Tourism is one of the hardest hit sectors of global economies in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. With international travel crippled, the sector is on ice.
Uganda earned Shs5.8 trillion from tourism in the 2018/2019 financial year, making the sector the country’s leading foreign currency earner for the fifth year in a row.
Tourism accounted for 7.7 per cent of the national GDP and created 667,600 jobs. But all this has been lost and poachers are having a field day.
Yet it is still possible to fan the ashes and get some embers flickering if government puts some efforts in domestic tourism.
The Covid-19 pandemic should be the pointer to Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) and other agencies involved in tourism promotion that there can never be a better time to tap into the potential of domestic tourism.
Of the 7.7 per cent sector contribution to GDP, domestic tourism accounts for a paltry 1 per cent.
There is no reason to be embarrassed by that. But there should be every reason to be sorry for ourselves if the government only thinks of taxes and not how to get something from the current predicament in its best performing sector.
According to a 2018 report by International Growth Centre titled, “How can tourism become a driver of economic growth in Uganda?” domestic tourism can be important for sustaining the industry during the off-peak season. Covid-19 has not only thrust Uganda into off-pick but worse season. And this calls for smoothing out things.
UTB should look into making the most of domestic tourism that has been crawling on.
The board should help with product development as, presently, most tour operators are selling similar products year in and year out.
We are in a time when most people are boxed into a corner that has kept them stuffy for four months. Some of them have money they usually spent in lavish parties and drinking.
With sound health measures and testing for Covid-19, domestic tourism can flourish. The cost of testing tourists would be too minimal compared to revenue generated.
UTB should look into a range of products that can be offered. For instance, can a company that decides to take its stressed employees on a tour get some incentives?
But first, how can government entice these companies on a getaway to Murchison Falls, Kidepo or Source of the Nile in these trying times?
Government should get domestic tourism flickering from the ashes of what Covid-19 has left the country with.