Rwanda’s “expensive” gorilla permits are keeping some tourists away, tour operators say

Rwanda’s “expensive” gorilla permits are keeping some tourists away, tour operators say

TravelIndustryDeals-

Since the
Rwanda Development Board (RDB) doubled the price of gorilla permits from $750
to $1,500 at the beginning of June, bookings for the bucket-list experience of
gorilla trekking have slumped, according to some local industry players.
“Ever since
the price was increased, I have only sold one gorilla permit,” said one local tour
operator who preferred anonymity. “I think that was a very big mistake RDB made
because even the tourists who used to come for other attractions have reduced; they
think that now everything else in Rwanda is expensive, yet the prices for other
products have not changed.”

Toward the
end of May 2017, Rwanda increased the price of gorilla permits from $750 to
$1,500 for both local and international tourists alike, effective immediately.

Defending
the price increase, RDB CEO Clair Akamanzi said that the decision “came at a
much-needed time, after careful consultation and consolidation with key
stakeholders; key stakeholders within the tourism and conservation industry
were in agreement that the sooner the better adage is applicable this time
round.”



But
according to some local tour operators, the price increase is forcing some price-conscious
tourists to opt for neighboring Uganda, even though many believe that Rwanda still
remains the best place to view the critically-endangered species.

“Since the
announcement, I have been to Uganda three times for gorilla-trekking expeditions,
and I know how many Rwandan cars I have met there looking for alternatives,”
said Darius Dosantos of Kings Travel Centre, a local tour and travel firm.

Dosantos
went on: “At Kings Travel Centre, we had to refund money to three clients who
had sent it two days before the announcement and that’s lost business. We have
not got any bookings since then.”

Following
Rwanda’s announcement, the Ugandan government said it had no plans of increasing
the price of gorilla permits, at least not any time soon. Permits in Uganda
still cost $600 per person during peak season and $450 in the low season. DR
Congo, the only other country where the iconic mountain gorillas reside,
charges $500 per person.

Doubling the
price of gorilla trekking permits was seen as one of the ways Rwanda is positioning
itself as a high-end tourism destination in the region.

“Every
country has its way of doing business, and I believe they have a reason. If
they believe that high-end tourism is the way to go, then why not? But
basically they should have a considered a number of factors from suppliers and
local vendors before increasing the price,” says Dosantos. 


by Gilbert Mwijuke


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