The revenue collections generated from tourists who visit Mt Elgon National Park in eastern region have drastically dropped due to disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
According to the figures obtained from Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), revenue collection dropped by 70 per cent since March last year when coronavirus hit the country.
The figures indicate that during the Financial Year 2020/2021, the national park collected about Shs203m compared to Shs773m in the FY 2018/2019.
Mr Robert Mbagaya, the warden in-charge of law enforcement and security, said the decline in revenue is a result of limited tourist arrivals into the park.
“We used to receive a large number of clients from East Africa and Ugandan residents. These categories are often budget tourists that use public transport to access the park, which had been halted due to Covid-19,” Mr Mbagaya said.
President Museveni during a televised address on Friday allowed taxi and bus operators to resume operations but carry half the capacity with strict adherence to Covid-19 guidelines.
Mr Mbagaya made the remarks during a meeting with the parliamentary committee on Trade, Industry and Cooperatives led by Mr Francis Mwijukye, the MP for Buhweju County, at Mbale City Council Hall on Monday.
The meeting also attended by civil servants, political leaders and the business community in Bugisu Sub-region.
Mr Mbagaya noted that pressure on the park land for cultivation and settlement has also increased during the lockdown.
“And this is because the pandemic has affected effective conservation of the natural resources due to scaling down activities especially on awareness,” he said.
The park is composed of four protected areas including Mt Elgon, PianUpe, Matheniko and Bokora wildlife reserves.
Mr Mbagaya said there has also been an increase in multiple illegal activities such as poaching and deforestation.
Mr Saleh Naminya, the chief executive officer of Casa Uganda Safaris and Casa lodges, asked government to support the tourism sector, especially in the eastern region, to recover from shocks of the pandemic.
“Many hotels are pending closure in this region due to accumulated bank loans and other related utilities,” he said.
Mr Naminya, who is also the public relations officer for the Eastern Entrepreneurship and Tourism Network, faulted government for not doing much to promote tourism in the eastern region.
The chairperson of Mbale City Traders Association, Mr Suleiman Kiwanuka, said the government has neglected locally owned businesses, a reason many have since collapsed.
“We are like prisoners in our own country. We don’t get tax holidays like our counterparts; the foreign investors,” Mr Kiwanuka said.
He appealed to government to support businesses with grants.
Mr Yusuf Nsubuga, the communication officer for Mbale Central Market, said they are struggling with accumulated debts for water and electricity bills due to dropped revenue collections.
Mr Mwijukye said: “There is a need for a stimulus package for businesses and as a committee, we are going to write a report and submit it for action.”
He also said the restrictive measures on Emyooga funds need to be reviewed.
“The Emyooga funds are restrictive and the beneficiaries cannot access the funds even at this time when people need capital,” he said.