National parks register more domestic tourists

Domestic tourists on board for a 3- hour boat drive on Victoria Nile.  PHOTO | PAUL MURUNGI

What you need to know:

  • Growth in domestic tourism can be partly explained by the outdoor experiences in national parks which provided refuge from the pandemic.

National park tourism has surged since the partial lifting of the lockdown in mid- July last year with several national parks registering an increase in tourist numbers. 

The surge, however, shows more Ugandan domestic tourists have taken up travel, breathing life back into tourism and hospitality businesses.

The Covid- 19 pandemic which affected the country’s national parks’ operations has forced Uganda Wildlife Authority to work with public health officials to navigate the changing conditions, and protect tourists and wildlife health.  

After two years of maintaining partial lockdown and curfew, Uganda’s international borders reopened for business in August, but a nationwide curfew was maintained. 

International tourism which supports Uganda’s conservation efforts is recovering albeit at a slow pace.  

Data obtained from Murchison Falls, Kibale forest, and Semliki national parks which fall in the western arm of the rift valley shows the last two months of 2021 have been the busiest for these national parks.  

For instance, Murchison Falls National Park, Uganda’s oldest and largest conservation area registered 9,200 tourists in the month of November, out of which 6,200 were domestic tourists.    

The statistics revealed by Amusa Chemonges, the tourism warden at the Murchison falls park, shows a contrast and a steep rise from the 500 tourists, most being from within the country that the park received in August. 

“The biggest number of tourists that we receive here in Murchison Falls are local tourists and the numbers increasing steadily every month,” he said.  

Growth

Chemonges reasoned the growth in domestic tourism can be partly explained by the outdoor experiences in national parks which provided refuge from the pandemic for several Ugandans partly which explains the increasing numbers. 

Accommodation facilities which were closed during the lockdown are also realising more demand with eased restrictions which has forced most facilities to raise their fees. 

The pandemic which also pushed tour and travel companies to their knees has forced most to channel efforts into domestic tourism. 

Thomson Pule, a proprietor of Beyond Frontiers Travel, said before Covid- 19, he had several bookings throughout 2020 and 2021, but all were cancelled. 

“There was a lot of planning that was involved, but when Covid- 19 intensified, we had a lot of cancellations pretty much for all the trips we had planned ahead,” he said.

Domestic tourists rise       

Murchison Falls National Park, Uganda’s oldest and largest conservation area registered 9,200 tourists in the month of November, out of which 6,200 were domestic tourists.   

“The biggest number of tourists that we receive here in Murchison Falls are local tourists and the numbers increasing steadily every month,” he said. 

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