Gov’t rolls out programme to cushion tourism sector from effects of Covid-19 

Stephen Asiimwe, executive director PSFU, Herbert Byaruhanga of UTA (middle) with UTAs member associations at Protea Hotel.  Photos/Promise Twinamukye 

What you need to know:

The Covid-19 economic recovery and resilience response programme will supplement the efforts of the government in controlling the spread of Covid-19, develop a post Covid-19 economic recovery as well as generate a growth strategy.

Following the impacts of Covid-19 outbreak on the economy, many businesses either came to a standstill, suffered enormous losses and others closed shop.

According to the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities (MTWA) 2020 report, one million tourist arrivals were lost.

The report indicates that seven in every 10 jobs in the sector were lost, eight in every 10 hotel businesses registered business cancellations, 448,996 hotel room bookings were cancelled between March and July 2020, nine in every 10 tour companies registered cancellations and an average job loss in the sector was 74 percent.

The executive director of the Private Sector Foundation Uganda (PSFU), Stephen Asiimwe says, the economy was growing at 6.2 percent before Covid-19, fell to 2.9 percent and then to 3.1 percent when slight changes were made by the president in regards to the lock down.

“Now the economy is slowly taking off,” he said. He made the remarks during the Covid-19 economic recovery and resilience response programme (CERRRP) beneficiaries’ engagement as they assessed the impact and discussed next steps for recovery.

Recovery programme

The Covid-19 economic recovery and resilience response programme) is an intervention aimed at complementing the efforts of the government in controlling the spread of Covid-19, support government to develop a post Covid-19 economic recovery as well as generate a growth strategy.

With support from MasterCard Foundation, Private Sector Foundation Uganda wants to support the tourism and hospitality micro, small and medium enterprises to mitigate the effects of Covid-19 through structured business recovery and resilience support.

The programme will employ a common user facility- Uganda Tourism Association (UTA), to support people in the hospitality industry to return to work, support the economy through re-employment of those that lost jobs and create new opportunities, especially for youth and women.

About the intervention

Focusing on creating job opportunities and increasing revenue for tourism and hospitality in micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), the interventions will improve marketing and promotion using modern marketing technologies.  This is intended to drive demand and stimulate travel, especially for the domestic travelers, who will then lead to the restoration of jobs and the creation of new ones while triggering international travel confidence.

According to Asiimwe, the programme not only considered MSMEs but also took into account other initiatives such as increasing capacity for prevention and testing of Covid-19 and enhancing the capacity of institutions involved in providing health services.

 Other issues that were highlighted in this programmes are quality and standards management to support the recovery of enterprises from the negative economic effects of Covid-19 and increase their resilience to future shocks as well as support government to develop and implement a post-Covid-19 recovery and growth strategy.

Asiimwe believes this will go a long way in cushioning the economy from economic shocks of the pandemic. Different beneficiaries of the project demonstrated signs of improvement from their already staggering businesses that were saved by the programme.

Beneficiaries during the engagement workshop at Hotel Protea. Photo /Promise Twinamukye

Timely initiative

Noah Wamala Nyanzi, the vice chairperson of Uganda National Arts and Cultural Crafts Association in Uganda (NACCAU), one of the 200 expected beneficiaries, said the programme came at a time when they were experiencing the effects of lockdown.

“We were financially incapacitated. When we learnt about the project, we embraced it and we have benefitted through acquiring equipment, which we have used to train our members. They have now become producers themselves,” Nyanzi explained.

More products

From the four-day training made by the group after the grant, Nyanzi said at least 30 people who have started producing baskets, sandals, tablemats, jewellery, among other products.

Nyanzi said beneficiaries were also treated to a fun trip to Fort Portal City, Semuliki, and different national parks, where they were able to appreciate nature and see the impact of what they market.

“We realised that most parks lack the carvings of the animals they have and cultural art yet we make cultural products which we sell to both domestic and international tourists,” he said.

Looking forward to the cultural exhibition, the association has been working on, Nyanzi believes if their art pieces are bought by government officials for their offices and homes, other Ugandans will appreciate such items and this will ultimately boost the market for crafts.

“If the president ordered that every government office should have art pieces, we would not need any funding or support. This will make more Ugandans want to consume their products. The more people buy, the more services artists will provide,” he said.

Many beneficiaries attested to receiving equipment, training in digital marketing among other skills and this was dependent on the necessities cited in their proposals, not different from National Arts and Cultural Crafts Association in Uganda’s achievements.

