Tourism stakeholders ask government to reopen airport

Wednesday August 05 2020
fina02pix

Ms Yogi Birigwa (L), the South African Airways country manager and Ms Pearl Hoareau Kakooza, the UTA president, address journalists on the sideline of the stakeholders meeting in Kampala yesterday. Photo | EDGAR R BATTE

A cross section of tourism stakeholders have asked government to set a timeline within which to hopes to re-open Uganda’s airspace.

Speaking on the sidelines of a stakeholders meeting in Kampala yesterday, Ms Pearl Hoareau Kakooza, the Uganda Tourism Association (UTA) president, said the President and his Cabinet should consider re-opening the airport as priority for the recovery of the economy.

“We have met as members [UTA] and resolved that we need an interim date for re-opening of Entebbe of International Airport so that we can plan and work out a plan for our visitors from different countries,” she said, noting it was time for government to open up the country’s airspace to revive not on tourism but other auxiliary businesses.

President Museveni closed Entebbe International Airport in March as one of the measures to limit the spread of Covid-19.
The airport has remained closed to commercial traffic save for charted flights that bring in and fly out stranded passengers.

No date has been set for the re-opening despite all regional member states including Kenya and Rwanda opening their air space and airports last weekend.
Other regional trade bodies such as the East Africa Business Council have also indicated that it was high time the region opened its airspace.

However, while delivering his status update last month, President Museveni indicated Entebbe International Airport would remain closed “until the situation abroad settles because there is so much chaos in some countries abroad”.

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During the meeting, Mr Richard Mujjuzi, the Uganda Association of Travel Agents chairperson, said many of the stakeholders’ businesses had by January started experiencing a slowdown but the situation was worsened by the lockdown.

“At lockdown, we were already struggling to keep our businesses afloat. We borrowed money to pay airlines. These were tickets that we issued when we had not even been paid. The airlines are stuck and not giving us refunds. We have suffered and now suffocatingt,” he said, noting the continued lockdown poses a danger that is far reaching.

Studies conducted by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) estimates that Covid-19 could lead to a decline of between 60 and 80 per cent in tourism growth.

UNWTO also notes that travel restrictions and border shutdowns is likely to see international tourist arrival decline by between 58 and 78 per cent in 2020.

Uganda earned $1.6b (about Shs5. 8 trillion) from tourism in the 2018/2019 financial year, making the sector the country’s leading foreign exchange earner for the fifth year in a row.

Data from the Ministry of Finances, indicate that the tourism generated 229,000 direct jobs in 2017, accounting for 2.4 per cent during the period.

UTA brings together tour operators, safari guides, hotel owners, travel agents, and community tourism association.

Earning
Tourism jobs
Uganda earned $1.6b (about Shs5. 8 trillion) from tourism in the 2018/2019 financial year, making the sector the country’s leading foreign exchange earner for the fifth year in a row.

Data from the Ministry of Finances, indicate that the tourism generated 229,000 direct jobs in 2017, accounting for 2.4 per cent during the period.

UTA brings together tour operators, safari guides, hotel owners, travel agents, and community tourism association.

rbatte@ug.nationmedia.com

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