Gorilla, Rwanda ST

Yesterday, the Rwanda Development Board announced that the price of gorilla permits would be increasing from US$ 750 to US $1,500. Ms. Clare Akamanzi, CEO of the Rwanda Development Board, is reported to have said that “We have raised the price of permits in order to ensure sustainability of conservation initiatives and enhance visitors’ experience. We also want to make sure that the communities living near the park area receive a bigger share of tourism revenues to fund development projects and empower them economically.”

Whilst this is an admirable intention, I fear that such a hike in prices might be too much for many tourists; not least as in neighbouring Uganda the price is US$600. If so it will not only impact the government’s revenues from gorilla tourism but also affect local communities employed in tourism. The highest-end properties might just be able to sustain such prices but the lower-end properties – many of which are community-based – do not have the clientele to support such prices. They undoubtedly will be affected by such a price-rise, which seems contrary to the government’s intentions.

I am a firm believer that conservation must pay its way, that money is desperately needed to strengthen conservation efforts. For example, it is criminal that the Ecuadorian government has not raised the park fee to enter the Galapagos in the last fifteen years and it remains at a paltry US$100. This means that if you stay in the Galapagos for a week you are paying less than US$1 per hour for the privilege of doing so compared to the US$1,500 cost to spend one hour with Rwanda’s gorillas.

I was uncertain and ultimately wrong about the Rwandan government’s decision to increase gorilla permit prices from US$250 to US$750 just over ten years ago. I sincerely hope that I am wrong again.

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