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Economic recovery: Uganda now turns to tourism as key sector

 

Uganda is seeking to drastically grow its tourism earnings and numbers of visitors in the next three years as a means of getting the sector to shore up an economy that has been badly hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Authorities in the country believe that tourism, which before the pandemic was the country’s biggest foreign exchange earner raking in an annual revenue of $1.6 billion, is one of the sectors that could quickly shore up the economy if more attention and funding was accorded to it.

Tourism, they authorities add, also trickles down indirectly to other sectors of the economy and can create more jobs to replace those lost during the pandemic.

Currently, the country plans to increase its tourism earnings through a recent destination Uganda rebrand, more funding of the sector, encouraging private sector investments and leveraging on the potential of its national carrier among other things.

The Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) says the new interventions will increase inbound visitor arrivals from the current figure of 473,000 in 2020 to 1.67 million by 2025. Also to increase within the same period is the tourism employment numbers expected to grow by about 67,000 jobs.

According to Ms Lilly Ajarova, the UTB CEO, the new moves are to position Uganda better both in the domestic and international market, increase revenue.

By 2025, the country expects to earn between $1.86 – $3 billion.

Uganda Airlines

The government plans to invest about $400 million into its recently revived Uganda Airlines, which is viewed as a major fit in the puzzle of growing the country’s tourism sector.

For its route expansion, the airline is expected to commence flights to some of Uganda’s top tourist source markets like Europe and the Middle East which will offer tourists direct flights to Entebbe.

This year, the airline plans to fly to China, Dubai and London and is currently in talks with other potential routes to expand further to other destinations.

In some of these source markets that the airline plans to ply like Europe, the Gulf, China and Africa, Uganda has already hired destination marketing agencies to foster its tourism agenda.  

“Arrivals from key source markets of German, North America, UK, China, Japan and UAE are expected to grow from 37,153 in 2020 to 225,300 by 2025,” UTB said in a statement to Karibu Travel Magazine.

For the coming financial year, the government is planning to increase the budget of the sector after identifying it as one of those that can quickly enhance economic recovery according to treasury secretary Mr Ramadhan Ggoobi.

While the sector is the country’s biggest foreign exchange earner, it remains grossly underfunded thus thwarting its massive potential.

Last week, the country rebranded its tourism destination in a bid authorities said was to increase both numbers and income.

 

The rebrand followed years of trials with several destination brands.

President Museveni launched the new brand, Explore Uganda the pearl of Africa which seeks to sell the country as a whole and not just a few attractions.  

To make tourists stay longer, authorities are encouraging private investors to inject their money into the sector especially in hospitality and product development areas.

While opening up the Lucian cottages, a new tourism accommodation facility on the outskirts of Kampala city last week, Ms Ajarova said that investment into the sector is getting unique since more Ugandans living outside the country are now investing into the sector.

By the end of 2019, she said, with a bigger number of tourists getting into the country from within the region and internationally, Uganda had reached a point where it had not enough accommodation. 

“So to have such properties (accommodation) coming up at this time when the sector is opening up is the opportune time. The right sector currently to invest in is tourism because we believe it is one sector that is going to cause transformation of the economy,” she said.

 

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