Uganda tourism hit hard by demos


Uganda tour operators have asked the government and the opposition to work out measures that will peacefully resolve the economic crisis in the country rather than resorting to the violent demonstrations.

The operators noted that the violent ‘Walk to Work’ demonstrations scare away tourists, hence hurting their business.

“We’re not in politics. This is purely business,” said Mr. Boniface Byamukama, the president of the Association of Uganda Tour Operators. “The opposition and the government should sit and discuss how they can amicably solve the economic crisis in Uganda rather than resorting to walk to work.”

The operators’ plea came amidst the opposition led by a group, Activists 4 Change, warning they will soon resume the walk to work demonstration if the government doesn’t address the soaring inflation, worsening exchange rate, rising prices of goods and services and the high cost of living.

Inflation for July was recorded at 18.7% the highest rate rise in 18 years while the Uganda Shilling traded at between Ush2815 and Ush2830 the weakest/lowest against the dollar in many years.

The Uganda Shilling has dropped by at least 14% against the US dollar this year.

“We lost about 30% of our business in the May demos. This should the peak season for us. The politicians should not spell doom for us,” added Mr. Amos Wekesa, the President of the Uganda Tourism Association.

The Uganda Tourism Association brings together all tourism stakeholders in Uganda. They include tour operators, hotel owners, safari guides, airliners, and heritage sites owners, Community Tourism Association, travel bureaus and tourist car hire companies.

The hotel owners alone lost about 70% of their business in the May demos.

They sounded their concern during an annual meeting in Kampala last week.

Another scenario was echoed by Mr. Ben Ntare, the managing director of Pearl of Africa Safaris who recalls losing a safari of students from a US university.

“In May, during these demos I had a safari for 17 students from United States. They were supposed to stay for four days but only spent a day and went back.  I had to refund the money for the other days yet I had made bookings with different hotels, parks and lodges,” Ntare stressed.

He added that on average 50% of the tours are cancelled during riots because insurance companies cannot pay insurance covers to the tourists if they travel and encounter problems after having prior knowledge of the situation of a country.

“Like for American and British tourists, they are always provided with travel advisory in respect to the countries they are going to,” Ntare added.

Mr. Fred Bukenya of Travel Hemisphere Safaris, also recalls how his tourists who had gone for a Kampala tour in Makerere University were caught up in the fracas in May.

“They vowed never to come back to Uganda,” Bukenya told the East African Business Week.

The tour operators also elected two new members, Mr. Mohit Advani of Global Interlink Travel Services and Mr. Felix Musinguzi of Kazinga Tours to their Executive Board.

Byamukama asked the government to increase on their tourism marketing funds as it emerged that the only $300,000 contribution cannot fully persuade tourists to come to Uganda.

“The government should also fully fund some of the tourism fairs we participate in,” stressed Byamukama.

The Uganda Tourism Board has earmarked $49m for tourism marketing over a five year project.

Compiled by Jackie
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