Cheaper gorilla tracking permits in Uganda fail to attract tourists

Review: Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Gorilla beringei beringei - Mountain gorilla Family at play - Gorilla tracking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Kampala, Uganda | URN | The Uganda Wildlife Authority [UWA] has failed to register an increase in number of tourists destined to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest despite reducing the price of gorilla tracking permits.

In 2020, Uganda Wildlife Authority [UWA reduced the cost of gorilla tracking in Bwindi Impenetrable National park. In the revised fees, foreign non-residents pay USD 400 from USD 700, foreign residents are charged USD 300 from USD 600, while East Africans pay 150,000 Shillings from 200,000 Shillings for gorilla tracking permits.

According to the Executive Director of Uganda Wildlife Authority [UWA] Sam Mwandah, all this was intended to getting more tourists and promoting the gorilla tracking by reducing the fee for permits sold on a daily. The arrangement started on 1st December 2020 and will be ending on 1st March 2021.

Mwandah says the number of foreign tourists is still low compared to 2018 and 2019 which he says is due to COVID-19. Innocent Mada, the director Pearl Afric Tours and Travel has also admitted that the number of tourists is not increasing despite reducing the rates.

In 2019, Uganda registered 1,505,669 tourists both international and local. The highest number of international tourists are from European countries that have registered an increase in COVID-19 cases and still have travel restrictions.

For instance, United Kingdom has registered 4.13 million cases, Germany 2.41 million cases and Netherlands 1.06 million cases. The USA has registered 28.3 million cases with 500,000 fatalities.

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Mwandah also noted that domestic tourism has started taking shape in the new normal as the number of local tourists to enroll for daily trails has increased compared to other years but the statistics are still being generated.

After the lockdown, the tourism sector was re-opened in August 2020 but because of COVID-19, the sales were very low and in order to increase the gorilla tracking permit sales, UWA decided to reduce on the costs.

Gorilla tracking is the highest contributor to revenue earned from tourism, accounting for 80 per cent collected by the sector annually. Tourism was the second largest revenue collector in the country last year according to World Economic Forum.