Uganda: COVID-19 Recovery - Tap Into Domestic Tourism

Tourism is one of the sectors that have been hit hard by the Covid19 pandemic.

Before Covid-19, the sector was contributing at least 7 per cent towards the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

About 700,000 people are employed in this sector but about one in 10 jobs so far have been affected.

The tourism sector which heavily relies on human beings is one that could not go on to operate as business as usual since the outbreak of the disease.

The co-existing sectors to support it such as transport were heavily affected as domestic and foreign tourists could not travel due to government's directive of total lock down almost world over.

International arrivals were intercepted as foreign tourists could travel because of the travel bans of flights to various destinations.

Talking about hotels and motels to facilitate accommodation for both domestic and foreign tourists, these where declared no go areas as part of the stringent measures to contain the spread of the virus.

Speaking via a TourismKonnect live chat organised by Uganda Tourism Board titled, "Tourism in the wake of Covid 19 ", Ms Elcia Grandcourt, the United Nations World Tourism Organisation director regional department for Africa, said domestic tourism is more likely to recover faster that international tourism.

Why domestic tourism

"There will be need to stimulate domestic tourism by embracing intra travels of tourists at continental and regional levels because this is where the market will be and we do not know when many countries especially overseas will open up again to facilitate international arrivals," Ms Elcia says.

Global tourism has remained at a standstill as 100 per cent of worldwide destinations introduced travel restrictions in response to Covid-19, limiting movement of tourists.

To Ms Elcia, continental flights are likely to open faster than international ones because with international tourist arrivals, this will heavily depend on how faster the international countries will open their airports and how the even social distancing rules will be applied.

Building confidence of consumers to resume travels without restrictions is another issue tourism sector players will have to deal with.

Impact of Covid on the sector

According to the World Tourism Organisation, globally all regions have suffered a strong decline in the number of tourist arrivals in the first quarter of the financial year.

Before Covid-19, 67 million tourists were recorded but as we speak these have declined by 22 per cent.

A total loss amounting to $80b in tourism exports worldwide has been recorded.

In Africa, we were on a positive trajectory since last year but now in the first quarter for the period between the month of January and March 2020 a decline of 12 per cent in domestic tourist numbers was recorded and for international tourist arrivals a decline of 44 per cent was registered.

Going forward

According to Ms Elcia, intra-regional travels can be stimulated developing unique products to boost domestic tourism and embracing diversification. There is need to rethink the business model, for example, looking at how other countries have tapped into the local tourism market to grow numbers.

"There is need to embrace digitisation in the new normal to remain relevant in the industry because of the uncertainty as to when international countries will open their borders. Tourism sector players need to up their game and improve their website applications to showcase a variety of products they are offering to their customers," she says.

Sector players should also look at sustainable oriented segments such as rural places and devise how best they can be modified to attract customers to spend a night there.

"How can nature attract tourists? Can health facilities around tourist destinations be improved such that if a tourist fell sick at a tourist site, they can access treatment," Ms Elcia says.

Progress in adaptation plans in destinations and companies. Ms Elcia adds there is need to work with the community in these segments to ensure that they benefit. These all need each other if the sector is to remain afloat.

According to the Uganda Tourism Board chief executive officer Lilly Ajarova, the only way tourism sector players will keep afloat in the 'new normal' depends on how smart these people will work.

She adds there should be efficient management of resources, by knowing what to spend on to remain relevant.

"Keeping data about your customers is key. This will help you to know when your customers can visit again. Here you can be able to do for them different bookings among other things," she says.

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