The Rwanda Development Board yesterday announced an increase in the price of Gorilla Permits from US$ 750 to US $1,500 for all visitors effective immediately. A new exclusive package for tourists who wish to book an entire family of gorillas was also introduced at US$ 15,000, and will receive exclusive personalized tour guide services.
The price increase will not affect tourists who had already purchased their tickets at the time of this announcement.
Tourists who visit other national parks (Nyungwe and Akagera) for a minimum of three days, in addition to gorilla trekking will receive a discount of 30%. Similarly, conference tourists, who stay pre or post conference dates to see gorillas will be eligible for a 15% discount.
In line with Rwanda’s high-end tourism strategy, the price increase aims to strengthen conservation efforts and contribute more to the development of communities living around the Volcanoes National Park.
Along with the new tariff, the tourism revenue sharing rate for communities adjacent to the park, will also increase from 5% to 10%, which will quadruple the absolute revenues received by communities. Over the last 12 years, more than 400 community projects have been completed including hospitals, schools, business development centers and water supply systems to facilitate access to clean water. These projects directly benefit the people living around the parks.
Ms. Clare Akamanzi, the Chief Executive Officer at Rwanda Development Board, pictured above, reportedly said:
‘Gorilla trekking is a highly unique experience. We have raised the price of permits in order to ensure sustainability of conservation initiatives and enhance visitors’ experience. We also want to make sure that the communities living near the park area receive a bigger share of tourism revenues to fund development projects and empower them economically‘.
New, high-end lodges are opening in Musanze and plans are underway to improve visitors’ experience at Kinigi, including renovation of the information center to equip it with modern offices and tourism services such as conservation education, children’s learning space as well as digital facilities.
Mountain gorillas are an endangered species with only around 880 remaining in the world. Of those in in the Virunga Massif, Rwanda accounts for 62% of the gorilla population. Stringent conservation measures have significantly contributed to a rise in gorilla numbers. There are currently 20 families habituated for tourism and research in Rwanda, up from just 9 families in 2010.
Reactions from the tourism fraternity in Rwanda were swift and harsh, denouncing the doubling of the tariffs without notice as unacceptable and calling for a suspension of the measure.
Many tour operators around the world have published package prices based in the tracking permit costing 750 US Dollars – already the highest among the three gorilla countries of Rwanda, Uganda and Congo – asking RDB to respect contractual commitments and giving a decent notice of the tariff increase of up to one year and not springing the rise from one moment to another.
Said one source on condition of anonymity: ‘Apart from the wisdom to double the permit fee is the no notice period a major cause for concern. This will put Rwanda in a bad light abroad that we cannot respect proper notice periods like all other regional wildlife management bodies do. Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania all give as much as a year notice of planned fee revisions. What is the urgency now to do this without observing regional practice?‘ while another simply stated: ‘If this is really true it will kill our business. Rare animals or not, there is a limit to what the market can accept and sell and I see sales nosediving which will affect all of us who invested in cars and marketing expenses. Crazy!!!‘.
In a related development was it learned that the sharing component of income generated by national park entries for neighbouring communities will be raised too from the present 5 percent to 10 percent of gate receipts.
Uganda in contrast not only charges just US Dollars 600 for foreign tourists but also offers tariff reductions to US Dollars 450 for the months of April, May and November, something Rwanda has never done even though they too experience a low season and lower demand periods.
It is now up to the market to respond but it is expected that permits for Uganda will be snapped up on the double to avoid the huge cost increases for tourists are now looking at should they opt for Rwanda as their gorilla destination of choice.