KAMPALA – Although the tourism numbers will not immediately go up following the opening of Entebbe International Airport, there are vital signs and new optimism that the sector is resilient.
According to the tourism sector players, after opening the airport, government should partner with the tourism fraternity and come up with different interventions to bail out the sector, because it was one of the most hit by the Covid-19.
Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities Minister, Col. (Rtd.) Tom Butime, said on top of government interventions, Ugandans should embrace local tourism so as to give the sector the major boost it needs to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
He made the remarks on Friday during the launch of Kigambira Safari Lodge in Lake Mburo National Park, western Uganda.
The lodge is owned by Brigadier Charles Bakahumura and family under Karungi Crown Enterprises Limited company.
“I implore Ugandans to embrace local tourism to improve the sector. The coronavirus pandemic has had an impact but the sector will bounce back stronger,” Hon Butime said.
He said Brigadier Bakahumura’s decision to invest in the sector should inspire other Ugandans to do the same.
Brig Bakahumura, the chief of logistics and engineering in UPDF, said it had always been a dream to invest in the sector and is happy that his dream has come true. Kigambira Safari Lodge is a 20-bed high end tented lodge. It has raised the bed number in Lake Mburo National Game Park to 58.
“Working in government doesn’t stop one from having something on the side to earn an extra income,” Bakahumura said of his vision to establish the lodge.
He added, “My wife and I had a dream to invest in tourism. I looked at it as a way to help me and my family especially after I have retired as a military officer.”
He went on to reveal that the steps to live his dream saw him respond to an advert placed in the newspapers in 2014 asking potential investors to invest in Lake Mburo National Park. The park is now famous for several bird and butterflies species as well as wild animals such as zebras, buffalos, hippopotamus, among others.
“We cannot afford to live foreigners only to be the ones to develop this country, we must partner with them,” he added.
Kigambira Safari Lodge whose construction started in 2016, is the first lodge in the park to be set up in the last five years, something the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) boss, Sam Mwandha credited Bakahumura for.
Ms Susan Muhwezi, the head of Uganda Hotel Owners Association, used the occasion to appeal to government for support, especially towards the tourism sector.
“The tourism sector needs urgent and more support from the government. You need to speak for tourism, it is the future of Uganda,” she said.
She appealed to government to reverse the taxation policy on the sector, which she, said is discouraging potential investors.
The Belgian Ambassador who represented the European Union delegation, appealed to Ugandans to live up to the billing of the Pearl of Africa and ‘polish the pearl.’
“Poaching has increased many folds because of poverty caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
National Parks need to be protected from poaching. However, it is heart-warming to note that Ugandan investors are coming up to invest in the sector. Last year, tourism represented 7 per cent of GDP. More and better lodges will increase the country’s GDP,” H.E. Rudi Veestraeten said.
The board chairman of UWA, Dr Panter Kasumba called on other investors to invest in the tourism sector and develop Uganda.