Planning for post Covid-19 in tourism

A chimpanzee begs for food at Ngamba Island. The tourism sector which contributed Shs8.3 trillion worth of GDP by 2018 has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. Photo by Eronie Kamukama

What you need to know:

  • When the lockdown finally ends and tourism resumes, expect things to be different. But what is government’s plan for reigniting the hard-hit tourism sector? Justus Lyatuu explains.

Business will change, perhaps forever due to the coronavirus (covid-19). Once Uganda emerges from this crisis, business managers especially in the tourism sector have to reinvent their product offers to survive in the post-coronavirus economy.
In all his presidential addresses, President Museveni admitted that one of the sectors that have been hit hard and will take time to it recover is tourism sector.
Additionally, World Tourism Organisation (WTO) last month warned that the tourism industry is “one of the hardest-hit’ as lockdowns on land; in air and on water has brought business crashing’.
However, players in a sector that contributed Shs8.3 trillion worth of GDP by 2018 admitted that things are not going to be good in the short run but that does not stop them from planning after Covid-19.

Herbert Byaruhanga, the vice chairperson of Uganda Tourism Association (UTA), says the most important thing tour operators should do is to stay alive and keep communicating with the world.
He explained that players should spend more time and resources should be focused on social media marketing telling their clients that they are still in business.
“Clients must see you. They should be able to feel you. Companies; should invest more in creating blogs, doing online conferences, uploading videos on whatever they are doing and plan to do, this gives clients confidence,” he said.

Mr Byaruhanga added; “Those who have money should hire excellent content writers to sell their business. It is time to carry out research and understand what is likely to take place after Covid-19.”
Just like the tour association, Eng Ivan Batuma, the chairperson at the Kigezi Tourism Cluster, says strategies should be lined out and online presence should be felt.
“We are working online as well as doing general maintenance. It is sad that we had to let our staff go because of the slow business but we have not allowed to be forgotten,” he said.

Planning
Eng Batuma said the plan is how to make domestic tourism work as they wait for other countries to open up their airports and borders.
“We are now thinking of how to develop discounted short term for the local market, definitely the international market will take time; at least 12 months,” he said.

Tourism after Covid-19
Mr Byaruhanga said after the Covid-19, the mode of tourism is likely to change and clients are likely to do shorter trips for fear of contracting the disease. So players should think about doing things the unusual way.
“We must think about how we redesign our products and services, instead of having the traditional 15-20 days,” he said.
Mr Byaruhanga also said tourists will want to go to countries that were not so badly hit by the disease for safety reasons and good conditions for travel.
“In America, Britain, people are still in their houses and are not travelling much so this is the time to do research online,” he said.
Additionally Mr Byaruhanga urges tourism players to get in touch with the old clients through emails.

Government should also vigorously market the industry through the private sector and Uganda Tourism Board (UTB).
“We need to be visible, competition is going to be higher; America, intra-African competitions, Asia all will be competing with us hence we must wake up because they have better products,” he said.
Mr Byaruhanga also said players should be ready to train and retool staff; people are going to leave and others will come in.

Stimulus package
Eng Batuma said government should plan for rebuilding this sector.
“Government should bring up a stimulus fund and give out some money to players,” he said.

Time frame
But what does President Museveni’s extended lockdown for another 14 days mean for tourism?
Mr Byaruhanga says tourism is likely to pick up between later this year and early 2021, although tour operators are still optimistic and have reservations for July and August that were not cancelled.
Other tourists according to Mr Byaruhanga are optimistic that in two months’ time, things will have improved.

Tour operators also say that its time government starts working on modalities for post Covid19 for the sector.
Mr Byaruhanga; “What will be the conditions? Will there be quarantine for 14 days? What will government do? These are the questions we should start answering as we slow down the lockdown.”
Ms Lilly Ajarova, the UTB chief executive officer has admitted it will take about 12 months for the situation to normalise.

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