Jun 28, 2017 - Business Permit    No Comments

Industry reacts to Rwandan permit increase

Industry reacts to Rwandan permit increase
27 Jun 2017 – Tourism Update
Rwanda’s permit hikes may be in response to the surge in high-end tourism development.
The recent doubling of Rwanda’s gorilla permits from $750 to $1 500 has resulted in concerns from some operators over the potential impact of the increase.
For Debbie Addison, Director of Wild Frontiers, the permit increase means “turning a dream into something that may be unattainable for people who really want to see gorillas in their natural habitat”.
Betty Jo Currie, Founder of Currie and Co Travels shares a similar view. “I’m sad to see a continuing polarisation between ‘haves and have nots’. This will clearly affect people for whom this is a bucket list item but who were travelling on a budget.”
Addison and Currie say although the increase is high, some guests are not concerned. They say their clients are concerned about value rather than cost and will continue to book gorilla trekking experiences. But Addison adds that some travellers have been “put off by the more expensive permit price”.
She says it is rare for guests to book Rwanda on its own. “Sadly very few guests book Rwanda as a destination in its entirety. I believe a lot of guests went there as it was an easy add-on to Kenya and Tanzania’s ‘big game’ safaris. Most of our bookings to Rwanda are ‘in and out’ gorillas.”
An indirect motivation behind the increase may be the rise in luxury operators building in Rwanda. Addison says: “The new lodges’ price points attract clientele that can afford the $1 500 permit.” Currie agrees: “I suspect that rather than being behind the fee hike, the new luxury lodges have proved to the Rwandan government that the market will support a fee increase.”
However, even though some businesses may be able to absorb the price increase, it is likely to have a negative effect on middle and lower range tourism options. “The lodges, the local operators, even the staff working directly with gorillas (trackers/porters etc). As the volume of people (tourists) now able and willing to enjoy this activity may reduce, this will likely have a knock-on effect throughout the industry,” says Addison. “If numbers of guests trekking reduce, so will the share of local income from those guests. Curios, porters, staff working in tourism in the area will start to feel the reduction as we move into low season this year, and into 2018.”
Addison says this could be positive for Ugandan tourism. “Uganda offers a more ‘rounded’ safari experience, and generally people will go there to see primates, birds, game, and culture and spend up to 10 days or more, taking in the country and its offerings. With Uganda recently confirming prices at $600 for the next two years, I believe that the country will pick up business from Rwanda.”

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