Uganda’s tourism earnings hit $1 billion

Wednesday March 27 2024

Tourists at the Murchison Falls National Park, Western Uganda. PHOTO | NMG


Uganda’s tourism receipts are expected to recover to the pre-Covid levels by the end of the year after the sector recorded an 83.4 percent rebound supported by tourist arrivals.

According to the new tourism trend and statistics report 2024, released Tuesday, the country’s international tourist receipts grew by 48.5 percent to reach $1.025 billion last year, representing 83.4 percent of the $1.6 billion recorded in 2019.

The authorities attribute the growth in both numbers and revenue to arrivals from Africa and some key overseas markets including the United Kingdom, United States of America and India.

In the last three years, Uganda has been aggressively marketing its destinations in southern and western Africa.

Read: Uganda promoting untapped potential of cultural tourism

The national carrier, Uganda Airlines, has in the same period also increased its African network with new routes.


Kenya, Rwanda and South Sudan retained the first, second and third positions respectively and continue to be Uganda’s largest African source markets, jointly accounting for 80 percent of all arrivals in Africa in 2023.

“Through the concerted efforts of the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, in collaboration with its agencies and the private sector, we have witnessed a recovery of the industry. International arrivals have increased to an impressive 82.6 percent of pre-pandemic levels,” said Doreen Katusiime, the Tourism Permanent Secretary.

The report also notes that domestic tourism has increased by 25.3 percent in 2023 with more Ugandans now visiting national parks and other recreational centres.

Tourism is one of Uganda’s key sectors contributing about 4.7 percent to the country’s GDP.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic disruptions and its ensuing lockdowns that saw the sector come to a standstill, it was the country’s biggest foreign exchange earner raking in about $1.6 billion annually.

The sector employs more than 620,000 people directly or indirectly, according to official statistics.

The new report notes that if the current growth trend continues, direct tourism revenues could surpass 2019 levels by the end of the year 2024.

Industry players, however, contend that the growth could be faster if the government increased its funding to the sector.

Read: African states urged to step up investments in tourism

Earlier last year, the government caused a public uproar after it announced it was more than halving the tourism budget from Ush194.6 billion ($52 million) in the previous financial year to only Ush89.29 billion ($24 million) for 2023/2024.

Government technocrats and private sector players all agree that more funding is needed for activities like upgrading, maintaining and redeveloping tourism sites, participation in international meetings and exhibitions, reviewing and implementing the national tourism marketing strategy, and developing new sites and products.

World over, the tourism sector is picking up towards the pre-pandemic levels with Asia and Africa leading the pack, according to the World Tourism Organisation.

International tourism receipts reached $1.4 trillion in 2023 based on preliminary estimates, which is about 93 percent of the 1.5 trillion earned by destinations in 2019.