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COVID-19 slashes Uganda’s tourism earnings by 72%


The sector is showing signs of recovery as tourists starts to arrive in the country amid the pandemic

Kampala, Uganda | ISAAC KHISA | Uganda’s foreign exchange earnings from tourists’ arrivals fell 72.7% to US$440 million in 2020 highlighting the adverse effects of coronavirus pandemic on the country’s tourism sector.

The country received 473,085 tourists last year compared with 1,542,620 tourist arrivals in 2019, representing more than 69% drop.

Data from the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities shows that most of the tourist (262,084) arrived in the country for business or professional work, followed up by transit visitors (64,630). More than 64,600 arrivals were visiting friends and relatives.

However, those who arrived in the country for leisure and holiday constituted only 2% or 10,811 persons during the period.

Uganda suspended all flights in and out Entebbe International Airport as well as ordered closure of all hotels in March 2020 as a measure to contain the spread of coronavirus.

Though the hotel facilities were allowed to resume business at the end of May 2020, running costs went up as a result of the newly instituted Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) including social distancing, washing hands, using sanitizers and wearing of masks.

Regarding country of destination, 89% of the visitor arrivals were from the African continent followed by Europe (4.2%), Asia (3.8%) and America (2.5%).  Out of the total visitor arrivals from Africa, the East African region accounted for 80.5%.

The top African source tourist markets for Uganda were led by Kenya that accounted for 68% followed by Rwanda and Tanzania with 4.8% and 4.6% respectively.

From other continents, the highest number of tourists came from India (10,223), followed by United States of America (7,100) and third was United Kingdom (5,481).

Doreen S. Katusiime, the permanent secretary in the tourism ministry said though the country’s tourist sector was badly hit by the pandemic, it is on a steady recovery based on a latest study following COVID-19 management measures that were put in place to contain its spread.

Airlines, hotel bookings up

The study dubbed ‘Towards recovery from the impact of covid-19 on the tourism sector in Uganda: April 2021’ shows that the airline and  hotels and accommodation facilities bookings doubled by end of March 2021 while bookings recorded by tour companies and operators increased eleven-fold between August 2020 and March 2021.

The study further shows that foreign tourist bookings increased faster growing fourfold from 5,628 to 21,191 between August 2020 and March 2021 while domestic tourists tripled from 21,914 bookings to 62,268 over the same period.

The tourist Bookings recorded from airlines doubled in the last 6 months rising from 1,221 bookings by end of October 2020 to 2,073 bookings by end of March 2021.

“Cancelled bookings recorded by tourism businesses dropped by eight percentage points. This implies that tourism businesses are receiving less trip cancellations of already booked trips compared to what was the case by end of June 2020,” says part of the study, adding that hotel occupancy levels in the country increased by ten percentage points by end of March 2021 to average 31 percent when compared to March 2020.

Relatedly, Weekly Flights within or to and out of Uganda increased fourfold by end of March 2021 rising from a weekly average of 3 flights in 2020 to a weekly average of 11 flights in 2021. This, the study says, indicates that 73% of the flights that fly to Entebbe have resumed operations.


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