Financial Value of Trails

A brief case study from the Drakensberg Trails in South Africa.

An Optimistic View

In 2002, Tourism Kwa-Zulu Natal said that their research showed that 24% of all foreign visitors to their region go hiking or mountain climbing. At that time there were 220 680 foreign visitors annually to the Drakensberg, staying for an average of two nights and spending an average of R1 500 per night – an estimated total spend of R662 040 000 per annum. 24% of these visitors were drawn by hiking, mountaineering and climbing activities – therefore one can say that these folk could have contributed 24% or R158 889 600 to the total spend in the Drakensberg and most of these activities require trails.

In addition, in 2002, Tourism Kwa-Zulu Natal said that there were 546 000 domestic visitors to the Drakensberg staying an average of 6 nights and spending and average of R1000 per night – an estimated total spend of R3 276 000 000. 19% of these visitors were drawn by trails, hiking & climbing – they potentially contributed 19% or R622 440 000 to the total spend in the Drakensberg.

TOTAL = R781 329 600

A Pessimistic View
Let us assume that the only real income that these trail users, hikers and climbers contribute are through their permit fees. 24% of 220 680 and 19% of 546 000 = a total number of 156 704 visitors interested in hiking or climbing. The permit fees they generate at an average of R20 per head = R3 134 080. This amount goes directly to the trail management authorities, mainly national parks and provincial reserves.

Not even a fraction of the above permit income to the parks is being spent annually on maintaining the trails in the Drakensberg. We need to keep reinvesting in trail upkeep and maintenance to secure and ensure our outdoor tourism infrastructure continues to deliver economic benefits to our tourism economy.