The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic early this year affected operations of different sectors of the economy. Especially hard hit was the Tourism industry which was constrained by restrictions on movement, closure of hotels and the ban on international travels.
The Minister of State for tourism, Hon Godfrey Kiwanda Ssuubi says Uganda lost over 2 bn USD in projected income for this Financial Year, from a sector that brought in 1.6 bn USD the previous year.
As government moves in to revive tourism in the country, experts warn that these efforts should be focused on promoting domestic tourism among Ugandans.
Dr. Deus Kamunyu Muhwezi, a Lecturer at the Department of Forestry, Biodiversity and Tourism at Makerere University says that traditionally tourism is sensitive to crises, arguing that in times like this one, destinations must adapt a turnaround strategy for the industry to survive.
“We may not control international tourism at the moment but this may be time for us to adapt; we must move towards activating the local markets. Significant numbers of Ugandans are moving outside for holidays. This is time to keep them here and motivate them to come to undiscovered places,” Kamunyu said.
Kamunyu says that the advantage with domestic tourism is that the money Ugandans spend will remain in circulation to support their local business. However, he cautions that tourism agencies must change pricing strategy to suit the local market.
“The fact is that the sector has been slammed because we were used to dollars coming from outside. Now we have to turn to our locals, adapt to their needs and redo our pricing strategy as part of marketing,” Kamunyu urged.
Claire Mugabi, the Marketing Manager of Uganda Tourism Board (UTB), says that promoting domestic tourism is part of the body’s marketing strategy.
“As the destination marketing organisation, we are determined to get our tourism sector back on track. In terms of our recovery strategy, the first phase is to position Uganda as a safe destination for travel. We shall be reviving visitor confidence in our nation. Part of the strategy is to aggressively focus on the domestic market. This pandemic has taught us to no longer put our eggs on one basket by only focusing on the international travellers,” Mugabi stressed.
However, Kamunyu fears that labour shed off within the tourism industry as a result of COVID-19 is going to negatively affect resumption, productivity and sector recovery.
“The government and sectoral actors did not adequately plan for and support the labour force that got laid off and lost incomes due to the pandemic,” he said.
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