As far as tourism is concerned, Rwanda is making much effort to market their tourism industry but in actual sense, they are marketing for Uganda. The Uganda tourism industry is booming to the expense of Rwanda’s marketing. Rwanda tourism industry is run by Rwanda Tourism Board (RDB) While Uganda’s Tourism sector is under control of Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) in conjunction with Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA).
Before May 2017, Rwanda’s tourism sector was doing well especially gorilla trekking which was taking a lead among all tourism activities in Rwanda. As far as selling Gorilla permit was concerned, the country used to receive more than 80 trekkers every day at the cost of US$ 750 Gorilla permit. By that time, Uganda’s Gorilla permit was at US$ 600 but still Rwanda was leading the race given the easier accessibility to the destinations where mountain gorilla treks are conducted.
In May 2017, Rwanda made changes in the tariffs at which they were selling their Gorilla permit. The cost of Rwanda Gorilla permit was increased by 100% (from US$ 750 to US$ 1500)… the tourism fraternity was frozen. Rwanda development Board (RDB) increased the prices and by the end of June 2018, the policy was already put into use or implemented.
East African tour operators plus other stake holders like the owners of the Lodges, Hotels, tourists among others urged the reduction of the costs or give more time for all stake holders to see how they will go about it but all in vain. Rwanda Government through RDB kept a deaf ear instead.
Many stake holders including tourists showed their dissatisfaction by negative comment in trying to respond to the policy. One the stake holder commented “ This is greed of the highest order” another one commented “ the human nature will never get satisfied” and so many other comments of that nature.
Uganda Government through UTB and UWA instead maintained the cost of Gorilla permit at US$ 600 each. As Rwanda maintained the high cost of their Gorilla permit at US$ 1500, Uganda maintained their low cost at US$ 600. As each country is trying to gain the largest market share, Uganda made a wise decision of maintaining the gorilla permit cost at US$ 600 which resulted into an increase in the number of visitors willing to trek Gorillas in Uganda.
It should be noted that Uganda hosts more Gorilla groups in Bwindi Impenetrable national Park and Mgahinga national park compared to what Rwanda offers at Volcanoes national Park. Currently, Uganda hosts 14 habituated Mountain Gorilla groups/ families compared to 10 Gorilla groups in Volcanoes National Park. Uganda is on advantaged that, they offer more gorilla permits a day than Rwanda because, the more the Gorilla families, the more Gorilla permits issued a day.
The increase of Rwanda Gorilla permit enables many tour operators to start marketing one day Uganda Gorilla trekking tour in Mgahinga national Park. This is evidenced by the many websites advertising one day Uganda Gorilla tour than before. Currently, Mgahinga national Park is receiving more guests than before.
Alternatively, some visitors proposed to do one day Uganda Gorilla tour in Bwindi Impenetrable national park from Kisoro or Kabale. All the above attempts were aiming at dodging the high cost of Rwanda Gorilla permit.
Another fact is that, Uganda is nearby Rwanda and tourists need just to endour 3-4hours drive from Kigali Airport to Bwindi Impenetrable national park or Mgahinga national Park. This also enabled tourist to dodge Rwanda’s expensive Gorilla permit. The shorter distance makes it possible for the tourist to do one day Gorilla trekking safari in Uganda to substitute one day Rwanda Gorilla tour in Volcanoes national Park.
Currently, statistic shows that the number of Rwanda’s tourists willing to trek Gorillas was greatly reduced compared to the past years. This is evidenced by the research made with Uganda Tour companies which were formally sending many tourists to Rwanda. Most of them register low turn up of tourist willing to trek Gorillas in Rwanda than in Uganda. Some tour operators argues that tourists send inquiries to trek Rwanda Gorillas but after knowing that the cost of Gorilla permit is US$ 1500, many of them accept to trek Uganda Gorillas. Uganda is now at peak as far as Gorilla tourism is concerned.