The tourism sector in Uganda had started to pick up despite the prevailing covid 19 pandemic. However, the second wave seems like it will have far lasting negative impacts on the industry. This sector is one of Uganda’s foreign highest income earners.
Stakeholders are really concerned that the industry which had picked up slowly from last year will go back down. This will render the sector unproductive for a second straight consecutive year.
The deputy president of the tourist association Herbert Byaruhanga while speaking about this situation said most of the projects had been cancelled.
“We had started to get hopes, people were making reservations. We were seeing inquiries coming in, permits being sold, chimpanzees were being sold as well as gorillas. However when the new spike came in, everything has changed. I personally have had cancellations. I think all enquiries which had come back have been pushed to next year and 2023.”Byaruhanga said.
Sandra Natukunda the senior public relations officer at Uganda tourism board (UTB) said that the new measures had greatly suffocated the industry. She added that the industry was on the road to recovery but the new covid 19 guidelines are expected to shrink it again.
“In our last survey that was done in December, we had seen tourism pick up and our bed occupants which are usually the measuring point from trademark activities had picked up from 0% in April to 26.7% now. The current measures obviously provide some limitations and these numbers are likely to decline.” She said.
The sector was further dealt a blow after tourist vehicles were asked to register with UTB a process that is seen as time consuming. However UTB says the process has been reduced to utmost a day.
The biggest worry for the sector now is the international image that might portray Uganda as hub for covid 19 infections and a no go area.
Sandra Natukunda added how they are working tirelessly with the relevant stakeholders to entice tourists to come to the country. She said the biggest problem they have faced is the categorising of Uganda as category one and two country.
“Right now we have our market distribution representatives put in the category 1 and 2 of countries with covid 19 cases. This scares tourists from visiting the country. We are however working with the relevant stakeholders to assure tourists that the situation is manageable in Uganda. We also want them to know that tourism is ongoing and the situation is not bad. The countries we are targeting include Germany, United Arab Emirates, Ireland, UK. Sandra added.
UTB added on how it’s working out a full campaign of information to keep even the few tourists that are coming to the country. However this has been worsened by some airlines which have chosen not to fly to Entebbe international airport.