At the last mid-term engagement for the Association of Uganda Tour Operators (AUTO) on August 6, 2019, at the Hotel Africana in Kampala, Uganda, the Wildlife Authority’s Director of Tourism and Business Services, Mr. Stephen Masaba, made a major announcement outlining several changes in tariffs including a nominal increase in gorilla permits from USD 600 to USD 700 per permit. The increment comes incentivized with the opportunity for free park entrance to Semliki and Mt. Elgon National Parks for one day. Also increased is chimp tracking fees in Kibale Forest National Park from USD 150 to USD 200 per permit.
Other changes include a huge reduction in professional fees for filming of gorillas from USD 4,000 down to 30% of gorilla permit fees, a 50% reduction for nature walk fees, and reduction in entrance fees to USD 50 in Mt. Elgon National Park. Gorilla habituation experience remains unchanged at USD 1,500 per permit.
On prior consultation with local tour operators, many of whom failed to secure gorilla permits for their clients due to record demand this high season, Masaba, who was flanked by Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) Sales Manager Paul Ninsiima, announced that UWA shall now reserve 80% of permits for bookings through Ugandan registered tour operators and 20% for the rest of the public. The new reservation system shall also accept online payments as well as payment via mobile phones (mobile money) locally offered by local telecom operators. Masaba urged tour operators to comply with the ongoing inspection and licensing exercise being carried out by UTB as criteria to access the 80% permits.
He also announced that visitor numbers to national parks grew by 10% from 303,000 in 2016/17 to 344,000 in the 2017/18 financial year.
Gorilla permits sales increased from 40,714 to 43,124 with peak season sales between July and October at over 100%, averaging of 73% for the last financial year. 94% were booked by foreign non-residents, 2% by foreign residents, and 4 % by Ugandans and East Africans.
Murchison Falls National Park recorded the largest number of visitors of 104,000 followed by Queen Elizabeth National Park with over 84,000. All parks except Semliki and Mt. Elgon, grew in visitor numbers.