The Uganda government is working to disperse the existing heat between the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) and local tour and travel operators over Mountain Gorillas which are the most profitable tourist attraction in the country. Local operators, through their body of unity the Association of Uganda Tour Operators (AUTO), they are not only against UWA’s proposal to have Gorilla viewing permits sold online but the proposed increment in the amount paid these permits. UWA intends on having the price increase from $500 which is about Shs 1.3 million currently paid to $650 which will be about Shs 1.7 million.
According to AUTO, UWA’s proposed new online marketing strategy alongside an increase in the price of the Gorilla trekking permitshas come at a wrong time and has to be refuted. And for this matter, tour operators want the government, to be particular President Yoweri Museveni, to intervene and check the ambitious extremes of UWA and it is rushing this whole proposal before making sufficient consultations with the different stakeholders.
AUTO members have also come to learn that UWA management was intending to implement the policy without the approval of the board and the parent ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Heritage. Fortunately, there is no official position on the initiative had been reached yet so said Akankwasah Barirega, who is the principal wildlife officer and also the acting spokesperson at the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Heritage. He said it is still a proposal and the final decision will be made after meetings with all the stakeholders because the government cannot bring a policy that drives its people out of business.
He however confirmed that there have been a few meetings within the last one month between UWA and the tour operators and in one of the meetings which was held on Aug.6, over 200 local operators agreed that if UWA insists on putting the permits online, they should be available to AUTO members. Instead of calling UWA, we should access the permits from our offices because tourists contact us, not UWA so said Byamukama in his own words during a follow-up telephone interview