As the Covid-19 pandemic sent many sectors of the economy into a tailspin for the second year running, local travellers once again played a key role in keeping Uganda’s tourism sector afloat throughout last year.
According to the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) the number of local visitors to national parks increased significantly in 2020 and 2021 from the years before Covid-19 struck.
Semuliki National Park recorded 5,137 local visitors in the first half of 2021, up from the 4,674 locals who visited the park in the whole of 2019. A total of 5,739 locals visited the park in 2020. Only 156 international tourists visited Semuliki National Park in 2020, while 193 of them were recorded in the first half of 2021.
Kibale National Park, which plays host to chimpanzees also recorded a spike in domestic visitors in 2021, welcoming 269 locals in the first six months of the year. Comparatively, only 211 and 215 locals visited the park in the whole of 2019 and 2020, respectively.
More locals also went gorilla tracking in 2021. Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, which is popular with international tourists, recorded 490 visits from locals in the first half of 2021, compared with 706 in the entire 2019.
In 2021, locals also visited mountain gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in bigger numbers, with official records indicating that a total of 797 Ugandans visited the park between January and June, up from 1,164 recorded in 2019.