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Uganda: Covid Lockdown Leaves Tourism Sector Bleeding

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A few years ago, Mr Dickson Kateshumbwa, the director of Parkview Safari Lodge and Gorilla Heights Lodge, borrowed Shs5b to expand his hospitality business.

All was going according to plan until March. As Mr Kateshumbwa planned to reopen his tourism business after the heavy reinvestment, coronavirus hit Uganda, sinking him further in debt.

Government closed the airspace and borders, locking out tourists. Millions of foreign tourist bookings were cancelled and the hospitality business activities collapsed.

“We were planning for reopening after getting a grace period for construction. Then Covid-19 hit. So we have a Shs5b loss with no income. We canceled more than Shs2 billion bookings for the lodge,” Mr Kateshumbwa told Daily Monitor last Friday during a European Union (EU) delegates’ tour of Queen Elizabeth National Park in Kanungu District to assess the impact of Covid-19 on Uganda’s tourism sector.

Other businesses such as transportation and tour guiding, among others, that thrived on tourism suffered the same fate.

Drop in tourists

In 2018/19 financial year, the sector accounted for 7.7 per cent of the country’s GDP and 6.7 per cent of total national employment after creating 667,600 jobs.

Dr Margaret Driciru, the principal warden of Queen Elizabeth National Park, said tourist numbers had been growing at an annual average of 10 per cent since 2002 until December last year.

“International visitors and tourists here have been growing until December 2019 on the onset of Covid-19 pandemic. We had registered a total tourist arrival of 77,995 and 47.3 percent of these comprise international foreign arrivals, but from April to June this year, the number dropped to zero,” Dr Driciru said as EU handover a ranger outpost in the park.

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