Gorillas and tourism are inextricably linked. Nor the gorillas nor tourism can stand on its won without the other. Today about four African countries have embraced gorilla tourism, a form of tourism that is based on watching the gorillas in the wild. These include Uganda, Rwanda, Congo, Gabon and Central African Republic. Within Uganda and Rwanda, gorilla tourism has been a success! The annual revenue raised from gorilla tourism is important in protecting the mountain gorillas, fund conservation and management of the parks, as well as local and national economies.
Reconciling the demand for tourist dollars with the needs of the gorillas is a delicate balancing act. The key is to minimize the risk of disease transmission and to avoid disrupting the gorillas’ natural behaviour. Accordingly, tourists must abide by very strict rules (if you are planning on seeing gorillas in the wild, take the Gorilla FriendlyTM Pledge. Gradual harmonization of such rules and regulations across all four mountain gorilla parks, as well as promotion of regional tourism circuits, is paving the way for the development of a regional tourism programme.
The long-term success of gorilla tourism hinges on the enthusiasm and commitment of the local communities around the parks. IGCP and its partners have introduced mechanisms such as revenue sharing schemes to ensure that these people benefit directly from tourism. In addition, small and large tourism enterprises have been initiated by cooperatives and associations, with support from IGCP and sometimes in partnership with the private sector.