Kamageo responded to the news that Rwanda was increasing its permit price with immediate effect (see RDB release), by gaining UK Africa specialists' thoughts on the matter. Here are their comments :
Rwanda has committed tourism suicide. Uganda must not follow suit. We have spent all morning dealing with this issue and we are switching clients to Uganda. We are shifting all our marketing immediately towards Uganda.
Donna Robbins, Gorilla Safari Company
Rwanda has shot itself in the foot by making itself so uncompetitive. Guests are shocked by $600, so $1500 … wow!
Simon Mills, Native Escapes
A staggering decision by RDB. I can understand some of the rationale behind an increase – but the execution, lack of notice and doubling of the fee is unprecedented! This really is shooting themselves in the foot! We will happily be cross-selling to Uganda & Odzala in ROC.
Carina Hibbert, Natural World Safaris
Rwanda’s new $1,500 tracking will drive business to Uganda. If Uganda matches this fee, I think a tipping point will be reached and overall demand will drop considerably, with people deciding other iconic wildlife species deserve their support more. It’ll be a case of “killing the goose that laid the golden egg”.
Richard Smith, Aardvark Safaris
We are horrified by the sudden increase of the permit in Rwanda to US$1,500 with immediate effect, and will most certainly switch all our business to Uganda if they can maintain US$600.
Celine Fortin, Wildlife Worldwide
The massive increase in Rwanda will have a negative effect on tourism there. Please do not do the same in Uganda. Getting to the gorilla area is expensive enough and $600 is a reasonably fair price to pay. Whilst clients may want to support gorilla conversation there is so much choice now to see amazing things around the world. Please do not jeopardise your own visitor numbers by increasing the permit price.
Miles Barber, Theobald Barbour
Please keep to $600 in Uganda…don’t make this an elitist activity; support those non-high end operators in & around the parks as their clients will dry up. And highlight the absurd costs in Rwanda.
James O’Farrell, Sundowner Holidays
I definitely think it would be a mistake for Uganda to up the price of gorilla permits. This is going to be a huge blow to mid-range tourism in Rwanda and an opportunity for Uganda to take this. Uganda visitors generally spending much more time in country- so upping the price of permits would reduce this.
Alexandra Matts, Extraordinary Travel
A crazy decision! If Uganda is able to keep the price the same they will take all of Rwanda’s clients! It is already expensive, so an increase would just discourage people.
Chloe McCormack, Farside Africa.
It is really important to protect the gorillas and the permit fees allow for this. $600 is a fair price - $1500 would start to limit this activity for most people. Uganda is already a very expensive destination. Increased fees WILL affect Rwanda tourism (I think they are being greedy!) and Uganda will be able capitalise on this.
Laurenne Mansbridge, Pioneer Expeditions
This jaw-dropping, unexpected, overnight increase is bound to have a negative consequence for tourism in Rwanda. Uganda should retain its current rates for Gorilla permits. It’s a no-brainer. Rwanda’s enormous loss will be Uganda’s gain. I am sure that tour operators all over the world, as well as DMCs, must be alarmed if not aghast/ incensed.
Derek Shuurman, Rainbow Tours
It is very important that Uganda doesn’t raise the cost of Gorilla permits. Holidays to Uganda are already very expensive. Explore will continue to sell Uganda over Rwanda, due to the attractive pricing. There are now direct flights from London to Kigali, so it is even more important to keep Uganda Gorilla permits at an acceptable rate.
Jonny May, Explore
I would be angling for a price freeze in Uganda. With all the hard work that has gone into marketing Uganda this year, I think this would be easiest, cheapest and most effective marketing campaign yet. However if there is a genuine need to generate more revenue for the protection and sustainability of the mountain gorilla population, and it is made clear how the funds are allocated, then price rises can be justified.
Jake Cook, Bailey Robinson
We believe that it would be a positive message for Uganda to maintain the $600. Increasing fees is likely to detract from tourism which directly benefits local communities. Our clients also go to other parts of Uganda – staying longer rather than going to Kenya or Tanzania.
Mark Crosby, Destinology
It would be short-sighted of UWA & UTB to increase permits, although there might be short term benefit, the wider tourist routes would suffer. You’d see a reduction in demand for Uganda and we’d have to shorten our tours losing visits to other areas of Uganda, to keep our costs down.
Phil Ellis, Titan
We have always pushed Rwanda as the best place to see the gorillas but we will be moving to Uganda if their price is maintained. Also the only lodges being built in VNP are very high priced so this is going to make Rwanda obscenely expensive. I just don’t think the market is going to hold. There is a price for conservation but it does have its limits in the “real” world. This may be a genuine step back for the conservation / survival of the mountain gorillas in Rwanda.
