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5 Sep

Interview with Head, Business Development, SA National Parks

Giju Varghese Head- Business Development , South African National Parks tells us about his responsibilities in the business development unit.

What is your background and what led you to a career with South African National Parks?
I am a trained hotelier and I hold a Bachelors degree in Hotel Management from India. After several years of managing hotels and similar establishments in related fields, my interests led me to focus on organisational development. I then went on to receive a Master of Business Administration from the U.K. and continued my career focus to a broader industry base. As a result of growing up in Africa, my passion for nature and the need to apply good business principles in protected areas brought me to the South African National Parks (SANParks).

What is your responsibility regarding SANParks?
I am responsible for the Business Development Unit. I undertake the management of the lodge concession contracts and outsourced shops & restaurants. My unit is also responsible for various tourism business development projects. Such projects include analysis and implementation of further revenue generating opportunities in existing state-run tourism operations like extracting more value from activity based tourism products.

What has been the outcome of the commercialisation process of SANParks since 2002?
Key outputs of the Commercialisation process since 2002 are:
1) Attracting sustainable tourism infrastructure to the value of South African Rand (R) 330m (USD1=R7)
2) Creation of over 650 sustainable jobs in rural areas and annuity income (net-profit of over R110m in first 5 years since inception), thus also improving competitiveness and product range of SANParks.

The Commercialisation process is considered successful and my team advises various state bodies and private investors who are interested in Public-Private Partnerships (PPP). We also participated along with the South African National Treasury in the development of the Eco-Tourism Toolkit. We advise various South African provincial bodies and the private sector too.

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More about Giju’s activities

Giju Varghese has made various presentations including ones at the World Forum for Tourism for Sustainable Development Destinations in 2004 (Brazil) and at the World Tourism Organisation’s Regional Seminar in Favour of Tourism Development in Africa 2007 (Gabon). He has also presented papers and made presentations at the Tourism Conference in the Great Limpopo (2005 University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa) and at the 2nd International Conference on Responsible Tourism (2008) organised by Kerala Tourism and ICRT (India) with India Tourism as a partner.

He has written an article for Enviropedia (2007). Other such presentations and discussions include those associated with the Kenya Wildlife Society, Tanzanian National Parks, Uganda Wildlife Authority, Ghana, Department of Conservation and Land Management-Western Australia, Ferart-Australia, and the Tourism in Protected Area representatives from Namibia, Vietnam, Korea, Norway, Congo, Zambia and India (Maharashtra).

He has given guest lectures at the Welcomgroup Graduate School of Hotel Administration (India) and the University of the North-West (South Africa). He assists with the Leadership Conservation Africa (LCA), an initiative supported by leading global businesspeople to assist African governments to elevate conservation and promote poverty alleviation and job creation through nature-based tourism.

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