A proposal by Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) to increase entry fees to the national parks is being contested by some stakeholders in the tourism sector.
Over the past two months, UWA has been making consultations on its proposal for an upward revision of its tariffs in the national parks such as entry fees, boat rides and accomodation facilities.
For instance, UWA wants the park entry fees for Ugandan citizens and other East African nationals increased from Shs 15,000 to Shs 20,000 and from $40 to $45 for foreign tourists.
But the idea is said to be meeting resistance from mainly tour operators, who fear that the new tariffs may affect the numbers of visitors to the national parks. Ivan Batuma Mbabazi, the representative of tour operators on the UWA board, told The Observer on July 6 that the new tariffs may not work for at least the next two years.
“We are going to maintain the tariffs for the next two years especially for the gorilla permits because we are not selling enough. We are at about 50 per cent but we want to sell up to at least 90 per cent [of the gorilla permits],” Mbabazi said.
“This goes hand in hand with improvement of the infrastructure around the parks especially the roads and good hotels near the parks which are affordable for domestic tourists,” Mbabazi added.
Simplicious Gessa, the public relations officer of UWA, said their proposal does not include gorilla permits although consultations for other tariffs are still on.
“We are not increasing the fees for gorilla permits until our market is stable. We are trying to encourage tracking of gorillas and attaining 100 per cent occupancy [rate of buying gorilla permits],” Gessa said.
Meanwhile, the conservation body has given out more than Shs 929.9m to eight districts surrounding Queen Elizabeth national park. The money represents 20 per cent of UWA's total gate collections from the park over the last financial year. Kasese district took the lion's share (Shs 362.4m) followed by Rubirizi Shs 156.8m, Kamwenge Shs 128m, Rukungiri Shs 90.1m and Kanungu Shs 81.1m.
Others are: Mitooma Shs 89.1m and Ibanda district Shs 21.9m. Each district's share is calculated based on its total boundary length with the park, divided by the district's total population. According to UWA executive director, Andrew Seguya, the money is intended for investment on projects that benefit a greater part of the community.
"We are looking at closer partnerships with the community so that we can defeat the illegal activities in the parks. The parks can generate more revenue if poaching and all other illegal activities are eliminated," he told district leaders at Mweya Safari Lodge, Kasese on July 6.
Some district leaders, however, want the law revised so that each district's share of the revenue is determined basing on the number of tourists that enter the parks through the respective districts.
"It should be based on the number of visitors entering through a particular district and the cases of poaching recorded," Benson Karyeija, the Mitooma LC-V chairman, said.