Rwanda has recently increased the cost of its gorilla permits to US$1500, catching the growing safari industry off guard. The price hike represents a doubling of the former cost of US$750, which was already more expensive than Uganda, where permits are between US$450 and US$600.
The announcement from the Rwandan government was to take effect immediately. Tour operators have the unhappy task of informing clients, who have not already paid for a gorilla trekking permit, that a further US$750 would be added to the cost of their safari.
The Rwandan government has said that the reason for the massive price increase is to reinforce gorilla conservation efforts. Rigorous conservation efforts in recent years have been successful in contributing to a steady rise in the population of mountain gorillas ̶ today there are just under 900 individuals in the wild.
The Rwandan government also wants to intensify its development efforts which focus on local communities living around Volcanoes National Park. More than 400 community projects directly benefiting people living around Rwandan parks have been established in the last 12 years (these include building schools, hospitals and providing access to clean drinking water).
Rwanda raised the price of gorilla permits to ensure sustainability and enhance experience
Ms. Clare Akamanzi, the Chief Executive Officer at Rwanda Development Board says:
“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.”
The Rwandan government is also offering discounts to gorilla tracking tariffs for tourists visiting the country’s other parks. Tourists visiting Nyungwe and Akagera national parks for at least three days, as well as doing gorilla trekking, will receive a 30% discount. And visitors attending conferences who stay longer, and add a gorilla trekking trip to their itinerary, will receive a 15% discount.
In targeting the wealthy end of Africa’s tourism market, the Rwandan government is in danger of alienating many visitors to the country interested in meeting its famed mountain gorillas. Especially when those who are unprepared or unwilling to pay the new US$1500 price tag can see the gorillas for less than half that price in neighboring Uganda.
Read more at the Rwanda development board website
Alan Murphy is a Lonely Planet author and expert on Southern Africa and its wildlife. In 2013 he established Roundtrip Foundation – whose motto is ‘give back and complete the journey’. A not-for-profit organisation, it encourages travellers to give back to local communities in Africa. It also funds projects around housing, education, food and child welfare in Southern Africa and beyond. For more information, or to make a donation to fighting poverty in the region, check out www.roundtripfoundation.org.au.