Archive for May 8th, 2017

Controversy over tariff hike in Rwanda heating up as RTTA now formally objects too


(Posted 08th May 2017)

As more details emerge over the unilateral decision by the Rwanda Development Board to raise permit fees for gorilla tracking from 750 US Dollars to a whopping 1.500 US Dollars in an overnight cloak and dagger action – the information was made public in the wee hours of Saturday to Sunday night – is the country’s private sector now also speaking up after what has been described of being an emotionally charged and heated session to find common ground for a response.
The Rwanda Tour and Travel Association, the private sector umbrella body for tour, safari and travel agents, has issued a statement just moments ago in which they all but denounce the immediate increase while decrying the total lack of consultations which make a private public partnership a complete farce. Although the statement puts a brave face to the situation by avoiding calling a spade a spade and opting for softer language as in calling the spade a farming implement is the writing on the wall for those who can read between the lines.
There is still no reaction from RDB’s top brass to the now mile long list of tweets and social media comments, and no doubt also hundreds of mails in their inboxes from concerned travel agents and tour operators from around the world.

Said RTTA:

Statement by Rwanda Tours & Travel Association (RTTA) on the Price Increase for Gorilla Permits

7 May 2017

As close partners of RDB, the private sector has always been keen to work closely with RDB to ensure a sustainable growth of our tourism industry.

Regarding the decision to increase permits, RTTA understands the need to ensure tourism does not negatively affect the gorillas and we support any efforts to protect our endangered species and their habitat and in particular, the revenue sharing scheme increment from 5% to 10%. We acknowledge the invaluable contribution communities make in protecting the gorillas and other national parks, including Nyungwe, Akagera and Volcanoes.

However, we believe an immediate doubling of gorilla permits will be taken negatively by the markets, will affect our businesses and the whole tourism value chain (hotels, restaurants, crafts, transportation, community based tourism initiatives etc) and we risk losing substantial revenue for the industry and government as a whole. Currently, a number of gorilla permits are already not sold in low season and with the sudden hike in prices we need to ensure permit sales do not decline further.

Introducing this increase of gorilla permits from USD $750 to $ 1500 for all including Rwandans and EAC residents in the middle of the year, without formal and proper private sector consultations makes it harder for us and international suppliers to manage this sudden and abrupt change. International travel agents publish prices a year in advance and this sudden change will not be well received and we are afraid and worried of its impacts on our relationships, professionalism and reputation with the international markets, suppliers and clients.

As partners and stakeholders who directly deal with international and regional markets, suppliers and clients, and in the spirit of our public-private partnership, it would have been better to be consulted and involved in this decision making. We however remain optimistic that together we can work out a smooth transition and a better grace period which will ensure that everyone is well informed and prepared for this new pricing decision.

What has also upset regional partners is the complete and utter disregard of RDB vis a vis informal arrangements that citizens of EAC member countries get preferential rates, something Uganda has fully implemented by giving EAC citizens huge rebates when tracking gorillas there, but also that locals in Rwanda apparently now too have to pay the 1.500 US Dollars compared to two days ago when that fee was a mere 30.000 Rwandan Francs.
This action by RDB is a slap in our faces, it tramples on the principle of private public partnership and respect, it makes a mockery out of promoting domestic tourism and is offensive to our EAC partners too. It is now cheaper for Rwandans to track gorillas in Congo or Uganda than in our own country. Someone tell me why Kenyans for instance would want to come to Rwanda to track gorillas when they are punished with such outrageous tariffs while in Uganda they are offered EAC citizen tariffs? This makes no sense whatsoever and whoever has come up with this half cooked measure should have their heads examined. I can imagine the frosty atmosphere when the next meeting of private sector and RDB takes place after our stakeholders, who after all promote the country and have invested big time in the industry, have been so disrespected‘ let a regular Kigali based source fly, understandably on condition of strict anonymity to avoid repercussions.

In neighbouring Uganda are tour and safari operators now working overtime to tell the global markets that the tariffs for 2017 remain in place with the cost of the permit for the rest of May and again for November just 450 US Dollars while for all other months the cost stands at 600 US Dollars. Expatriates and in particular EAC citizens enjoy substantial additional cost reductions.
Feedback seen on social media pages linked to overseas travel agents and tour operators also seems to suggest a quantum shift of enquiries from Rwanda to Uganda but only time will tell how far this will go and if RDB, given the level of disagreements and rejection of the tariff hike, will cave in and reverse their decision – of course after the damage has been done.

Uganda Tourism Board gets new offices


(Posted 08th May 2017)

Effective today, Monday 08th of May has the Uganda Tourism Board moved from its previous location in Kololo to Lugogo House on Plot number 42, Lugogo Bypass, the same building where the offices of South African Airways are also located.


While no formal press release has been issued as yet was the information released via Twitter – almost Donald Trump like for that matter – at 13.26 hrs today and has since been reconfirmed through a trusted source.
All telephone contacts remain according to the source the same as are of course the tourism board’s website and email contacts.

