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Uganda Vows Not to Increase Gorilla Permit Fees

Following the abrupt increase on Rwanda’s gorilla trekking permits, most of the tourists are diverting their gorilla trekking safaris from Rwanda to Uganda. But this also brings panic and worry for tourists planning to travel to Uganda. Tourists are asking themselves; for how long will Uganda maintain their gorilla trekking prices? Won’t Uganda also follow suit and increase prices of gorilla permits like Rwanda did? Most Tourists would need to know so that they can achieve their dream of meeting face to face with the mountain gorillas.

Initially, gorilla permits in Rwandan were at $750 (Shs 2.7 m/631,459 Rwf) for the Foreign Non residents, $450 for East African Residents, $375 for Rwandan Residents and 30,000 Rwf for Rwandan Citizens. But from 7th May 2017, the price of gorilla permits was increased to $1500 for all tourists regardless of their category. From $750 to $1500 (Shs 5, 392, 500/ 1,262,348 Rwf) presents a 100% increment which is an abnormal increment for some budget tourists. The question in everyone’s mind is whether Uganda will correspondingly increase the price of gorilla permits. Tourists across the world are curious on whether Uganda, the country that homes about half of the world’s only surviving critically endangered mountain gorillas will follow suit and also increase the cost of gorilla permits.

When Uganda Wildlife Authority-the wildlife governing body intends to increase price of gorilla permits, it is always communicated at least one year in advance not abruptly like Rwandan Development Board did for Rwanda’s gorilla permits. Since no official communication has been made, chances for gorilla permits being increased are still minimal. Days after Rwandan permits were increased, the Association of Uganda Tour Operators (AUTO) released a communication assuring the general public (especially Tourists and tour Operators) that there were no plans yet for increasing Uganda’s gorilla permits in relation to Rwanda’s exorbitant price increment. The good news is that gorilla permits will remain $600 for foreign non residents, $500 for foreign residents and Shs 250,000 for East African Residents for the next one year (12 months). The discounted permits for low seasons will remain at $450 for foreign non residents, $400 for foreign residents and Shs 150, 000 for East African Residents. The CEO of Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) pointed that Uganda feels obliged to her tourism partners worldwide to maintain price of gorilla permits. What does this mean for Uganda’s tourism? The country has to take advantage of the situation and make gorilla trekking in Uganda favorable. One of the things that can be done to ameliorate Uganda’s Gorilla Tourism is to increase on marketing hence most tourists will divert their plans of trekking gorillas from Rwanda to Uganda. Some tourism stakeholders have always wondered why Uganda has to always wait for Rwanda to act before they respond, it has always been argued that Rwanda is always smarter in its plans because this country sets its focus on a long term goal and provides tourists with attractive packages. That’s why they always beat Uganda.

However, no matter how gorilla permits in Uganda are cheap, the distance from Kampala to Bwindi or Mgahinga National Parks makes it tiring and more expensive than travelling from Kigali International Airport to Volcanoes National Park. Transport costs from Kampala to Bwindi for example can cost from $450 to $550 for the safari, this when added to the $600 makes a gorilla trekking safari in Uganda also expensive. The advantage Rwanda will always have over Uganda is that Volcanoes National Park is just 2-3 hours drive from Kigali, hence a tourist can opt for a 0ne day gorilla trekking safari in Rwanda than the 3 days gorilla trekking safari in Uganda. This still implies that regardless of how cheap the gorilla permits are sold in Uganda, Rwanda still has an upper hand. Rwanda also invests a lot of money in marketing its attractions. The lack of good promotion and public relations has not favored Uganda’s gorilla tourism in the global market. There is therefore need to invest in marketing and public relations If Uganda’s tourism is to have strength like or over other countries in the region. According to Andrew Sseguya, the Managing Director of Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), Uganda is an exceptional gorilla trekking destination because these impressive Giant Apes (mountain gorillas) can be tracked from two National Parks-Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga National Park unlike Rwanda where they can only be tracked from Volcanoes National Park.

Another reason Rwanda is at a better side is because the National carrier (Rwanda Air) easily connects tourists to all the tourism destination in Rwanda compared to Uganda. The airline also helps tourists to link to other major places like China, United States, Japan and the United Kingdom among others. Not only that, Rwanda’s National Parks are close to each other. Tourists can connect easily to three national Parks which is hard in Uganda hence tourists, mostly those with insufficient time will opt for Rwanda even if Uganda has more Parks and attractions.

In conclusion, tourists do not need to be worried about Uganda also increasing the prices of gorilla permits because for the next 12 months the prices will remain stable, and if they are to be increased, there will be an official communication in advance not abruptly like it was done in Rwanda.

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