When Uganda registered her first case of Covid-19, Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) stopped receiving tourists in its 10 national parks. Currently, the parks are patrolled for surveillance to keep illegal activities at minimum levels.
UWA, a government agency aims to conserve, manage and regulate Uganda’s wildlife including national parks, 12 wildlife reserves, 13 wildlife sanctuaries and five community wildlife management areas.
Wildlife population is increasing. There has been an increase of giraffes from 11 to 27 over four years. Three more mountain gorillas have been born in the last one month from different families.
There has been a significant reduction in revenue collection. “We lose about Shs7b (US$1.9m) per month when the national parks are closed. UWA makes about Shs100b in tourism activities in a year. So for the three months we are closed, we estimate losses of about Shs20b,” explains Stephen Masaba, UWA’s director of tourism and business development.
For a foreign visitor to enter a national park, they pay $40 (about Shs150 000), a Ugandan and East African adult Shs20,000. Lake Mburo, Murchison Falls and Queen Elizabeth national parks have water bodies and thus cruises that contribute to UWA’s revenue streams.
Individual local and regional tourists are expected to part with Shs30,000. If they are making a booking as a group, they are charged Shs300,000. UWA operates travel buses with a capacity to carry 50 tourists.
The buses are available for hire at Shs800,000 where a client caters for its fuelling.
“That fee is competitive compared to the rates in the market. We want people to look at this as one way of reducing costs by travelling in groups,” UWA’s business director explains.
About 60 per cent of UWA’s revenue is generated from Bwindi and Mgahinga national parks thanks to the mountain gorillas which tourists pay $700 (Shs2.6 million) to trek between two to four hours.
Chimpanzee are the other primate attractions. They can be tracked in Kibale Forest National Park which rakes in Shs25b annually. Of the money earned from each park, as park entrance, UWA is required to pay 20 per cent towards neighbouring communities.
At the moment, 330,000 tourists visit the parks. Masaba says their target is to increase visits to over 500, 000. When parks are cleared to operate again, Masaba says that they will be introducing systems to adhere and abide by guidelines and conditions set by the national task force and Ministry of Health (MoH) regarding visitors to the parks.
“The parks are cleaner and safer to go right now and when we open up which may not be too long from now, we’ll be ready to receive visitors. We have trained and prepared for the post covid-19 era,” Masaba further explains.