“Even someone who had planned to come say in November it might be very hard to do so because their economies have been largely affected. What this means is that things of tourism become secondary to them. The priority shifts to survival other than leisure,” Hangi said.
When China finally publicly admitted that what was
killing people in the city of Wuhan was Coronavirus, no Ugandan would even
remotely think its effects would reverberate as far as far as Kanungu, Nwoya,
Kaabong, Kisoro or Rubirizi districts.
The five districts have one thing in common; National
Parks. Tourism overtook coffee and remittances
as the biggest exchange earner. Uganda earns about U$1.6billion from tourism. It also contributes 7.7 % of the Gross Domestic Product.
Most of the tourists that visit Uganda mostly go to
national parks and other wildlife reserves. Uganda Wildlife Authority, the
agency mandated with protecting wildlife, says the Coronavirus has had a devastating
impact on the sector.
Bashir Hangi, who speaks for UWA, says ever since the virus
broke out especially in Europe and United States, there has a sporadic drop in
the number of tourist’s bookings.
//Cue in …“these people had
Cue out…known even now,”//
Although Hangi says what happened was not
cancellation but rescheduling, he nevertheless admits that even when the
tourists finally come, there might be a problem of managing them especially if
they book during the months that had already been overbooked.
//Cue in… if we are
Cue out…have gone down,”//
Hangi also says that even after the virus is
defeated, tourism might take long to rebound because devastation of the source
“Even someone who had planned to come say in
November it might be very hard to do so because their economies have been
largely affected. What this means is that things of tourism become secondary to
them. The priority shifts to survival other than leisure,” Hangi said.
He reveled that as UWA they are also on high alert
so that tourists who might have the virus don’t transmit it to the chimpanzees
or the gorillas; the two animals whose gene formation is very close to that of human
//Cue in: "And of course
Cue out…track gorillas,”//
UWA has also relaxed on its rules governing bookings
to visit national parks. Previously a person who booked to visit the park especially
Bwindi Impenetrable and Mgahinga national parks, the homes to gorillas, would
be fined for rescheduling.
UWA now allows those who booked to reschedule their visits.
“Someone doesn’t want to come from German or UK to
be quarantined here for 14 days. These people normally have a week to tour so
they budget accordingly. So we have also relaxed on the rules because we are in
this together,” Hangi said.
The pandemic has not only affected UWA but others in the sector.
“If there are no visitors in the parks, it means that
the lodges, the hotels, the transporters, the guides among others involved in
this hospitality business are now jobless. Tourism is a value chain. When we
get affected everybody in the chain gets affected,” Hangi said.