The ministry of Tourism revealed Thursday that Uganda saw tourist bookings triple in the first quarter of 2021, increasing from 27542 at the end of august 2020 to 83464 by end of March 2021.
According to Doreen Katusiime, the ministry’s permanent secretary, foreign tourist bookings increased faster, growing fourfold for the same period, while domestic tourist booking tripled over the same period.
Bookings registered by airlines and accommodation facilities doubled by end of March 2021 while bookings recorded by tour operators increased eleven-fold between August 2020 and March 2021, Katusiime said in a news release.
At least 30% of tourism jobs were recovered by end of March 2021, she said, adding that hotel occupancy rates in Uganda increased by 10% by end of March 2021 to an average of 31% down from 20.1% at the end of the year 2020.
Weekly flights within or to and out of Uganda increased fourfold by end of March 2021 rising from a weekly average of 3 flights in 2020 to a weekly average of 11 flights in 2021, indicating 73% of the flights that fly Ugandan routes have resumed.
According to data from the ministry, foreign non-residents visiting Ugandans parks doubled, increasing from 3,577 visitors to 7,318 visitors and National Park visits by students tripled in the same period increasing by 834 visitors in the first three months of 2021.
“Revenue collections recorded by the Uganda Wildlife Authority doubled in the first three months of 2021 (January to March 2021) compared to the last three months of 2020 (October to December 2020), increasing from Shs3 billion at the end of December 2020 to Shs6 billion at the end of March 2021. This is still far below the expected revenue of about Shs60bn but there is a positive trend,” the data shows.
The permanent secretary also noted that visitation to the Source of the Nile increased by 3.9% in the first quarter of 2021 compared to the last quarter of 2020 and visitation to the Entebbe Zoo increased by 12.9% for the same period.
The tourism sector was among the most affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. According to the tourism ministry, while prior to Covid-19, tourism was the leading foreign exchange earner for Uganda, generating US$1.6Bn in annual foreign exchange earnings, 536,600 direct jobs and bringing in 1,542,620 foreign visitors as of 2019, the 2020 results show that annual foreign exchange earnings dropped by 73% to US$0.5Bn.
Katusiime revealed that foreign visitors had dropped by 69.3% to 473,085, employment opportunities dropped by 70% to 160,980 and as of June 2020, hotel occupancy rates dropped from an average of 58% to as low as 5% with over 75% of hotel bookings (448,996) canceled causing a direct loss of US$ 320.8 million, an equivalent of Shs1.19 trillion.
To help speed up the recovery of the sector, the government is taking a number of initiatives. For instance, 10 tourism private enterprises and initiatives are to be nurtured to participate in local, regional, and global tourism value chains through training.
Three species have been re-introduced in Protected Areas, with 15 giraffes translocated to Pian Upe and 200 Uganda Kobs moved to Kidepo Valley National Park Up to 3,000 hectares have been cleared of invasive and exotic species in Protected Areas and the government has restored 640 hectares in all Protected Areas.
There is a plan to develop eight camping sites in Queen Elizabeth National Park, Murchison Falls NP, Rwenzori Mountains NP, Lake Mburo NP, Mountain Elgon NP and Mgahinga Gorilla NP.
Additionally, the ministry plans to hire Market Destination Representatives (MDRs) to promote the destination in 6 core and emerging markets i.e., North America, Japan, China, Gulf States, UK & Ireland, Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.
The government also plans to construct training facilities constructed at the Uganda Hotel and Tourism Training Institute (UHTTI).
The institute will house an office block, students’ instructional facilities, kitchen, cafeteria, sports facilities and an infirmary; phase 2 of the hotel will have additional 30 rooms, a health club and a swimming pool.
The Uganda Wildlife Research and Training Institute will be improved to more classrooms, laboratories, admin block, fence, staff housing, and a guest house. The government will also refurbish the UWEC, focusing on the National Wildlife Quarantine center (hospital), 6 enclosures/holdings, extension of an animal food store with a cold room.