Planning A Trip To Kirstenbosch

From 1990 to 2010, visitor numbers increased from 400 000 to 750 000 per year. Annual income (admission fees, rentals, plant sales) increased from half a million in 1990 to R30.6 million per year in 2010. Garden expenses (excluding research and education, which are separately funded) increased during the same period from R2.4 million to R28 million. Garden operations were subsidised by government to the tune of 86 per cent in 1990, but by 2010 were producing a meaningful profit – on a much larger financial base. The most striking change was in the expenditure per individual visitor, which increased from R2.75 per visitor in 1990 to R99.90 in 2010. Thus both visitor numbers and spending per visitor increased at a rate in excess of inflation, with very positive consequences.

Since 2005, the Garden has been operating at a profit, without any government contribution. Kirstenbosch is very probably one of the only large public gardens in the world to be financially independent.

The Visitors Centre piazza is the main arrivals point in the Garden, where shops, Conference Centre and the Conservatory are also located.

A ripple of water feeds the pool running between the piazza and Conservatory.

Indigenous plant horticulture has been given a boost by the Garden Centre, maintaining Kirstenbosch’s tradition of service to home gardeners.

Key among the processes that have led to this positive situation was the development of visitor amenities and garden infrastructure, and the promotion of a user-friendly image for Kirstenbosch as a destination for local families, foreign tourists and high-level delegations. Foreign visitors almost always include Kirstenbosch in their itineraries, with dignitaries often accompanied by senior South African politicians, such as Oprah Winfrey in the company of Nelson Mandela, and Al Gore with Thabo Mbeki.

Planning A Trip To Kirstenbosch Photo Gallery

The major sources of the Garden’s income make for interesting reading. In the 2010/2011 year, admission fees contributed R13 800 000; concerts R10 100 000; tea room, restaurant and coffee bar R1 780 000; blog shop and gift shop R1 680 000; hire of conference venues R1 280 000; seed and plant sales R634 000; and sculpture sales R450 000. All of these income streams continue to show steady and positive growth.

Kirstenbosch Summer Sunset Concerts, initiated by Sue Ross, have provided family entertainment and an unforgettable musical experience for over two million Garden visitors since their inception in 1993.

The old Tea House (top), built in 1922, burnt down in 1988. It has since been replaced by a new Tea Room, integrated within the Garden Centre.

Other famous visitors who have enjoyed the Garden have been Margaret Thatcher, the Dalai Lama, Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall, Princess Anne, and the kings and queens of Norway and Spain. The Summer Sunset Concerts have featured international celebrities such as Yehudi Menuhin, Elton John, Bryan Adams, Josh Groban, Cliff Richard, plus local stars such as Johnny Clegg, Freshlyground, Mango Groove and the Soweto String Quartet, attracting a wide diversity of music lovers, both young and old.

Surprisingly, Kirstenbosch has invested very little in direct marketing, using partnerships with its many sponsors to ensure that radio, press and television exposure is achieved at no cost to the Garden. Many horticulturists and researchers, who initially resisted having to raise funds, became highly successful in the role. Corporate fund-raising and pressuring government for a greater slice of the national budget remain the responsibility of the CEO, supported by senior managers, to cover SANBI’s ever increasing corporate needs.

Since the conclusion of the Kirstenbosch Development Campaign in 2005, few new capital projects have been undertaken in the Garden. Emphasis has been given by current Curator Philip le Roux to consolidating the financial management of the Garden’s operations, while the horticultural team have focused on improving the quality of displays and living collections.

The Garden’s partner since its founding has been the Botanical Society of South Africa, with headquarters in offices near the Garden Centre entrance.

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