members to stop the import of hunting trophies earlier this month had failed.

“The Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe noted with relief that a move by a group of European Parliament members to pass a Written Declaration that would restrict the import of all hunting trophies to the European Union failed to achieve the requisite number of votes to be considered at the Parliament’s next sitting,” Fundira said.

“Reason and common sense prevailed over emotions and populist sentiment.

Sweeping changes to hunting practices in Africa can have a detrimental impact on conservation models and marginalised poverty-stricken communities that depend on hunting for their livelihoods.”