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Uganda’s tourism players push for Airport opening

Tourism players in Uganda under their umbrella organization the Uganda Tourism Association (UTA) have asked government to open up the Entebbe International airport as a move to restart tourism in the country.

During a meeting held on August 4 at the Sheraton Kampala Hotel, UTA members said that the continued closure of the country’s only international Airport to air traffic further hurts an already battered tourism sector.

Following the confirmation of its first coronavirus case back in March, Uganda announced a set of measures to curb the spread of the pandemic which included closure of all land borders and the airport.

This meant that tourists couldn’t come in, a development which has hurt the country’s biggest foreign exchange earner.

Now, UTA believes that just like other countries have done world over, Uganda can reopen the airport following strict health guidelines and Standard Operations Procedures to ensure safety of travelers.

Mrs Yogi Biriggwa, the chairperson of the Board of Airlines Representatives (BAR) and Country Manager of South African airlines said that the country might need to adopt to the current situation instead of keeping several businesses locked up.

“We cannot close our businesses,” she said. “We have to adopt.”

Regional counterparts like Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda have already officially reopened their airports with their national carriers too resuming flights this month however Uganda has not yet set a date for reopening of its air space.  

The continued closure of the airport has also affected the business community which can’t plan their imports and exports.

During the meeting, sector players issued a rift of recommendations to government that they hope will expedite the reopening of the airport.

These include setting an interim date for the reopening of the airport to guide travelers who had already deferred their bookings and release of money to operationalize the health guidelines and standards at the airport including rapid testing kits.

Other recommendations include consultations with tourism sector players and fast tracking the development of the health facilities at the airport.

Last year, the tourism sector earned the country about $1.6 billion a biggest chunk of which will be lost this financial year.

The sector also employs over 600,000 people but according to projections by sector players, about 400,000 could eventually lose jobs if the situation remains the same.

 

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Penelope Nankunda is a Ugandan Multimedia Journalist whose works are aimed at putting a positive influence on the world. She is a 2020 Media Challenge Initiate fellow with keen interest on basic human rights and travel..

nankundapp@gmail.com

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