All tourism sites in Uganda are now open for visitors, Col. (Rtd) Tom Butime the Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities has said. But with the country’s borders still closed, domestic tourists and foreigners who are already in the country are the ones expected to visit these sites.
The tourism sector came to a standstill in March after President Yoweri Museveni announced the closure of all borders, together with Entebbe International Airport, followed by the suspension of both private and public transport, business premises and any form of public gatherings. The measures meant that all tourist sites had to be shut to the public.
However starting June, the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) reopened National Parks to tourists as government steadily started easing the lockdown. Today, Butime says, the entire sector has been opened on condition that they follow the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and COVID-19 prevention guidelines by the Ministery of Health.
These include having mandatory temperature screening at all entrances of the protected areas, mandatory hand washing and sanitizing among others. The Minister made the statement during a meeting with the European Union (EU) Heads of Mission who started their retreat at Queen Elizabeth National Park on Thursday.
On Wednesday alone, 260 tourists visited Katunguru Park which lies within the boundaries of Queen Elizabeth National Park in Kasese district. According to Butime, all these had booked and paid for their tickets before the lockdown occasioned by an outbreak of coronavirus disease.
Tourism is one of Uganda’s top foreign exchange-earners with annual receipts of USD 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.