An announcement was just received that the Rwanda Development Board will, effective 01st of June 2012, raise gorilla permit fees for new permits, though not permits already pre-booked until the time of the announcement, from the present US Dollars 500 per person to US Dollars 750 per person.
The additional income will be used to further strengthen protective measures for the prized animals, fund conservation efforts, research and community outreach programmes, all of which depend on income generated by tourists coming to see the gorillas.
John Gara, CEO of the Rwanda Development Board under which Tourism and Conservation fall, had this to say in response to questions: This increase comes at a time when there is significant growth of the gorilla population as well as an increasing demand for gorilla tourism. We are very committed to sustain our efforts in conservation in order to protect their environment as well as the rich biodiversity that exist in our national parks.
Rwandas gorilla conservation efforts have shown significant success. Today, there are ten gorilla families which accommodate a maximum of eight tourists per day each, a number that has almost doubled over the last five years.
Miss Rica Rwigamba, Head of the Tourism and Conservation Department, added: We have seen a sustained increase in interest for gorilla trek as well as recognition that good conservation can truly contribute to growth of these species. Mountain Gorillas are the only increasing gorilla species population, which is evidence that responsible tourism and conservation go hand in hand.
The move has prompted an immediate flurry of activities in the tourism sector across the tri nation area of Rwanda, Uganda and Congo DR, in particular as Uganda had renaged last year from a uniform approach to fees and substantially lowered permit costs to attract more tourists, which however only in part worked while foregoing substantial revenue at the time for Uganda Wildlife Authority.
No comments could be obtained this late on Friday from UWA or the Congolese wildlife managers as offices were closed and not feedback is expected before early next week, when these organization had time and opportunity to digest Rwandas bold announcement.
At least however did two safari operators in Kigali respond, on condition of strict anonymity, one of them calling the increases way over the top and endangering Rwandas standing as a tourism destination, still largely depending on gorilla tourism, pointing to the potential downfall should Congo DR and Uganda not follow the move, keeping their tariffs at present levels. The other companys owner was cautiously optimistic, claiming that Rwandas superior visiting experience and the range of other attractions will make the added charge of 250 US Dollars per person disappear in the package cost, also because airfares to Rwanda are getting more affordable with more airlines coming to Kigali and the competition bringing the fares down by more than that amount even.