KIGALI, Rwanda – A tripartite meeting was held in Kigali yesterday where RDB’s Tourism and Conservation Department hosted their counterparts from the Uganda Wildlife Authority and Congo’s ICCN, to discuss closer cooperation vis a vis gorilla management and conservation in the Virunga mountains.
Rica Rwigamba welcomed her counterparts from Uganda, Dr. Andrew Sekuya and Dr. Wilungula from Congo to complete what technical teams of the three organizations had prepared in the recent past, namely the preparation of a new 5 year strategic plan to protect the prized mountain gorillas and their habitat across the national borders, work together in tourism-related activities and, by promoting the Virungas as a destination, generate more revenues and equitably share benefits.
Gorilla tourism in Uganda and Rwanda is among the hightest grossing tourism activities and remains, inspite of efforts to diversify the products and promote visits to other national parks and game reserves, the highest profile attraction the countries are known for. Congo in contrast, as a result of conflict over the past decades in the East of the country, has not been able to develop the full potential of gorilla tracking tourism and related activities and therefore is keen to eventually reap a peace dividend when full order is eventually restored.
Rica Rwigamba, in her sttatement, reportedly focused on the need to improve the livelihoods of the people living in the vicinity of the respective national parks, while Dr. Seguya welcomed the positive changes in the new document compared to past cooperation, as a number of loopholes in the transboundary management of gorillas was now addressed. It was noted by tourism sources from Kigali however that the former commonality of using the same tariffs across the three countries had not been brought back, leaving each country for now to set their own charges. Rwanda presently charges non-resident foreign tourists US$750 per person and has no off or low season tariffs, something the Uganda Wildlife Authority has successfully introduced over the past two years, allowing them to attract more visitors during the time of year when permit sales are off peak and every additional tourist attracted to Uganda will bring that crucial extra income for UWA and the tourism sector.
Good news for overall for the future cooperation between the three countries under the Greater Virunga Transboundary Cooperation, which secretariat is based in Kigali.