Although the tourism numbers will not immediately go up following the reopening of Entebbe International Airport, there are vital signs and new optimism that the sector is resilient.
According to the tourism sector players, after reopening the airport, government should partner with the tourism fraternity to come up with different interventions to bail out the sector having been the most hit by the virus.
Speaking during the opening of Kigambira lodge in Lake Mburo National Park, Minister for Tourism, Col. Tom Butime said on top of government interventions, Ugandans ought to embrace domestic tourism so as to give a major boost to the sector for it to recover from the effects of the virus.
“I implore Ugandans to embrace local tourism to improve the sector. The coronavirus pandemic has had an impact but the sector will bounce back stronger,” Butime said.
The lodge is owned by Brigadier Charles Bakahumura and family under Karungi Crown Enterprises Limited company.
The minister applauded Brig.Bakahumura for the “wise” decision to invest in the sector, a move he said should inspire other Ugandans to do the same.
Brig Bakahumura, the chief of logistics and engineering in UPDF, said it had always been a dream to invest in the sector, noting that he is happy his dream has come true.
“Working in government doesn’t stop one from having something on the side to earn an extra income. My wife and I had a dream to invest in tourism. I looked at it as a way to help me and my family
especially after I have retired as a military officer,” he said.
He noted that in order to fulfill his dream, he in 2014 responded to an advert placed in the newspapers asking for potential investors in Lake Mburo National Park.
“We cannot afford to let foreigners only to be the ones to develop this country, we must partner with them,” he added.
Kigambira Safari Lodge whose construction started in 2016, is the first lodge in the park to be set up in the last five years, a thing, the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) boss, Sam Mwandha credited Bakahumura for.
Susan Muhwezi, the head of Uganda Hotel Owners Association, used the occasion to appeal to government for support, especially towards the tourism sector.
“The tourism sector needs urgent and more support from the government. You need to speak for tourism, it is the future of Uganda,” she said.
She appealed to government to reverse the taxation policy on the sector, which she, said is discouraging potential investors.
The Belgian Ambassador to Uganda, Rudi Verstraeten , who represented the European Union delegation, appealed to Ugandans to live up to the billing of the Pearl of Africa and ‘polish the pearl.’
“Poaching has increased many folds because of poverty caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
National Parks need to be protected from poaching. However, it is heart-warming to note that Ugandan investors are coming up to invest in the sector. Last year, tourism represented 7% of GDP. More and better lodges will increase the country’s GDP,” Veestraeten said.