Our tourism development officer, Cai, could not wipe the huge smile off his face when he announced that the tourist numbers for January, about 350 visitors, were nearly the same as our 2011 high summer season months. Considering that January isn’t high season, this is fantastic.
Some possible reasons for the jump in numbers is that the word is getting out that we are the coolest national park in Africa (we’re not the slightest bit biased in saying this), that we have an erupting volcano you can get close to (and how many parks can claim that?), that we have a new awesome lodge for people to stay at in the park, and there’s a new chimpanzee trek available. Who wouldn’t want to come here?
On top of this, we received some excellent news (for us) that Rwanda is increasing the price of their gorilla treks to $750 per trek, a 50% increase in price. Since our treks are almost half the price ($400), we are hoping that people who want to see mountain gorillas in their natural habitat will come here instead. We can’t guarantee our price won’t increase some, but we’ll most likely keep it down so it’s affordable and we can increase our visitor numbers. Another big reason to smile!
And one last comment on tourism: it’s good for the park, it’s good for conservation, it’s good for the gorillas, and good for the community. 30% of revenue from tourist permits goes toward community projects. This year we will have much more to spend, with several planned projects that include roads and improving water sources for communities surrounding the park.