Uganda tourism banks on local, regional markets

Sunday June 07 2020

Tourists raft the Bujagali Falls in the East channel of the Nile in Uganda on Monday February 28, 2011. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP


Tour operators, resort owners and tourism authorities in Uganda are planning to use a large amount of their promotional spending to target local and regional visitors after the sector was heavily affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and international tourist arrivals dropped drastically.

The move is part of the tourism sector’s recovery plan from the global lockdowns that have seen the country lose a large portion of its $1.6 billion annual earnings from the tourism sector.

Several Safari lodges, hotels, destinations and tour operators across the country are set to resume operations this month at highly subsidised fees.

Jonathan Benaiah, the spokesperson of the Association of Uganda Tour Operators (AUTO), said despite a perception that their products are mostly for international visitors, they are aiming to attract more local tourists. He added that further promotion of domestic tourism is necessary post Covid-19 given that the average traveller will be cash strapped and visitor numbers from international source markets will be low. “For domestic tourism to make sense, we are going to need to partner with the government,” he added.


The Uganda Tourism Board (UTB), a government body partially mandated to promote the county’s tourism sector, said they will support the private sector’s plan to target domestic tourists. The UTB chief executive officer Lilly Ajarova said the board is currently in talks with tour operators and other service providers to draft a plan for the local market. “We have been engaging them so they can avail us with their rates and themes. UTB will help them advertise. Once we get these, we shall run campaigns to create awareness locally about the offers,” she said.


Uganda’s tourist arrivals grew by 7.4 per cent from 1.402 million in 2017 to 1.505 million. But in a national address last week, President Yoweri Museveni warned about the loss of tourist revenues.

“Already Ugandans will lose $1.6 billion per annum from the tourism sector,” he said in reference to the impact of Covid-19 on the economy. Now the country is looking inwards and to neighbours to fill the gap in its draft sector recovery plan. The country spent millions of dollars in the past three years advertising its destinations in North America, Gulf States, European Union and Asia.