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Tourists hail Uganda for keeping tourism sector open

Tourists view giraffes in Uganda’s Kidepo National Park.

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Tourists are hailing Uganda for keeping the tourism sector open despite imposing the second nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of COVID-19. While announcing the lockdown in June this year, President Yoweri Museveni ordered the closure of schools and suspended inter-district travels to contain the second wave of the pandemic.

Keen to restart the tourism industry, the government re-opened international borders to allow in foreign tourists but maintain strict observance of the standard operating procedures to stop the spread of COVID-19.

This decision seems to have excited many tourists who were enthusiastic to visit the country or had cancelled their bookings last year. Our reporter visited certain tourism sites in Kasese district and interacted with some tourists.

Roganeil Bongaus from Holland jetted into Uganda in June after he was forced to cancel his earlier travel last year when the country closed its borders. He says that there is a sense of safety with strict health measures put in place across the national parks he had visited so far.

Chris Richards from the USA says he and his fiancée had prepared to travel to Uganda last summer but suspended their plans when the country suspended international flights.

He describes the tour as a great experience given the limited number of tourists in the park at the moment.

Stefan Koeberle, a German national says Uganda has provided relief to persons like him who wanted to take a break from work.

Sarah May, another tourist prays that the government allows the movement of tourists beyond 7:00pm so that they can be able to see wildlife species that come out in the night.

But Isaac Ajuna who sells art crafts says that the business remains very low despite park gates remaining open. He says they often expect many tourists between July and August but this has not been the case this year.

Raymond Kato, an ecologist at Queen Elizabeth National Park says although low tourism activities in the absence of local tourism has affected the park, it has on the other hand helped the wildlife get relief from continued human interactions.

He says the animals are currently more relaxed.

Stephen Nyadru, the Assistant Warden Tourism at Queen Elizabeth NP, says that the decision to keep the sector open was the best because of the setbacks they suffered during the first lockdown. He says the park has set SOPs including spacing in the recreation facilities to ensure the safety of visitors.

However, Nyadru says local tourism has greatly reduced because of inter-district and public transport restrictions.

The World Tourism and Travel Council international indicated that tourist arrivals fell by 81% in July and 79% in August 2020 compared to 2019.

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