Gorilla Permit Price Increase Controversy

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bwindiThe recent increase in the mountain gorilla trekking permit fees has sparked a lot of debated with fierce opposition from Rwanda tour operators. Mr. Edwin Sabuhoro who is the chairman of the Tourism Chamber said the price increase was very insensitive to the current global economic situation given the fact that tourists visiting Rwanda and other countries in the region are spending much less than they used given the global economic crisis.

The Rwanda Development Board announced in January that the price of mountain gorilla safaris permits would be increased by 50%. This development was welcomed by the districts around Volcanoes national park where the mountain gorillas are located as the RDB has a revenue sharing program in which the communities are the tourist attractions take 5% of the revenue generated by any of the tour attractions.

Districts like Nyabihu, Burera and Musanze are optimistic that they will reap big from the increase in the gorilla tour fees. This view however, is not shared by the Rwanda tour operators who argue that increasing the gorilla trekking price would only serve to drive the tourists to Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo the only other Countries where these gentle giants can still be found.

In Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo the gorilla safari prices have not been increased and the gorilla permits still cost $500.

The tourism revenue sharing program was introduced by the Rwanda Development Board in 2010 and so far there’s over 113m Rwanda Francs that the districts neighboring the tour attractions and parks are to share.

This revenue is shared by the local governments, community organizations some who include widows, those that have given up poaching as well as other Non Government Organizations. The funds are used to carry out projects such as building community centers and halls, construct roads, build classrooms, construct teachers’ housing units etc.

According to the community leaders, this is a very welcome program and benefits the locals around the national parks. One local resident said it was very incredible to see the developments that the tourism revenue is bringing to the district of Musanze. This is a way for money got from tourism to trick back into the local communities.

The revenue sharing scheme has helped in ensuring that locals take an interest in the conservation of the parks as well as the flora and fauna as it benefits them directly. The Revenue sharing scheme has helped in changing the perception of the poachers who now view the wildlife as something that they too can benefit from directly if conserved.

According to the Chief Park Warden of Volcanoes national park Mr. Prosper Uwingeli, the 5% revenue from tourism that is ploughed back into the community has helped in promoting sustainable tourism in the Volcanoes national park.

The Rwanda Development Board has also introduced new gorilla trekking packages for VIP groups in which a group of tourists can exclusively book a whole mountain gorilla group (Family) and are provided with customized services at a cost of $10,000 per group.

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