Gorilla tourism: Companies warned against irresponsible marketing

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Esha Saxena Mandala
Esha Saxena Mandalahttps://kigalidailynews.com
Esha Saxena Mandala has extensive experience as a freelance writer, journalist, and content strategist. She has over six years of editorial and inbound marketing expertise and is fascinated with creating wonderful content that is insanely useful and effective.

Companies that are into mountain gorilla tourism have been urged to avoid irresponsible marketing feats that are contrary to the guidelines in place for the well being of the primates.

The population of mountain gorillas in the volcanic range which spans Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo is continuing to rise thanks to years of conservation efforts between governments, communities and NGOs.

According to the latest census, there are approximately 1,000 mountain gorillas in the wild, with 604 in the Virunga Massif.

As part of the ongoing conservation efforts, officials have called upon tour operators to avoid irresponsible advertisements that promise to give tourists experiences that are against the guidelines.

“For example, if you go to social media and post a photo of a person touching a gorilla, and then promise that your company will give such an experience to clients, that is irresponsible marketing and it is discouraged,” said Alice Mbayahi, the Communications and Advocacy Manager at International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP).

In line with addressing the long-term conservation of the mountain gorilla, one of the projects that the IGCP is doing currently is dubbed “Gorilla Friendly.” It is aimed at increasing awareness of gorilla safety measures when visiting or observing wild gorillas.

The “Gorilla Friendly” project urges for best practice guidelines for great ape tourism, calling upon tourists to pledge to not trek gorillas if they feel ill, keep distance from gorillas at all times, among other measures.

Yves Ngenzi, the Head of Strategic Programs at Rwanda Chamber of Tourism, told The New Times that tours and travel companies need to be responsible in their marketing.

“For example, if you promise a client that they will be able to trek with their entire families yet children below 15 years are not allowed to trek, that is not right,” he said.

“It is also not responsible to tell clients that it will be an easy trek. Sometimes you may need to walk for three hours into the forest. You need to prepare your guest in a way they have to understand the actual realities,” he added.

Eugene Mutangana, a conservation management expert from the Rwanda Development Board (RDB), called upon the private sector to intentionally play a role in conservation because it is not only a business but something that benefits the whole country.

“Rwanda does not conserve just for the sake of conserving, but we do it for our people – to improve the livelihoods of our people. And if all of us can take it in that way, we should ask ourselves what role we are playing in conservation today and in the future,” he said.

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