This year, Rwanda revised the price of gorilla permits from USD 750 to USD 1500 for foreign non-residents, foreign residents and nationals of Rwanda to trek mountain gorillas in the volcanoes national park Rwanda. This ultimate decision by the Rwanda Development Board is a direct implication that gorilla tourism in Rwanda is left only for the wealthy client which in the long run is denying so many people a chance to visit the engendered mountain gorillas in the wild.
98% of all Rwanda safaris are focused on trekking for the endangered mountain gorillas in the wild. For visitors to other national parks of Akagera and Nyungwe forest national park for a minimum of three days will get a 30% discount while those visiting the country for conferences and are planning to go for gorilla trekking are entitled to 15% discount. In my view, the RDB is looking at ways of how to involve visitors to visit tourist attractions in the country other than just mountain gorillas. Discussed below are a number of reasons that influenced Rwanda government to increase the price of gorilla permits:
The need to promote sustainable gorilla tourism in volcanoes national park is the main target. The highest population of people visiting mountain gorillas on a daily basis put their lives at a risk. The new prices therefore aim at minimizing and regulating visits to the gorillas hence conserving them for the future. Additionally, gorillas share roughly 99.8% of human genes which make them susceptible to human diseases especially cough and flue.
New permit prices are also to improve the standards of living for the local people in communities adjacent to volcanoes national park. The community share from gorilla tourism has now increased from 5% to 10% hence improving the livelihoods of the locals. Over 400 local community projects which hospitals, schools, business development centers and clean water supply systems have been supported by gorilla tourism which has improved local people’s standards of living.
In relation to conservation and improved local livelihoods, a new gorilla permit price is an indirect way of promoting Rwanda as a luxury tourism destination. High-end lodges such as Bisate lodge have been established in volcanoes national park to provide excellent services to luxury travelers.
Impacts of the gorilla permit prices in Rwanda
On a positive note, increased gorilla permits have now transformed Rwanda as a high-end tourism destination. Surely, an ordinary person cannot manage to pay 1500usd for an hour just to see the gorillas. This means that only luxury travelers will trek Rwanda gorillas at 1500usd.
Additionally, Rwanda government expects to earn raised revenue from gorilla tourism. The revenue to be earned now at 1500usd is twice the revenue that was earned when a gorilla permit was at a cost of 750usd. The income earned help in the establishment of infrastructures, schools and hospitals among others, which are helpful to the local people.
For travelers who will spend a minimum of three days in Akagera and Nyungwe forest national park, a 30% discount is an added advantage. In the same way, travelers who visit Rwanda for conferences and meetings and stay before or after the conference for three days minimum are provided 15% which also an advantage to them.
On the other hand, the increment of a gorilla permit prices has put a stop on domestic tourism in Rwanda. There are few or none of the Rwandans who canafford pay 1500usd to the see mountain gorillas for just an hour. This means that Rwanda people have been indirectly pushed out of gorilla tourism in their country by doubling the cost of the gorilla permit.
Similarly, a high level of unemployment is expected especially for the local people. Most locals some of whom were former porters have been working in gorilla tourism as porters and local guides hence earning them a living. Additionally, people who have been working in budget and mid range accommodation facilities are likely to lose their jobs since only luxury lodges and hotels are the present targets by the Rwanda development board.
A shift by most travelers Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo is obvious. Gorilla trekking in Uganda and the DR Congo is far much cheaper at a cost of 600usd and 450usd respectively, which provide similar experience at a relatively low cost. More still, travelers would opt for the famous gorilla habituation experience in Uganda at 1500usd, which allow travelers to spend a half-day with the gorilla. All budget and mid range travelers are therefore recommended to come to Uganda or the DRC at a reduced price.
Conclusively therefore, Gorilla trekking is the best wildlife encounter that every traveler should take part in. travelers can trek in one of the gorilla destinations (Rwanda, Uganda and the democratic republic of Congo) greatly assured of a memorable experience.