Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Uganda Development Bank-UDB has so far received 41 applications from tourism operators seeking to access funds to recover from the effects of Covid-19.
In July, the Ministry of Tourism negotiated a 6M Euro (25.2 billion) stimulus package from the EU towards the private tourism sector for post lockdown operations.
The package will be remitted through the UDB, as part of the deal where UDB will also provide another 39. 4 Billion Shillings. The funds will go a long way in enabling the tourism operators to upgrade their facilities especially in line with the standard operating procedures set by the Ministry of Health and government tourism sector agencies.
Patricia Ojangole, the managing director UDB says that an initial call for applications whose deadline was 30th October has been extended to 15th November 2020 for members of the Uganda Hotel Owners Association to express interest in the funds before an assessment and disbursement begins. The association boasts of over 600 member hotels and lodges.
Speaking to journalists at Chobe Safari Lodge following a closed meeting with eight EU Ambassadors, Ojangole said that they have so far received 41 applications worth over 30 billion shillings.
Asked about the low applications compared with the members of Uganda Hotel Owners Association, Ojangole noted that the bank is confident that the funds will be utilized.
Samuel Edem-Maitum, the director credit at UDB explained that the facility has been designed to help hotels and struggling businesses cover their working capital for at least 2 to 5 years.
He added that they are targeting entities that have at least 5 employees who are willing to maintain at least half the number in the first year and then grow it up to 75 percent in the second year. Edem said that the employees would be paid a minimum wage that can keep them occupied as well as taking care of some of the costs to keep the hotels running like electricity and others.
The tourism sector was one of the most affected since March when President Yoweri Museveni announced the closure of all borders and Entebbe International Airport. These measures which are currently being eased meant that all tourist sites had to be shut to the public and therefore no operation of hotels and lodges.
According to the Uganda Hotel Owners Association between April and July, the industry experienced a US Dollars 25 million monthly loss in revenue.
The tourism sector is one of Uganda’s foreign exchange-earners with annual receipts of US Dollars 1.6 billion brought in by 1.8 million tourists, according to the Uganda Tourism Board (UTB). Out of the 1.8 million tourists, 1.3 million are foreigners while 500,000 are local tourists.
The Head of Delegation of the European Union to Uganda, Attilio Pacifici has in the past said that the EU is committed to offering support to the sector given the current cash flow constraints in the sector occasioned by the reduction in visitors and tourists.
Ambassador Attilio emphasized the need to lay a ground for key sectors affected by Covid-19.