THE tourism ministry is to review the gorilla tracking agreement between the Uganda Safari Company (TUSC) and the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), the tourism minister has said.
TUSC signed a contract to market gorilla permits and manage Nkuringo Eco-Lodge in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park on behalf of the local communities about two years ago.
According to tour operators, the agreement granted the firm a monopoly on gorilla permits for the Nkuringo group, which tied tourists to staying at the eco-lodge.
Kahinda Otafiire assured the operators that resolving the issue was among his priorities, adding that he would first enquire from his predecessor, Janat Mukwaya, why the monopoly was created.
“Your complaints about the gorilla tracking monopoly in Bwindi will be solved soon,” Otafiire said during the welcome party hosted for him at the Kampala Serena Hotel last week.
The Uganda Tourist Association president, Amos Wekesa, said the sector was expected to grow at about 2.5% even with the hard-hitting credit crunch.
“The Government should waive taxes and zero-rate all tourism packages for its fast growth,” Henry Okecho, the Association of Uganda Tour Operators chairman, said.
Last year, tour operators petitioned Parliament arguing that the agreement between the Uganda Safari Company and the local communities neighbouring the gorilla sites at the Bwindi park and the Uganda Wildlife Authority, had frustrated their business interests.
The company was also dragged to the High Court by some of the operators, but it is yet make a ruling.
Out of an estimated 720 mountain gorillas left in the world, 340 are found in the jungles of Bwindi in Kisoro district, which is said to have over 32 families of gorillas.
Over 70% of the revenues from tourism come from gorilla tracking.
The continuous flow of tourists to go gorilla tracking has been through a concerted effort from various players in the industry, including tour operators.
Author: Sandra Nans