For more information about Destination Uganda check out

Rwanda climbs to third rank as African MICE destination


(Posted 08th May 2017)

Few took much notice when in 2014 Rwanda’s standing in the continental ICCA rankings was at 13th position even though the Land of a Thousand Hills had come out of left field to accomplish that, given the challenge with meeting spaces and enough 5 and 4 star hotel rooms.
In 2015 though did the rest of Africa then do take notice when Rwanda’s standing had risen to 7th in Africa, beginning to rival the traditional MICE powers on the continent, including or especially Nairobi, given that ICCA has 39 member countries in Africa no mean achievement.
There has been speculation that Rwanda, when the 2016 rankings are released, my have climbed to perhaps 5th but the results, announced earlier today, surprised everyone including this correspondent.

The investments in a brand new state of the art convention centre adjoining the Radisson Blu Hotel in Kigali, the opening of the new Marriott Hotel Kigali with major meeting spaces available in the hotel plus added new hotels are paying off handsomely, as does the investment in the national airline RwandAir, which is now serving 21 destinations in Africa, the Middle East and India while adding London at the end of May to their network too.

ICCA today confirmed that Rwanda is now, after South Africa and Morocco, the third highest ranked MICE destination in Africa, leaving all others trailing in her wake to the delight of the staff of the Rwanda Convention Bureau, which was formed in 2014 and now has already major success to report.

Having had the privilege to speak at IBTM Africa in Cape Town a few weeks ago I used Rwanda as a textbook example how to build and develop MICE capacity and then market it vigorously and I am pleased to see that my predictions have not only come true but were exceeded.

Congratulations to the entire staff of the RCB and those specialised tour operators in Kigali working the MICE market (RAPCO) for the overwhelming success in their endeavours to turn Rwanda into a MICE destination of choice in Africa.

Coming up: 105th Session of the UNWTO Executive Council

In accordance with decision CE/DEC/17(CIII) adopted by the UNWTO Executive Council at its 103rd session held in Málaga, Spain, the Council will hold its 105th session from 10th to 12th of May 2017 in Madrid, Spain.

Your attention is kindly drawn to the fact that the Round Table on “Sustainable Urban Tourism” and the meeting of the High Level Task Force on Tourism and Security will also be held in Madrid, prior to the opening of the Council session, on Wednesday, 10 May. The Provisional agenda and the Terms of Reference for the High Level Task Force on Tourism and Security are now available online.

The meeting of the Working Group on the Framework Convention on Tourism Ethics will also be held in Madrid on 12 and 13 May at the headquarters of the Organization. Participation is open to UNWTO Full and Associate Members.

application/pdf iconList of documents (CE/105/list doc.)

application/pdf iconInformation Note, Revision 1 (CE/105/Note Inf. rev.1)

application/pdf iconProvisional Programme, Revision 1 (CE/105/1 prog. rev.1)

application/pdf icon1. Provisional agenda (CE/105/1 prov)

application/pdf icon1. Annotated provisional agenda (CE/105/1 prov.annot.)

application/pdf icon2. Communication of the Chair (CE/105/2)

application/pdf icon3(a) International tourism in 2016 and 2017 (CE/105/3(a))

application/pdf icon3(b) Mainstreaming tourism in the global agenda (CE/105/3(b))

application/pdf icon3(c) Priorities and Management vision (CE/105/3(c))

application/pdf icon3(d) Report on the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development 2017… (CE/105/3(d))

application/pdf icon5(a) Implementation of the General Programme of Work for 2016-2017 (CE/105/5(a))

application/pdf icon5(b) Draft Programme of Work and Budget of the Organization for 2018-2019 (CE/105/5(b))

application/pdf icon7(a) Financial report of the Organization for 2017 (CE/105/7(a))

application/pdf icon7(b) UNWTO financial report and audited Financial Statements for the year ended 31 December 2016 (CE/105/7(b))

application/pdf icon7(c) Application of Article 34 of the Statutes and paragraph 13 of the Financing Rules (CE/105/7(c))

application/pdf icon7(d) Report of the Working Group on the Review of the Amendment Procedure of the Statutes (CE/105/7(d))

application/pdf icon7(e) Human resources report (CE/105/7(e))

application/pdf icon7(f) Report of the Staff Association (CE/105/7(f))

application/pdf icon8(a) Report of the Chair of the Affiliate Members (CE/105/8(a))

application/pdf icon8(b) Guidelines for States on criteria for endorsement of candidates to affiliate membership (CE/105/8(b))

application/pdf icon10. Recommendation by the Executive Council to the GA of a nominee for the post of SG…, Revision 1 (CE/105/10 rev.1)

application/pdf icon11. Preparations for the twenty-second session of the General Assembly (CE/105/11)

application/pdf icon12. Place and dates of the 106th and 107th sessions of the Executive Council (CE/105/12)

The end of the road for the ‘Lunatic Express’


(Posted 08th May 2017)

The ‘Lunatic Express‘ aka ‘The Iron Snake‘ is no more as news are emerging from Nairobi that Rift Valley Railways has halted passenger operations with immediate effect.