Marketing in different regions

According to Herbert Byaruhanga, the president of Uganda Tourism Association, people asked for what they wanted done and cited challenges that needed to be addressed for them to recover their businesses.

“This included trips to Kenya and Uganda to discover ways of marketing in different regions, skills in crafts making, among others,” Byaruhanga said.

He added that most of the people who benefited were members of an association, which is made up of trade associations in the tourism sector.

He, therefore, urged those who benefited from the project and are not members of any organisation to endeavour to become members in order to tap into different opportunities that the association offers.

Choosing beneficiaries

According to Lilian Kansiime, the monitoring, learning and evaluation specialist at PSFU, they are planning to have regional engagements for MSEs to discuss the project, who qualifies to be part of it and how it will be restructured.

The 112 beneficiaries, out of the projected 200, were mainly being handled under UTA. According to Kansiime, there is always a criteria, although many had to be members of any of the eight associations under UTA.

Supporting those in need

She highlighted the fact that some grant hunters keep getting one grant after another with the same business ideas to different donors and at the end of the day, people who really need the money do not get the chance.

“We wanted to have these regional stakeholder meetings so that we get out of the city and support people who actually need the money,” Kansiime said.

Asiimwe added that the Mastercard Foundation project in partnership with PSFU is creating three million high quality jobs and business opportunities for young people.

The 18 months project which started in June last year, was supposed to end in November last year although there is a proposed extension of up to November 2022, according to PSFU.

The fund that went to the tourism sector is a part of the Shs13.5b ($8.3m) that was put aside for the CERRRP programme.

What beneficiaries say

Nicholas Kalyango, the general manager of The Uganda Association of Travel Agents (TUGATA), said the project came to their rescue in financially challenging times. We were supported with a printer which we needed to speed up work and reduce on our printing costs which were oftentimes outsourced. We developed a strategic plan to help us implement activities on the emerging global aviation trends.

We were also supported with capacity building trainings and we were given Shs2m to help us coordinate and reach out to our members, purchase data for our online engagements, cater for phone calls and transport services.

Albert Ssozi, CEO for AUTO secretariat

We got support in terms of training in digital marketing and product development because we had to diversify the product we were putting on the market and more than 100 people benefited from the training.

GoExplore safaris

We received more than 2000 views of our marketing video after promoting it through the platform and this had never happened before. Our videos went viral and America came as the biggest area where the videos were promoted followed by Brazil with the main age bracket of 21 to 35 years. Now we know how to package our services better for the right audience.

Charles Oundo

We were given a consultant who helped us through our strategic plan. We generated five objectives with vibrant missions. Between Novembers to date, we have acquired two collaborations with the Belgium Foreign exchange and Makerere Business School. We were also given a laptop, a printer and an office desk because we did not have office equipment before that. Most of our staff got online for digital marketing trainings and Shs2m for facilitating the work we were doing.

Robert Ntare, Cheetah Safaris Uganda

Our website did not generate traffic before but because of the digital support we received through funding, our traffic has risen from 30 percent to 60 percent.

Through UTA, we were the beneficiaries of the Dubai Expo in which we discovered we needed more campaigns to boost the market for Uganda products.

Covid-19 impact

Local travellers in Queen Elizabeth National Park near Lake Bunyampaka. Photo /EDGAR R. BATTE.

The 2020 Covid-19 Impact Economic Study further revealed that at least one million tourist arrivals were lost, seven in every 10 jobs in the sector were lost and eight in every 10 hotel businesses registered business cancellations.

Additionally, 448, 996 hotel room bookings were cancelled between March and July 2020 and nine in every 10 tour companies registered cancellations. The overall average job loss in the sector was more than 74 percent.

Group travellers enjoy the the natural endowments of Queen Elizabeth National Park. Photo /EDGAR R. BATTE.

The Covid-19 economic recovery and resilience response programme is an intervention aimed at complementing the efforts of the government in controlling the spread of Covid-19, support government to develop a post Covid-19 economic recovery as well as generate a growth strategy.

With support from MasterCard Foundation, Private Sector Foundation Uganda wants to support the tourism and hospitality micro, small and medium enterprises to mitigate the effects of Covid-19 through structured business recovery and resilience support.

The programme will employ a common user facility- Uganda Tourism Association (UTA), to support people in the hospitality industry to return to work, support the economy through re-employment of those that lost jobs and create new opportunities, especially for youth and women.

Tourist hike Mountain Rwenzori.  Photo/net.


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