COVID-19 AND TOURISM IN UGANDA
The first positive confirmed case of Covid-19 in Uganda was on 22 march 2020, that is exactly 4 days after the president announced a closure of all public institutions including places of worship, schools and institutions of higher learning, bars and suspension of all social gatherings like, weddings, events just to mention but a few, for 32 days, which was later added on and on until now to this writing. This was a case of a young man who had earlier in the month traveled to Dubai, UAE on a business trip, only to return and upon arrival at Entebbe international Airport, was screened and found to have the signs and symptoms of the Novel Corona virus, and the confirmatory test then came back positive. Uganda implemented one of the toughest lock downs to curb the spread of the Novel Corona virus. Subsequent measures saw the closure of all points of entry including; land borders, marine ports and international airport Entebbe, except for cargo transportation, ban on public transportation and social gatherings of more than 5 persons.
East Africa and Uganda’s tourism industry in particular is highly dependent on international tourist arrivals and a very small percentage of less than 20% of local and domestic tourists. Now, with the corona virus pandemic, several nations responded by closing borders and limiting human movement to & from, and within their countries in order to tackle the spread of the virus. Europe and United States of America who are the biggest source markets for tourists to Uganda, unfortunately, have been the worst hit regions with the corona virus at the moment.
Tourism and hospitality have been one of the most hard-hit sectors in the global economy, resulting into lay-offs, trip cancellations, closure of certain businesses that can not stay afloat till further notice. It is no doubt that it will take the global tourism sector a while before it normalizes given the uncertainty of the corona virus pandemic and the development of a vaccine which health experts predict could be developed by the end of 2020 or beginning of 2021, though that doesn’t come as an assurance.
PHOTO: Tree Climbing Lion
For the case of Uganda, following new presidential directives which were guided by the country’s health experts, tourism hot-spots such as Savannah National Parks, zoos and nature reserves have been re-opened to the public , however, the Standard operating procedures that observe social distancing and help reduce risk of the spread of corona virus need to be followed .The Uganda Wildlife Authority which is in charge of the operations and running of Uganda’s National Parks and Game Reserves is yet to issue a statement on when the tropical rain forest Parks which are the primary destinations for primate watching and tracking could be re-opened.
The big question however remains, What strategies have Uganda Wildlife Authority and the Uganda Tourism Board put in place to ensure they motivate Ugandans to travel within their country? Are we yet to see further government involvement in tourism operations and marketing? These and more questions are yet to be answered as the industry is shifting attention to the locals.
Uganda at the moment has recorded over 1000 positive confirmed cases of Covid-19 and over 900 recoveries and no deaths. It remains one of the few countries with the highest Covid-19 recovery rates. It is safe to say in the near future, Uganda will be a safe destination to visit with a vast list of places to choose from.
Photo: Crater lake on Rwenzori Mountains National Park