Foreign nationals’ hotel bookings rise to 28% in Uganda

Review: Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Gorilla beringei beringei - Mountain gorilla Family at play - Gorilla tracking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Gulu, Uganda | URN | There is hope for the hospitality industry and bookings in Uganda’s hotels as the industry has started recovering from near zero during the months of the COVID-19 lockdown to well over a quarter of installed capacity today.

Bradford Ochieng, the Deputy Chief Executive Officer Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) revealed in an interview with this publication recently that the bookings in the Country which dropped from 76% in 2019 to 2% during the lockdown have now recovered to a promising 28% between October 2020 and April this year.

Ochieng explained that the slow recovery in the tourism sector, hotel and hospitality followed the easing of restrictions on international travels which many of the Countries adopted to contain the spread of the virus.

He revealed that 40,000 visitors arrived in Uganda after the lockdown was instituted, way below the 1,663,568 arrivals that had been projected for the Country by December 2020.

However, he noted that the Board is struggling to regulate standards of hotels in the country to improve on its hygiene and sanitation, something he says is still affecting the tourism development in the Country.

“We have over 6,000 hotels in the Country but only 1.3% of them have registered with the board and the regulation of the industry has become difficult” Ochieng added.

Edwin Ssubunya, the General Manager Pakuba Safari Lodge in Murchison Falls National Park along Gulu-Arua Road, says that they lost 70% bookings from the foreign nationals.

Ssubunya explained that the hotel currently receives less than 20 tourists on a daily basis, most of whom being local tourists and travelers.

Esther Agenorwot, the Proprietor of Pride Guest House in Kitgum also noted that the hotel which would receive at least 10 tourists from Kidepo National Game Park a year before the coronavirus pandemic did not receive any foreign nationals from March 2020 to April this year.

The sector earned the Country 1.6 billion dollars in 2019 for gross domestic product-GDP and created new jobs for 6,000 people in the informal sector but the pandemic left 74.4% of the employees from the Industry jobless.

The report from the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities shows a drastic decline of 1.06 billion dollars, (UGX 3.91 trillion) in the Tourism Sector alone between March 2020 and June 2020 when the lockdown was adopted in the Country.

Atleast 40,000 visitors arrived in the Country after the lockdown was eased of the projected 1,663,568 arrivals expected by December 2020 but there was no clear breakdown of the countries with more arrivals into the Country from the database of the Uganda Tourism Board.

However, when contacted on Phone, Sandra Ruhongore, the Communication Officer at the Uganda Tourism Board did not equally provide the statistics of the arrivals of each Country to Uganda which she said needed more time to compile.

According to the World Bank report of December 2020, Uganda’s economic growth  slowed for the first time in a decade by about 4.5% from 7.5% in 2019 with the collapse in the consumption and investment of the imports and the incomes earned by the foreign investors.

Read Also: Curfew is affecting Uganda’s tourism industry – Kadaga

The report further indicates that 3 million people in the Country slid back below the poverty line due to the impact of the pandemic, adding onto the 8.7 million people who were already in poverty.

However, as the government responded to the  fiscal and monetary policies to support the health care, the social assistance in the country remained limited with fewer than 2% of the citizens receiving direct cash transfers as the report further indicates.

The country’s tourism related activities based on the wildlife whose flora and fauna comprises 1020 species of birds and 350 species of other animals are one of the economic mainstays of the country’s economy.

Uganda’s major national parks include Bwindi Impenetrable Forests, Murchison Falls, Queen Elizabeth, Kidepo and Lake Mburu.