Kampala twin attacks rattle Uganda's tour industry

Monday November 29 2021
Bomb explosion in Kampala, Uganda.

Police and firefighters put out fire after a bomb explosion on Parliament Avenue in Kampala, Uganda, on November 16, 2021. PHOTO | FILE | NMG


Uganda’s tourism is reeling from cancellations following the recent twin bombings in Kampala that claimed four lives and injured 35 people.

The sector was hoping to bounce back over the December festive season after the re-opening of the economy following two years of pandemic-induced restrictions.

More than five international conferences have been cancelled, according to the Uganda Hotel Owners Association, further denting sector recovery.

“We had immediate cancellations because no one wants to come and spend their money in a country that is being attacked. Apart from the cancellations, you cannot tell the number of people who had planned to come but did not after hearing about the bombs,” said Amos Wekesa, the proprietor of the Great Lakes Safaris Tour Company and Uganda Lodges.

“The recent bombings are indeed a worst case scenario for Uganda’s tourism, especially as we head into the festive season. Uganda is just coming out of the lockdown and business was starting to pick up despite curfew being at 7pm. One of the biggest impediments to travel for anyone, is security,” said Jean Byamugisha, the CEO of the Uganda Hotel Owners Association.

Increased expenditure


The association said its members have been operating below 40 percent occupancy rates and now are reporting cancellations of bookings and events, yet they are increasing expenditure to enhance security of their premises.

“Security procedures at hotels have been enhanced and all staff have been trained to be on the alert to report any suspicious individuals or activities in our establishments. We want to assure all our guests that Uganda remains one of the safest countries in Africa,” Byamugisha said.

The Uganda Wildlife Authority says security has been upgraded around conservation areas, with more rangers deployed for patrol. The police have also deployed the tourism unit to major hotels and lodges.

Investment lawyers and brokers have also reported a lull, with most offshore inquiries being related to security and political risk.

Police blamed the attacks on the DR Congo based Allied Democratic Forces, a former Ugandan rebel outfit that has since morphed into a terror group.

We have a strong security apparatus that has made this country one of the safest places to visit

More funding Sector players are now urging the government to increase funding for the tourism sector for the next financial year to facilitate its quick recovery.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, tourism has for about four years over taken coffee to become the country’s biggest foreign exchange earner, raking in $1.6 billion annually but private sector players contend this would be even much more if government invested more into destination marketing and attracting investments into the sector.

Tourism contributes close to 7 percent of the country’s GDP but is allocated just 1 percent of the national budget. Mr Wekesa worries the sector will suffer even more since the government is “not interested in investing in destination marketing as neighbouring countries like Rwanda, Kenya and Tanzania.

Last month, the secretary to the country’s treasury Ramathan Ggoobi told reporters that in its bid to quickly shore the economy back, the government would focus more funding on sectors that would make quicker returns among which is tourism.