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European envoys in Queen Elizabeth National Park to boost tourism

According to some of the sources close to a meeting, convened by the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) at the Park’s headquarters to prepare the visit, the envoys will be in the Park to open commission a trans-boundary ranger post at Ishasha, Kanungu district.

Eight European Union Ambassadors are expected in the western Uganda Queen Elizabeth National Park on Thursday.

According to some of the sources close to a meeting, convened by the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) at the Park’s headquarters to prepare the visit, the envoys will be in the Park to open commission a trans-boundary ranger post at Ishasha, Kanungu district.

The facility is aimed at promoting tourism through wildlife conservation, especially by combating cross-border poaching along the Uganda-DRC border.

‘The facility, code-named Simama, (Swahili for “stop”), was funded by the European Union through the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) at about sh300m,” the sources told New Vision on conditions of anonymity.

However the UWA spokesperson, Bashir Hangi could not pick his known cell phone number when New Vision sought his comment.

Tourism is one of Uganda’s economic mainstays as the East African country attracts visitors to see a range of game including lions, giraffes, buffalos and others that roam its savannahs.

Others are drawn by the mountain gorillas in forests in the southwest of the country on the border with the DRC and Rwanda.

However, like other Parks in the country, Queen Elizabeth National Park, which spans over five districts in western Uganda, has been dormant following the outbreak of the novel COVID-19 pandemic.

While addressing the nation about the various measures aimed at containing the spread of the pandemic, President Yoweri Museveni has said tourism was among the sectors that were hit hard.

“Already Ugandan will lose $1.6b per annum from the loss of tourism,” Museveni said in a speech late June, referring to the impact of COVID-19 on the economy.

The president did not say what time frame he was referring to.

But the latest available data from the country’s statistics office show Uganda earned $2b from tourism activities in 2017, up from $1.7b the previous year.

The President said the economy would also lose a substantial chunk of the $1.3b sent home each year by Ugandans working abroad as many would be out of work due to the global economic downturn following the pandemic.

Uganda has so far recorded 1,075 cases of COVID-19, with over 900 recoveries and no deaths reported.

Stringent measures implemented to curb the virus’s spread including bans on both public and private transport, temporarily shutting nearly all businesses and closure of borders has wiped out much of the country’s economic activity.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) in May nearly halved its forecast for economic growth in Uganda for the financial year ending in June to 3.3% and projects 3.7% growth in the following fiscal year. In the year ended June 2019, the economy grew 6.5%.

IMF predicts a 54% fall in earnings.

The IMF said in May that Uganda’s tourism earnings were expected to fall to 54% in the 2019/20 (July-June) fiscal year, and decline to 52% in the 2020/21 fiscal year.

But the EU said last month it was giving Uganda $198m in credit and grants to fund its coronavirus response.

Daudi Migereko, the Chairman of the Uganda Tourism Board (UTB), said the sector has been contributing approximately 8% of the GDP and supported 667,600 jobs directly and 1.6 million jobs indirectly.

“Therefore, the sector’s growth has had a tremendous impact on our economy,” he said in April.

But he noted that this vibrancy and success “recorded in recent years, the tourism sector has been hit hardest by the outbreak of COVID-19.”.

According to Migereko, the most lucrative tourist source markets are at the epicenter of COVID-19.”
© New Vision

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