In its heydays did two passenger trains operate every day in both directions, from Nairobi to Mombasa and vice versa, one train leaving the stations at 5 pm and the other at 7 pm, passing each other along the route at Mtito Andei or other stations with laybys.

Offering First Class Sleeper compartments, comfortable Second Class carriages and then Third Class too equipped with wooden benches and no comfort at all but the cheapest way to travel, was in particular the ‘Silver Service‘ dining experience much sought after by travelers in days when a road journey could take a day or more and air services were notoriously unreliable.

Train services in those days run not only between Nairobi and Mombasa but go as far as the Ugandan capital Kampala while in Kenya also reaching Kisumu via Naivasha and Nakuru.

Regular travelers would seek to book their dinner spot for the first of normally two sittings and were at the ready when one of the conductors walked through the train with his bell, indicating that ‘dinner is served‘. Originally did the old Uganda Railways, then the East African Railways and finally the Kenya Railways offer a great dining experience, fine china and silver cutlery included and the waiters would still sport white gloves as part of their uniform, reminiscent of days now long gone.

One would board at the station of origin in the evening and arrive, at least those in the sleeping compartments, fresh the next morning at the destination, ready for a day’s business after enjoying a hearty breakfast before the end of the journey.

The staff on board would make the beds in the first class compartments while their guests had their dinner before they returned to enjoy a good night sleep, or not given the many stops along the way and the rickety clickety condition of the tracks.

When the service went into decline in the 1980’s did for some time at least InterContinental Hotels offer a posh train ride excursions, renting the train carriages from KR but operating all the on board services themselves with fine dining part of the experience.

Excursions into the Rift Valley, along the line to Magadi and even to the Kenya coast were available, until the stock market crash in the US reduced the clientele keen to experience their own ‘Out of Africa‘ dreams to a trickle and the trips were stopped.

Under Rift Valley Railways did the passenger train services receive little if any attention as the company struggled from day one to meet their cargo targets and of late did the passenger train only operate three times a week until the last of the services then, without much fanfare or PR activity, ran from Nairobi to Mombasa on the 28th of April.

With the company’s concession facing the axe was that however probably the last thing on the mind of their managers, a sad state of affairs given that the train services ran almost uninterrupted since the railway was built at the turn of the 19th into the 20th century.

What is left now are memories, still alive in those of us who used the train and for others in history books or through Hollywood productions like ‘Out of Africa‘ or ‘The Ghost and the Darkness‘.

From the 01st of June this year will the new Standard Gauge Railway, in short known as SGR, begin to operate train services as reported here before but the days of the ‘Lunatic Express‘ are now finally over as old gives way to new.

Uganda’s tourism sector in celebratory mood


(Posted 08th May 2017)

One’s loss is another one’s gain comes to mind as Uganda’s tourism industry is now strategizing how to best benefit from Rwanda’s decision to raise gorilla permit fees, with not notice at all, from the previous 750 US Dollars per person to 1.500 US Dollars per person.
With an avalanche of comments received from the tourism private sector in Rwanda – notably none wishing to go on record though or be quoted – condemning the move in the sharpest terms was an equal number of comments received from Ugandan operators since the news was broken here 24 hours ago.
The initial feedback from across the spectrum of Uganda’s tour operators was incredulity, some accusing this correspondent to peddle fake news before it sank in that indeed Rwanda had pulled the carpet from underneath its gorilla tourism business.
Thereafter it was all enthusiasm as Ugandan operators smelled the proverbial blood in the water and were hastily starting to approach their overseas clients with their own news that gorilla tracking in Uganda remained user friendly with pocket friendly tariffs, including the present 450 USD fee for the month of May and again for the month of November this year.
Said one regular contributor, again on condition of anonymity: ‘Whatever triggered this decision, and I read your blog and the RDB statement, we can now benefit from it. Uganda should be able to sell permits like hot cakes because of the huge price differential. In the low season, say November, visitors can buy three permits in Uganda and still have some change in their pocket compared to the 1.500 US Dollars Rwanda will charge per person. The Rwandans may reverse it, or not, but for sure will we in Uganda now go flat out to sell our services to see the same species of mountain gorillas at much better prices. And let UWA not dare to suddenly also change tariffs because we here in Uganda will fight them tooth and nail, we are not meek sheep! This is a big bonus for the Ugandan tourism sector and whether it was a willing gift or not by Rwanda, we shall take it without questions asked‘.
Another cited the shift from one East African safari market to another in the past over the addition of VAT on tourism services, or else when the respective governments eventually abandoned that move again, saying that price does matter and there is a limit what the market can accept.
Others took issue with the no notice given announcement from Kigali, saying it will only enrage overseas operators who may be legally bound to pay for the increases from their own pockets due to contractual obligations before being able to adjust published safari package prices.
No official comments, over and above the initial statement from RDB 24 hours ago were received though on social media did high ranking staff of RDB confirm the tariff increase by simply stating: ‘Hi all. Yes the tariff has changed to 1500 usd‘.

Details about fully licenced tour and safari operators can be obtained from the Secretariat of AUTO, the Association of Uganda Tour Operators which website is

For added information about Destination Uganda click on or else check out the Uganda Wildlife Authority site at

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