Measuring the operational competitiveness of commercial operations in public protected areas under Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife : implications for ecotourism in the KwaZulu-Natal Province.
In many countries, most of the wildlife and biodiversity remains under state control, and the state employs conservation agencies to regulate their use and management. However, state sanctioned protection of wildlife and biodiversity is unable to halt the decline of a number of species as most are either classified as threatened, endangered, or vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Moreover, Conservationists have identified that establishing incentives and economic value could prevent continuing deterioration of biodiversity and encourage their preservation and sustainable use. Ecotourism is one such economic incentive used in many countries, especially in developing countries to encourage biodiversity conservation. The majority of funds required to run ecotourism operation in public protected areas (PPAs) are sourced from the government. However, in the midst of declining funding from governments around the world, conservation agencies such as Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife (EKZNW) have to either find new sources of funding or find cost-effective ways to manage ecotourism operations and at the same time carryout the mandate of biodiversity conservation. Therefore, conservation will have to be conducted through detailed income and expenditure financial evaluations. These financial evaluations will provide knowledge about expenditure patterns of ecotourism operations in EKZNW. This information will assist managers to make informed decisions on strategies and alternatives that could improve ecotourism operations and financial revenues. Therefore, the study sought to measure the operational competitiveness of commercial operations in PPAs in the KwaZulu-Natal province. This was achieved by constructing an operational competitiveness (performance) profile for each public protected area in the KwaZulu-Natal province by using a non-parametric method called the Operational Competitiveness Rating procedure (OCRA). The second objective was to compare the operational competitiveness of PPAs found in each EKZNW administrative region (Ukhahlamba, Zululand and Coastal region). Financial data for commercial operations in PPAs were collected from EKZNW for the period 2007-2013. The OCRA procedure began by computing resource consumption and revenue generation calibration constants or the average share of total costs and revenues for 32 PPAs. The results show that permanent staff, utilities, maintenance and repairs, and cost of sales were cost items with the highest average share of total costs, whereas, accommodation, admissions, sales and tours, rides and hikes received higher average shares of total revenues for most PPAs. This was followed by the computation of resource consumption and revenue generation inefficiency ratings from 2007 to 2013. The results of which show that improvements in resource competitiveness did not always correspond to improvements in revenue competitiveness, suggesting that either improvements in resource consumption or revenue generation inefficiency ratings would have more impact on operational competitiveness or combined inefficiency ratings. However, the results showed that resource competitiveness had more impact on operational competitiveness relative to revenue competitiveness, suggesting that it is important for PPAs under EKZNW to manage and prevent high costs to improve operational competitiveness. Moreover, the results also indicate that the greatest impact on operational competitiveness occurs when resource consumption and revenue generation inefficiency ratings are at their lowest. The managerial implications and strategies to decrease inefficiencies or improve operational competitiveness in PPAs under EKZNW are discussed in the study.
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