With many government officials and Wildlife Authority opting to put Gorilla tracking permits online, Uganda Tour operators have protested against this move saying that it will keep them out of business. Through their leader, Boniface Byamukama, the tour operators advised the government to find ways of increasing gorilla safaris in Uganda like infrastructure development other than thinking of away to eliminate business from them. Infrastructure development in Uganda can also lead to an increase in Rwanda gorilla Safaris since some tourists first visit this “pearl of Africa” before proceeding to Rwanda.
This has come up when Uganda is approaching a peak season where many tourists flock into the country. Among these visitors, 70% specifically come for gorilla tracking and if these issues are not solved in time, they will hinder the long awaited season of business. The tour operators said that there is need by the government to create better road network, affordable air travel to different destinations and a higher marketing budget. The chairman of Association of Uganda Tour Operator (AUTO) said that Uganda Wildlife Authority should be focused on fighting poaching in the country that is on an increasing rate.
The protest was caused by UWA’s executive director (Dr. Edward Seguya) who continuously claimed on different Medias that the minister of tourism, Maria Mutagamba had taken a bribe from the tour operator to stop the online gorilla trekking permits project that was supposed to be flagged off as early as possible. He even told the members of Parliament that Uganda could make a lot of money (an extra sh20b) if UWA is allowed to use online marketing. He backed his remarks by saying that e-marketing means that tourists will not have to go through the existing bureaucracy that scares them away.
The tour operators now want the government to intervene and make the UWA officials account for every coin received. They even said the disappearing of Ivory that had been confiscated from poachers from UWA stores means that there are corrupt officials whose aim is to make business on the expense of others. They even said that if their voices are not given attention to, they are willing to move a motion of impeaching Dr. Seguya as the executive director of Uganda Wildlife Authority.
It is now left for the government to decide but currently, gorilla tracking permits in Uganda can only be obtained manually and they cost USD 600 per person per day. This is relatively cheap compared to Rwanda gorilla tracking permits which go for USD 700 per person, per day.
Both Uganda and Rwanda are known for hosting the highest number of gorilla safaris every year due to the presence of the had-to-find primates.