Developing a competitiveness model for South African National Parks
Engelbrecht, Willy Hannes
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The tourism industry is an extremely competitive industry which is mainly caused by the ever changing needs of tourists. However, despite the constant change in tourist behaviour, violent terrorist attacks on countries across the globe and the weakening of the world economies, the tourism industry showed significant growth over the last few decades. The fast growth rate of tourism has also lead to the tourist being more aware of ecotourism destinations and the key role these destinations play in conserving the natural and cultural environments in the midst of globalisation and urbanisation. The pressure on ecotourism destinations such as national parks is increasing as more and more natural land are being taken up for urban development. In the case of South African National Parks (SANParks), the decrease in government funding pressurizes the resources and national parks have to identify ways to generate their own income through tourism activities. SANParks manages 22 national parks across South Africa with the aim to conserve South Africa’s biodiversity, provide recreational activities for tourists and build long-term relationships with the local communities to enhance the communities’ quality of life. Hence, in order to remain competitive it is important to determine the parks' competitive advantages. Therefore the aim of this study was to develop a competitiveness model for SANParks by using the Kruger National Park as case study. The Kruger National Park is not only one of the largest and most recognised national parks in the world, but also boasts with a large variety of fauna and flora, variety of accommodation facilities such as bush lodges, chalets and camping facilities as well as various tourist activities. The literature review indicated that destinations differ from each other and therefore ecotourism destinations such as national parks would have a distinct set of competitive advantage factors. However, these factors can only be determined if the needs of tourists are anticipated and park specific products and services are developed to satisfy the needs of visitors to the park and ultimately lead to tourist loyalty. Once a competitive position has been established, a national park can obtain benefits such as an increase in tourist numbers and revenue delivery of high quality products and services at the park as well as trigger a higher quality of life for the local community. If managed accordingly, the park might experience sustainable growth as well as increased profit margins. The data for the study was collected by means of a questionnaire survey at four of the Kruger National Park's rest camps during the period 26 December 2013 and 4 January 2014 which is the festive season in South Africa. The rest camps that were included in this survey were Olifants (74 questionnaires); Skukuza (213 questionnaires); Lower Sabie (98 questionnaires) and Berg-&-Dal (51 questionnaires). A total of 436 completed questionnaires were administered and further analysed. Descriptive statistics were used to profile the respondents while two factor analyses were done on the competitive advantage factors and tourist motives for travelling to the Park. The factor analyses identified five competitive advantage factors of which Wildlife Experiences and Marketing and Branding were regarded as the most important factors. The other three competitive advantage factors were Accommodation and Retail, Visitor Management and Suprastructure and Amenities. Four motivational factors were identified namely Experience and Relaxation, Lifestyle, All-Inclusive Destination and Value. The identified factors were further used in an ANOVA analysis and the results showed that socio-demographic characteristics such as home language, province of residence, level of education and marital status have all significant differences based on the five competitive advantage factors as well as the four motivational factors The t-test analysis presented a few statistical significant differences between the independent variables or group of individuals. These differences were based on the respondents’ demographic and behaviour characteristics with regards to the competitive advantage and motivational factors. However, the strongest statistically significant differences were based on the behavioural characteristics of tourists travelling with children to the Park, Wild card holders, tourist reading magazines, previous visits to the Park and differences between tourists making use of chalets and camping facilities. A Structural Equation Model was applied to confirm the results that were obtained from the analyses. The SEM indicated that tourists’ motivations have a significant influence on the factors that tourists identified as competitive advantage factors for the Kruger National Park. This research made three distinct new contributions. Firstly, competitive advantage factors were specifically identified for ecotourism based destinations such as national parks from a demand side. Also, the tourists motivation for travelling proved to hugely influence these competitive advantage factors. Secondly, a competitiveness model was developed specifically for national parks within South Africa. The proposed model could assist national parks across South Africa to obtain a competitive advantage among its competitors based on park specific factors. Lastly, the concept of competitiveness has not yet been applied within the ecotourism and nature-based tourism destinations context. This study described the concept of competitiveness with the focus on national parks as ecotourism destinations and the aspects that need to be taken into consideration when analysing the concept in such a context.