Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife operates a variety of nature venues, including holiday resorts, family lodges, bush lodges, bush camps, camping and caravanning sites, and even conference venues – in short, something for every traveller, from luxury accommodation to camping, with many variable options in between, set in the lush landscape of KwaZulu-Natal. The company’s staff complement numbers 2 500. Luthuli says their mission is to ensure effective conservation and sustainable use of KwaZulu-Natal’s biodiversity in collaboration with stakeholders for the benefit of present and future generations. As a parastatal of the KwaZulu-Natal province, Ezemvelo relies on provincial government funding as well as other funding mechanisms, including partnerships. The Community Levy Fund has been one of the pioneers in giving back to the communities in which it operates. This fund receives 10% of visitor’s fees, which in turn is reinvested in projects requested by communities adjacent to the protected areas.
“We are thrilled to have won no less than 10 accolades from different institutions in the past year, with Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park being the biggest winner once again, followed by the Ntshondwe Resort and then Giant’s Castle in the Drakensberg World Heritage Site. We have also embarked on joint marketing initiatives with a number of strategic partners, such as Kulula.com with which we partner to sell packages online. We have also recently (2010) launched our own online booking system. “This is helping us to fine tune our marketing strategy, as we are better able to identify our market segments, which, in turn, helps us to be able to be more tactical in our advertising strategy. Ezemvelo has partnered with some hotels and this enables us to offer an even more diversified portfolio, which also promotes domestic tourism,” Luthuli explains.
“South Africa this year came out top in the world as the preferred ‘safari’ destination (Euromonitor),” Luthuli enthuses, “the first time ever that we beat Kenya. This will give us the competitive edge and enable us to thrive. For instance, Hluhluwe Game Reserve has become a ‘must-see’ destination for all tourists, as it is the oldest game reserve in the country to be proclaimed a protected area – and also the place where Dr Ian Player played a huge role in saving the white rhino from extinction. His intervention also benefited the Kruger National Park, as all the rhinos in the Kruger were saved from Hluhluwe Game Reserve. KwaZulu-Natal’s north coast is also known for its high rhino concentration. This, of course, places us in a vulnerable position.
“One of the ‘Save the Rhino’ initiatives that we have embarked on since 2009 is the Annual Golf Day (Ezemvelo Gijima Annual Golf Day), which is run jointly with sponsors like Total SA, Old Mutual, FNB, and many others. It has been very successful over the past five years, getting bigger and better every year. All the funds collected are used to improve rhino protection. Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife is the only recognised biodiversity conservation custodian in the province of KwaZulu-Natal with a mandate to protect the environment.” Luthuli says the rhino poaching problem remains probably their biggest threat and challenge. She explains that they have come up with various initiatives in partnership with different companies and groups, such as MTN and some of the major radio stations, to raise awareness and funds. All the funds are channelled to the Anti-Poaching Rhino Fund.
“Tourism, in comparison with global growth statistics, has grown at double the world average rate – between January and November this year tourism grew by 10.5% compared with world economic growth figures of around 4%. The industry has remained stable, and, in our resorts, we have seen a steady increase of between 7 and 10% in international arrivals. Our key source markets internationally are Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States of America and France. On the domestic front, our target market is, firstly, in our own province, followed by Gauteng with substantial growth of 35%. “KZN is the second-largest contributor to South Africa’s GDP (gross domestic product). The economic contribution of the tourism sector to the province’s GDP was about R22-billion in 2010, and I am sure that, when the 2011 figures become available, they will show a growth of between 7 and 10%,” Luthuli states.
Expansion on the Cards
“With regard to future expansion, we have identified two of the nature reserves on the North Coast (Amatigulu and Nseleni) as places of accommodation. Both of them are easily accessible from the national highway and are strategically located. In fact, Nseleni Nature Reserve has a conference facility and is already popular as a wedding venue for intimate weddings. “Amatigulu boasts some rustic tents that we are planning to upgrade to luxury tents, and, since it is situated not far from the King Shaka International Airport and Ballito, we believe it will attract the higher end of the market, thereby expanding our existing target market and continuing to offer an authentic, ecofriendly holiday experience. “On the whole, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife is poised to expand its existing facilities while maintaining its place as a top-class, world-renowned ecotourism provider,” Luthuli concludes.
Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife Operates:
• About 30 holiday resorts.
• 5 family lodges.
• 7 bush lodges.
• 3 bush camps.
• 22 camping/caravanning sites.
• 2 conference venues
• 2 mini conference venues.
Marketing Biodiversity - a Challenge
To market an entity such as Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife is an exciting challenge, says Head of Marketing Siphehlele Luthuli.
“As a parastatal, it is crucial for us to continue operating within certain parameters, which poses a challenge in the specialist environment in which we do business. Our operation is quite different from that of businesses in the corporate sector, and we have to benchmark ourselves against these businesses in order to continue to be successful in the very competitive hospitality sector,” says Luthuli. “Our marketing efforts have to be robust to ensure that we attain ‘top-of-mind’ awareness among consumers and, in particular, our target market, which is bombarded with multiple messages on a daily basis. In fact, it takes a 360-degree campaign to stand out among our competitors. We have to be continuously competitive and innovative, and remain relevant.”
by Ilse Ferreira