Despite devastating blows to its tourism sector inflicted by the coronavirus pandemic, Uganda is hope that the sub sector will soon recover lost grounds from the impact of the pandemic as it generated UGX6billion ($2m) in the first three months of 2021 receiving 16. 8% visitors to tourist sites.
According to eturbonews.com, the Uganda Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife, and Antiquities has reported a loss in revenue in the tourism sector during the first COVID-19 phase of 2020.
Uganda Ministry of Tourism submitted a report on the first 3 months of 2021.
Basically, the report stated losses in almost all categories such as hotel occupancy, number of foreign visitors, and employment.
It is the response to this report that is giving Uganda an optimistic outlook on the future.
This was contained in a report by Doreen Katusiime, the Permanent Secretary (PS) of the Uganda Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife, and Antiquities on May 27, 2021, at the Uganda Media Centre in Kampala titled “Performance of the Tourism Sector in 2020 and the first 3 months of 2021.”
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, tourism was the leading foreign exchange earner for Uganda earning US$1.6 billion; 536,600 direct jobs; and 1,542,620 foreign visitors as of 2019.
• Annual foreign exchange earnings dropped by 73 percent to US$0.5 billion.
• Foreign visitors dropped by 69.3 percent to 473,085.
• Employment opportunities dropped by 70 percent to 160,980.
• As of June 2020, hotel occupancy rates dropped from an average of 58 percent to as low as 5 percent with over 75 percent of hotel bookings (448,996) cancelled causing a direct loss of US$ 320.8 million, an equivalent of UGX 1.19 trillion.
In response to the loss, the PS said that the Uganda government is working with the private sector and development partners undertook several interventions to resuscitate the sector as follows:
Through the Uganda Wildlife Authority, government intensified operations in protected areas to keep poaching, illegal wildlife trade, and trafficking under control. In addition, community engagement, control of invasive species, and human wildlife conflict was intensified to keep the tourism resource base intact.
• Tourism development continued amidst the challenges: regional museums were finalized, the Omugabe (kings) Palace was renovated, Mt. Ruwenori infrastructure was upgraded, and “Source of the Nile“infrastructure was improved.
• Finally, government continued to improve infrastructure at UHTTI (Uganda Hotel & Tourism Training Institute) and at UWRTI (Uganda Wildlife Research and Training institute) with signs of recovery amidst the decline based on a survey taken by the Ministry of Tourism Wildlife and Antiquities and also showing increased bookings by the first quarter of 2021 with tourists increasing from 27,542 at the end of August to 83,464 by the end of March.
In the same period, hotel occupancy increased by 10 percent from a low 20 percent by the end of December 2020 to 31 percent by the end of March 2021, and a 4-fold increase in weekly flights from 3 flights on average per week to 11 took place.
Accordingly, 30 percent of tourism jobs were recovered.
At the Uganda Wildlife Authority, although still far below the UGX60 billion mark, revenues doubled in the first 3 months of the year to UGX6 billion compared to the last 3 months of 2020.
The Uganda Wildlife and Conservation Centre registered an increase in visitation by 12.9 percent and the Source of the Nile by 3.9 percent respectively up from the end of last year.
The PS revealed plans to consolidate the gains including the rehabilitation of Kagulu Hill, Bishop Hanington site, Kayabwe Uganda equator, Kitagata Hot Springs, Omugabe Palace, and the Nyero Rock Paintings.