Strategies to Be Adopted for Uganda’s Tourism to Recover from Impacts of Corona Virus
Tourism has for many decades become the most significant sector for foreign exchange earning in most African countries including Uganda. There have been new strategies including human resource development, tourist safety and security plans, tourism financing investment plans, community tourism development initiatives, aggressive marketing, private sector capacity development and product development plans to help the sector perform to its full capacity.
According to the World Bank Reports, one in twenty jobs in the Sub-Saharan Africa is in the Tourism sector and according to the Annual Tourism Sector Performance Report for 2019, it was estimated that over 1,505,669 tourists visited Uganda in the 2018/2019 financial year thus generating over US$1.6 billion for the country.
Before the outbreak of Covid-19, Uganda had projected to attract over 4 million tourists by 2020 and this projection was driven by the plan to use aggressive promotion and marketing strategies such as digital technologies, improved visa processing, re-launching of the National Carrier, improved infrastructure and many others.
Tourism just like most sectors of the economy is susceptible to shocks and crises with many factors such as insecurity (resulting from terrorist attacks and conflicts or war), natural disasters, negative image and pandemics/epidemics being able to set back the sector. It is therefore important to Governments (Uganda for this case) to draw past experiences and forge a way forward to revamp the tourism sector after covid-19 situation normalizes.
Since the covid-19 outbreak in Wuhan, the tourism sector has been the worst affected with thousands of jobs lost countrywide and it is said that even after the virus is contained, it will take several months (up to even 18 months) for the sector to recover from its aftermath. The President of Uganda, Kaguta Museveni has also in many of his addresses acknowledged that the tourism industry is one of the worst affected sectors and will take time to recover after Covid-19.
Currently most destinations in Uganda especially National Parks, Wildlife Reserves, Sanctuaries, Zoos and accommodation facilities have closed. Not only that, the Airport has been closed for some months to allow implementation of lockdowns hence resulting in extensive lay-offs and employees being furloughed as well as the Government losing foreign revenue/exchange earnings.
It is undeniable that Europe, United States and China have been Uganda’s biggest International source markets yet have been among the 10 most hit territories by the Covid-19 pandemic. Not only that, these countries have/are still implementing partial or complete lockdowns hence the troubles of Uganda’s tourism industry are far from over. Uganda’s tourism industry’s recovery will therefore depend on the recovering of these countries.
Therefore, the following are some of the strategies that can be adopted for the country’s tourism industry to recover after covid-19;
Putting more emphasis on Domestic Tourism
Uganda’s now needs to put more emphasis on domestic tourism while waiting for the United States, Europe and China to ease their lockdowns and open their Airports. Most marketing campaigns in Uganda and Africa in general usually target International tourists while ignoring the purchasing power and likely contribution of the country’s growing middle to higher income classes to the tourism industry. Although domestic tourism might not fully cover for the losses incurred from covid-19, it can go a long way in revamping the tourism sector.
Sensitization and awareness campaigns among local communities
The Government of Uganda through the concerned authorities (Ministry of Health and Tourism) have to sensitize and encourage local communities around tourist sites (National Parks), rural and even Urban Centers to welcome and not stigmatize tourists from areas that were badly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic such as China.
Constant communication for Uganda’s tourism sensitization
Constant communication through targeted marketing adverts and campaigns is one of the ways of recovering from a pandemic. Persuasive communication through constant updates is said to be one of the effective ways of clearing the misconceptions about the extent of the covid-19 pandemic in Uganda-updating the World on the real number of infected persons, recoveries and fatalities while comparing with other destinations.
For instance in East Africa, Uganda has recorded one of the lowest cases and fatalities. Herbert Byaruhanga, the Vice Chairperson of Uganda Tourism Association also contends that tour operators have to keep updating (communicating) with the World though social media Emails (for old clients), YouTube, blogs and online conferences. This will restore confidence in the country and even project Uganda as a potential alternative holiday destination.
Provision of financial assistance for tourism businesses to stay afloat
The Government of Uganda can offer assistance to tourism businesses to stay afloat through providing tax holidays/incentives, bailouts, business support schemes and insurance among others.