Important Resort and Eco-Tourism Planning Considerations

As a leading urban and town planning company in South Africa, we provide a comprehensive range of town planning services to municipalities, developers and individual investors. The range includes resort and eco-tourism planning.

South Africa is known for its tourism-related activities and a wide range of eco-attractions. It is understandable that many investors buy or are interested in land for the purpose of developing resorts or game reserves to promote eco-tourism. However, numerous factors must be considered, and several land use applications may be needed before a resort can be developed on a potential site.

Our eco-tourism and resort planning services include the performance of due diligence to determine development potential and possible environmental impact. The service offering also includes the resort layout design, assistance in obtaining land use rights, and advocacy planning. Projects with which we can help include, to name but a few, general public and private leisure facilities, golf or equestrian resorts, fresh and salt-water marinas, and game lodges.

International tourists show increasing interest in visiting private game reserves and eco-tourism related resorts in South Africa. Locally, South Africans also support the eco-tourism and general leisure resort industries. However, with environmentally sustainable operations essential for the protection of vulnerable fauna and flora species, and to limit the impact of infrastructure development on the coastlines of the country, developers must take heed of the importance to meet current environmental legislative requirements.

It is imperative to understand that the requirements for resorts and eco-tourism facilities differ from province to province. With a national footprint, our firm is able to assist with due diligence, advocacy planning, layouts, site plans, and zoning applications regardless of the province in which you want to develop a resort, set up a lodge, or create a wildlife estate.

Proximity to a resource in a unique natural setting is not the only consideration when applying for permission for the development. The location is also important. One factor to bear in mind is whether it is located on the urban edge of a town or whether it is, for instance, far from a town within a rural area. It is not always necessary to apply for township establishment. In some areas, township establishment is not desired. If the resort is to be located on a coastal stretch in, for instance, the Western Cape, the application may be rejected based on the importance of ecological corridors to minimise the risk of the entire coastline being developed.

The potential environmental impact of the development, whether for activities like golf, cycling or horse riding, for example, must be addressed. If the leisure park has the potential to cause a noise nuisance for the surrounding community, you may also have difficulty in getting approval. For the approval process, it will be imperative to ensure that the leisure park, marina or game reserve will not negatively affect the unique characteristics of the environment, and will be in the historic character of a town or the natural beauty of the surrounds.

When it comes to resort and eco-tourism planning, the municipality or local authority must think about the density, layout, design, and scale of the project. This is because the density, design, and scale must be proportionate to the surrounding environment and the available resources in the specific area.

When proposing a project, a developer should also consider the use of temporary accommodation (as opposed to semi-permanent structures) and whether it will be allowed in the proposed development. This is because the idea of a leisure park or recreational facility is to give as many people access to the facility and resources as possible: a resort that cuts off a beach and lagoon area for private-use will only hinder free access to the natural resources of the area. In this instance, it will also be challenging to get approval for a large development on the coast.

The idea is to prevent resorts from becoming elite areas where only a few people have access to the resources. The temporary accommodation factor helps to prevent a situation where a developer applies for the development classification as a resort just to ensure exclusivity for permanent residents.

The spatial planning policy framework for the country, the particular province, region and local area, is an important factor to consider when applying for land use rights to a property for the development of an eco-park, leisure facility, holiday home estate or general resort.

Knowing which factors affect the approval for a resort or eco-tourism development is essential in considering the viability of a particular piece of property. Get in touch with our town planning professionals to help you determine if a piece of land can be used for your intended purpose, and to assist with the land use application process.