Rwanda Announces increase in the Price of Gorilla Permits

How Much does a Rwanda Gorilla Permit Cost

Gorilla trekking has increasingly become a “must do activity” for most tourists visiting Uganda and Rwanda because it is an exceedingly unique experience. Mountain gorillas have also become the center of attraction for tourists across the globe because of their unique characteristics. Rwanda the land of a thousand hills is one of the unique destinations that can be visited for a remarkable gorilla trekking experience because the country is now peaceful/stable and tourists have only 2 hours to drive from Kigali to Volcanoes National Park. Surprisingly, Rwanda has hiked the price of Gorilla permits from the usual $750 to $1500 for all tourists (including Rwandan nationals). This move will exclude the Rwandan citizens (especially those of middle and the low class) who may not afford this amount hence discouraging domestic tourism. How many Rwandans can afford to pay $1500 (about Rwf 1,238,250 from Rwf 30,000) for just a gorilla permit excluding other costs? The increase is in line with Rwanda’s high-end tourism strategy against the mass tourism strategy in other countries. Tourists planning to track gorillas from Rwanda should therefore prepare twice the amount they used to pay for a permit.

The hike in the price of gorilla permits takes a prompt effect from 6th May but this 100% price increment will not affect tourists who had already purchased their permits at the time the new changes were made. Rwanda Development Board (RDB) also introduced an exclusive package where tourists have the astonishing opportunity to book a whole/entire family of gorillas at $15,000 per person and receive exclusive individualized tour guide services.

These new changes were announced on Saturday 6th May 2017 by Ms. Clare Akamanzi, the Chief Executive Officer of Rwanda Development Board. Uganda and DRC still maintain their usual price of $600 and $400 respectively. This puts Uganda at an advantage because the cost of a single gorilla permit in Rwanda can be able to book for an entire 3 days’ gorilla tracking safari in Uganda during the low season. With the $1500 for a gorilla permit in Rwanda, tourists can also opt for an unforgettable opportunity to spend more time (four hours) with the Giant Apes during the Gorilla Habituation Experience (GHE) in Uganda’s Bwindi National Park. Although there are speculations that Uganda will also increase the price of gorilla permits, it will not still be equivalent to the exorbitant price of gorilla permits in Rwanda.

Whereas other stakeholders including tour operators are worried that this increase will affect the number of tourists who visit Rwanda for gorilla trekking, RDB remains optimistic and argues that the number of Rwanda’s tourists will not be affected by the cost of gorilla permits because the change is rather part of its high-end marketing strategy and also the willingness by the consumers (tourists) to pay. Tour operators base their frustration on the fact that some of their clients had confirmed their gorilla safaris based on the original $750 per permit. It would be a disappointment to inform tourists that the price of gorilla permits have been abruptly doubled yet they were in high spirits because of the upcoming safaris. Much as some tourists would be willing to pay the $1500, the fact that the announcement was abrupt makes it a challenge to adjust their budget from the original amount budgeted for.

Still on the issue of the high-end marketing strategy, new high-end safari Lodges are being put in Musanze and plans are already underway to improve visitors’ memorable experience at Kinigi. These plans include the refurbishment of the Visitor Information Center to equip it with modern contemporary offices and tourism services including children learning space, conservation education and digital facilities.

The good news however is that visitors who desire to visit Nyungwe and Akagera National Parks for a minimum of 3 days besides gorilla trekking will be offered a 30% discount. Also tourists who visit Rwanda for conferences and stay before or after conference dates to watch the mountain gorillas will be entitled to a 15% discount.

This unexpected increase came in with sudden and raucous reaction from members of the tourism fraternity who pointed that it was so sudden and unacceptably high (double the usual amount) but according to Ms. Clare Akamanzi, the price of the gorilla permit was increased in order to ensure sustainability of Conservation Initiatives and intensify Visitors’ experience. Over 62% of the world’s surviving mountain gorillas are found in Rwanda's Volcanoes National Park and strict conservation actions have outstandingly attributed to the increase in Gorilla numbers. Currently there are 20 families of mountain gorillas habituated for tourism and research purposes. She further elaborated that the increment will also double the revenue sharing rate for local communities adjacent to the Volcanoes National Park from the usual 5% to 10% hence quadruple the total revenues received by the communities. This will help them to fund their development projects and empower them economically.

Gorilla tourism has continuously benefited the economy of Rwanda and improved the livelihoods of the local community members in that, for the past 12 years more than 400 community development projects have been finalized and these include schools, hospitals, business development centers and water supply systems to ease the access of clean water by the local communities.

In conclusion, besides Rwanda being the most expensive gorilla trekking destination among the three countries where gorilla trekking is conducted (Uganda, DRC and Rwanda), the Rwanda Development Board on 6th May 2017 announced an increment in the price of gorilla permits from $750 to $1500.It is up to the public (tourists) to respond to this price increase and it is expected that some tourists will decide to book for Uganda permits while others will still book for the Rwanda gorilla permits because of the advantages of gorilla trekking from Rwanda.