In May 2017, the stakeholders of Rwanda gorilla safaris were greeted by one of the most shocking news in the Rwanda tourism industry that the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) had decided to double the price of the gorilla permit from $750 to $1,500.
To the tour operators especially those that major in Rwanda gorilla safaris, the news was heartbreaking and was anticipated to have direct negative impacts on their business.
Not only tour operators got concerned with this increment but also the tourists themselves who are supposed to pay for these double priced permits in order to enjoy their Rwanda gorilla tracking experience. Subsequently, many of them opted to do gorilla tracking either in Uganda or in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where the gorilla permit is far cheaper at $600 and $450 respectively.
Following the shift of some potential tourists to Uganda and DRC, tour operators in Rwanda claim that they lost a lot of business as a result of this gorilla permit price increment.
According to the Rwanda Development Board, the rationale of doubling the price for both local and international tourists was to position the country as a high-end tourism destination, and to promote conservation by reducing the number of gorilla visitors while maintaining revenues.
The low-season gorilla permit discount means that instead of $1,500, visitors will pay $1,050 (30% reduction) between November and May. Securing this discount is subject to fulfillment of other conditions including spending at least three days in the country and also visit Rwanda’s other wildlife destinations of Akagera National park and Nyungwe Forest National Park as an added cost.
Although most of the Rwandan tour operators are claiming that they have not yet got many bookings based on this discount and that they incur extra costs when their clients cross over to Uganda and DRC, many of them have welcomed it as a good idea that brings some relief to them and their clients.
The Rwanda Tourism Board says that although there has been a slight decrease in the revenues generated from gorilla permits sales since they doubled the price, the difference is so little to cause any alarm.
However, tour operators in Rwanda claim that when their clients cross over to do gorilla tracking in Uganda instead of Rwanda, they incur extra costs that include; paying $20 to the Uganda Revenue Authority, $30 for Comesa insurance and fuel charges and all these increase their holiday package quotations by 10 to 20 percent.