Mgahinga National Park, which is known for hosting the endangered mountain gorillas and golden monkeys, has reduced some charges at the park as a method for attracting domestic tourists.
The national park’s management has reduced fees for a gorilla permits to view mountain gorillas to Shs 150,000 from Shs 250,000 for the local tourist class, which incorporates Ugandans and other citizens from the East African Community member states.
The gorilla permit fees for foreign visitors have also been reduced to $350 (Shs 1,051,750) from $600 or Shs 1,803,000 during this promotional period scheduled to run until the end of June.
Throughout the previous two years, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park has been home to the eight-member “Nyakagezi” mountain gorilla family, which comprises of five males (silverbacks), two females and a two-year-old baby named Mutagamba after Maria Mutagamba the Tourism Minister.
Moses Turinawe, the warden responsible for tourism at Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, says this promotion could boost the number of tourists to the national park. On average, 130 visitors have been visiting the national park every month however the officials expect that the numbers will increase to over 200 toward the end of the promotion. The months of April to June are thought to have fewer visitors visiting the national park.
Apart from trekking mountain gorilla, Mgahinga’s other tourist activities incorporate viewing of the rare golden monkeys at $90 (or Shs 270,450) for foreigners and Shs 30,000 (about $10) for East Africans.
The famous Batwa trail, which offers historical and social practices of the indigenous Batwa people, who lived in Mgahinga’s tropical forest, costs $80 (Shs 240,000) for foreignrs and Shs 50,000 (about $16) for East Africans. There’s also mountain climbing, which features hikking the treacherous Mt Muhabura, which peaks at 4,137m.
Addressing a group of 16 journalists from different media houses during a trip organized by the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) at Mgahinga Gorilla National Park a week ago, Turinawe clarified that the national park’s management wants to cash in on the tourism blast by publicizing its activities.
Noticing that 90% of the tourists to the national park are foreigners, Turinawe said this promotion largely targets potential domestic tourists, who most likely did not know the nation had such nature destinations.
To address complaints of expensive accommodation and dinners that are generally associated with staying in and around national parks, Turinawe said the management would construct five bandas (small cottages) and make space for a campground at Rwerere community enterprise centre. When completed, such facilities are expected to cater for low-budget domestic visitors.
Mgahinga’s mediations are timely as Uganda’s tourism industry has overtaken other sectors as the lead foreign exchange earner, beating worker’s remittances and traditional heavyweights, for example, espresso, according to recent statistics.
Uganda’s tourism industry could have improved if it had not been affected by threats of terrorism, fear of diseases, for example, Ebola, and perceived homophobia against homosexuals.