Thursday March 20 2014

Only registered Ugandan tour operators to sell gorilla permits

A tourist takes a photo of a gorilla. The

A tourist takes a photo of a gorilla. The Tourism minister has said only registered local tour operators will be allowed to sell online gorilla permits. PHOTO BY EDNA KYOKUNZIRE  

By Dorothy Nakaweesi

Ugandan registered tour operators have been granted exclusive rights to access, view and sell online gorilla permits.

Tourism Minister Maria Mutagamba made the announcement on Tuesday, ending the bickering between tour operators and the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) who wanted the online permits open for everybody to access including the unlicensed tour operators.

Ms Mutagamba said: “Access (seeing & buying) by the local tour operators, not only gives the local tour operators better bargaining power to convince clients to book earlier, but it also gives local tour operators the opportunity to promote and market other national parks and attractions in Uganda.”

In an interview with the Daily Monitor, Association of Uganda Tour Operators (Auto)’s Secretary to the Board Geoffrey Baluku explains: “Many companies from neighbouring countries were planning to purchase these gorilla permits, fly / charter tourists into Entebbe connect them on domestic flights to Bwindi Forest or Mgahinga Gorilla National Parks track the gorillas, and then fly back to respective countries.”

This means the country would be losing revenue yet by allowing tour operators to sell the gorilla permits, related businesses along the value chain will benefit.
In his earlier explanation to this newspaper, UWA executive director Andrew Sseguya said: “The minister put a halt on the online gorilla tracking system but if you have a product you want to market globally, you increase chances of selling it with online marketing. Communication online would make our product more accessible to a bigger population.”

The main concern raised by Auto was that operators from neighbouring countries were eyeing Uganda’s gorilla permits to sell as a tourist attraction with the rest of safari in their countries.
This would thus leave out other local parks such as Queen Elizabeth, Lake Mburo, Kibale national parks.

The tour operators
Auto is Uganda’s leading tourism trade association, with membership of over 150 companies offering special interest safaris, Air safaris, incentive travel group safaris, and Custom safaris for individual travellers, Camping safaris (luxury & budget).