Majority Tour Operators are facing losses after a drop in Tourist arrivals due to the current political and security tension in the country. They say that the current incidents in the country has impacted negatively on the tourism sector thus making some of the tourists cancel their trip to Uganda. This was disclosed by the Chairman of Association of Tour Operators (AUTO) Everest Kayondo during a press briefing on Monday.
Mr. Kayondo told journalists that there has been nervousness within the vulnerable tourism sector basing on the events that spread out in Arua district weeks ago and the aftermath which lead to brutality by the security agencies. The chairman cited torture and imprisonment of civilians, some in military detention facilities, battering journalists and use of live ammunition during riots.
As per these results, Uganda was marked as a security risk country for the foreign countries since Uganda sources tourists and many of the events that occurred featured famously in the International press.
Through this, it resulted to cancellation of trips by some tourists who were already here in the country and for those that had booked their trips earlier called to suspend or cancel them says Kayondo. He further added on that our members are losing business and are being made to refund the dollars they had earlier received. He said this is not only a loss to the tour operators but also the country at large since it is losing foreign revenue.
He referred to the example of Amos Wekesa who runs Great Lakes Safaris who was obliged to refund over USD 30,000 (around 111 million Shs) that had been paid in advance for trips by visitors. Tour Operators have asked the government to handle demonstrations professionally without inflicting pain, unnecessary beatings of the people who are already under arrest. They have also asked individual officers who took part in brutalizing Ugandans and as a result led to an adverse effect on the country’s image.
In 2017, the tourism sector generated USD 1.4 billion followed by foreign remittances thus making the Tourism sector Uganda’s leading foreign exchange earner. Uganda registered a total of 1.37 million foreign tourists. The gains achieved by aggressive marketing through investment in PR firms in strategic markets could equally go down the drain.
The minister for Tourism Prof Ephraim Kamuntu said the gains made in the Tourism sector should be guarded heavily because tourism is everyone’s business, urging all stakeholders to work towards the good limelight of Uganda.