A study commissioned by Tourism Research in Economic Environs and Society (TREES) has revealed that trophy hunting, although it is frowned upon by many, remains a significant cash cow for the South African economy.
The figure being bandied about, by Prof Peet van der Merwe, is R1.98-billion. That probably throws a spanner in the works, for those who have consistently lobbied against the practice. The professor explained that the trophy hunting contributed more to the South African economy than had previously been thought.
The question is, can that contribution be overlooked? Prof Van der Merwe thinks not.
“Our research, which was mainly focused and foreign tourists or hunters, showed that hunters spend an average of 10 300 US dollars per hunting trip,” said Van der Merwe.
“That is about R134 500. The previous study we conducted in 2013 was not nearly as extensive and showed that trophy hunting contributed R1.3-billion to the economy. Although a lot, we underestimated the value,” added Van der Merwe.
Trophy hunting in Africa is the subject of considerable controversy, with those who oppose it arguing that it is wrong and unethical.
But, if anything the Van der Merwe research probably shows that those who provide the trophy hunting experience will intensify their efforts to make it authentic and keep it attractive to foreigners who spend a considerable amount on it.
“It (research) also means the market should also stop underestimating hunters. They are not unwise. They don’t want to be duped into a fake hunting experience, they want an authentic African hunting experience,” explained Van der Merwe.
“With increasing competition from Namibia, the industry cannot allow missteps like these and must provide quality hunting packages and experiences. Therefore nature and authentic hunts are important,” he said.
South Africa is a leader in the trophy hunting industry and Van der Merwe is determined to ensure that the status quo remains, because of the financial value that it adds.
“The National Department of Tourism (NDT) does a great deal to market South Africa as a tourism and eco-tourism destination, but hunting is mainly marketed by the private sector such as product owners and PHASA.
“It is a selective market, but more can be done by NDT to support it. Hunting is a form of sustainable eco-tourism. Just look at the amount hunters spend compared to other tourists. It can also contribute more to creating jobs in rural areas. It is a lucrative niche market that should not be neglected. We can do more to protect its image.”