Nick Jenkins, Safari & Beach
I would of course love Uganda to stay at $600 and I believe that the country will benefit in the immediate future for visitors switching their treks over the border. If it is done sensibly, say to another 10-15-20 %, then it will still be fine, but if Uganda decides to up the cost significantly, then I suspect that visitors will now start to consider DRC and Congo Brazzaville.
Kate Pirie, Explorations Company
If the money is used properly, we would not have any objection to increasing fees. However, Uganda stands to gain a lot of gorilla tourism if they don’t increase the permit fees.
Bill Adams, Safari Consultants.
Please don’t put the permit price up!!! Whilst seeing the gorillas is a unique experience, I think the issue with raising the price is that you’ll put barriers up for a huge percentage of people who are genuinely interested in the conservation of the species. How can we expect the greater populous to care about the conservation of the gorillas if they’ll never be able to achieve their own aspirations of seeing them due to extortionate prices?
Matt Gammon, Imagine Africa
Uganda’s price should remain the same. It is already significant and people do not mind paying for a once in a lifetime trip that's also a contribution towards protecting the gorillas. But $1500 will be an impossible sell.
Tracey Campbell, Travel Butlers
Gorilla permits should be expensive: it is a unique experience and helps gorilla, but there’s a limit. $1500 will discourage many visitors completely. Visitors encourage their friends to visit. Porters, lodge owners, curio sellers and the whole tourism infrastructure of tourism needs good numbers of visitors. Uganda has a huge opportunity to be the destination of choice for gorilla-watching.
Andrew Beckett, Journey into Africa
To maintain interest and benefit from Rwanda’s decision we would strongly recommend that Uganda maintains permit costs at the current levels.
Tony McKeith, Busanga Safaris
Uganda should maintain the cost of Gorilla Permits - there is room to capitalise on Rwanda’s decision. If it must increase it should be by no more than a couple of hundred dollars. We are seeing a good increase in enquiry levels and not just for a for gorilla add on.
Emily Lowther, Africa Exclusive
I think prices should stay the same. It will be a huge opportunity for Uganda to attract a large proportion of Rwanda’s gorilla tourism and if this amount is currently adequate to fund the conservation efforts then it seems there is no need to increase their permit price at all.
Paul Hawley, Africa Exclusive
Whilst we were shocked by the news from Rwanda, there was excitement amongst our sales team who saw this as a great opportunity for Uganda as it will become everyone’s first choice to see mountain gorillas. People also go on to explore other parts of the country during their trip.
Laura Burdett, Africa Exclusive
Our average length of stay is 12 nights for Uganda and 2.5 nights for Rwanda. Uganda has a unique opportunity to attract many customers who may shy away from the huge Rwanda costs and entice a longer more cultural stay than just a fly in see the gorillas and out. My vote is hold the prices or a more moderate increase to say $750.
Mike Collins, Africa Sky
Uganda is likely to see a huge increase with those unable to afford Rwanda permits and surely, this is a positive thing for the country, not just Bwindi but other parks too. Uganda must maintain strict limits on permits and not increase these to account for larger numbers of tourists.
Victoria Saner, Scott Dunn & Imagine Africa
I would be in favour of maintaining the current rates. $1500 is far too expensive for many people, and enabling more people to see the gorillas plays an important role in building support for gorilla conservation. It's an opportunity for Uganda to position itself as a destination that welcomes all travellers not just the wealthy.
Julian Asher, Timeless Africa
Stay at $600, as Uganda will not gain any revenue from any increase in the fee, as it will put people off (visiting), so total revenue will go down and not increase.
Peter Jones, Wildwatch Tours
It’s VERY important to preserve the gorillas in their habitat and for this, money is needed, but $1500 will put a lot of people off as they won’t be able to afford it.
DD Kingscote, Outposts Travel.
I think they should keep their prices the same as before, Uganda permits should be less than Rwanda as the parks are a long way from the airport, so people have to pay a for a whole holiday usually extending to a couple of weeks.
Jules Croucher, Travel with Jules
Many who go gorilla trekking are not our more upmarket clients, but backpackers, overlanders and those on gap year trips. These types of travellers will now naturally gravitate towards Uganda. And high end guests will not necessarily pay more to visit Rwanda. It's 'supply and demand' so logically Uganda could increase its fees by a small amount without affecting volumes, but Rwanda is doubling the rate without offering tourists anything extra to justify it.
Paul Downhill, Safari Club