The year 2018 has been a good one for Uganda’s Tourism and perhaps the best it has seen when it comes to the Gorilla business. 

There are only 3 countries in the globe that offer Mountain Gorilla Tours: Uganda, Rwanda and Congo, all operating from the same region, the Gorilla highlands region

This beautiful region covers areas of the mountainous forests of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, northwest Rwanda, and southwest Uganda, spanning 4 national parks; Bwindi Impenetrable, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, The Virunga National park and Volcanoes National park. 

The Gorilla business is a close depiction of an Oligopoly market situation, with each country closely monitoring the others’ tourism activities, market environment, marketing activities, packaging and conservation efforts e.t.c.

The Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. Picture Credit Silver-back Lodge

In the recent months since 2017, 4 new major developments have occurred in this region.

  1. Rwanda doubled the price of their Gorilla tracking permits in the Parc Volcanoes to $1,500, losing part of its market share to Uganda and Congo that had considerably lower prices.
  2. Congo temporarily closed off the Virunga Parc and suspended all tourism activities within the region following the political climate, this caused a shift in the market share of a highly sensitive trade to lean towards Uganda which had relatively similar pricing. Sad L
  3. Uganda habituated 3 new gorilla families and opened them to tourists, this totaled to about 30 extra permits added on to the 120 that were already in the gorilla program, bringing the total number of gorilla permits available for sale to 152 permits daily. On a good day, if all permits are sold, 152 guests will be able to track Gorillas in Uganda. This was in attempt to cope with the overwhelming demand. VERY GOOD MOVE J
  4. The population of the mountain gorillas rose to over 1,000 as indicated by a recent Mountain Gorilla Census carried in May 2018. BEST NEWS FOR ALL 3 COUNTRIES.

In a document prepared by PHG consulting firm, Min of Tourism Uganda, through UTB announced the increase in the number of permits. Super!

The letter accredited this move to growing demand for permits resulting from tangible conversions from the recent marketing activities that UTB has been carrying out in North American and European markets. Which, if you ask me, might not be entirely it, conversions from Tourism marketing activities as we know it aren’t always instant.

Although the board has been doing a good job with building Uganda’s brand awareness through their different campaigns, its still safe to say that Uganda’s brand recall in target markets is still wanting. And that begs the question, how then did the demand in Gorilla tours in Uganda shoot up in such a short period. If you followed this trade in the recent months, we literally didn’t have any low gorilla seasons, which was rather strange as other destinations within Uganda still had low seasons. WHY? Just refer to Bullets 1 & 2. Simple.

The Gorilla permits prices still remain at $600 for Uganda. However there are no low seasons. This means that bookings are best made in advance in order to secure permits in time and subsequently secure the best accommodation options.

So, what I’d like to take home from this move is that when it comes to fronting tourism, maybe Uganda isn’t exactly sleeping like its portrayed, or maybe we’re just lucky enough to be reaping off of our neighbors demise. Regardless. A better future for the industry and as always, I’m super optimistic as a tourism player. I’m very interested in answering questions about tracking gorillas as a bucket list item for Uganda. So, maybe now’s the time to ask about visiting Gorillas.


Until Next…

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