Kalangala's main access route via Masaka must be restored if the tourism potential of the island district is to be realised, leaders have said.
Kalangala, which is made up of more than 80 islands, is a top tourist destination for sport fishing, bird watching, exotic beaches and stunning sunset views, among others.
The island district can mainly be accessed via the Masaka route through Bukakkata and Bugoma with the use of the MV Pearl and MV Ssese marine vessels.
However, those travelling to the district have often been advised to use the MV Kalangala ferry that docks at Entebbe.
But MV Kalangala has, since its return from servicing on October 1, been reduced to transporting half its capacity to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Vessel's capacity affected
Now, a vessel whose capacity is 108 passengers, only takes 50 people so as to maintain social distancing in line with the standard operating procedures stipulated by the Ministry of Health.
"Now with half capacity, only a handful of tourists can get to Kalangala and that can't promote the district's main income generating activity; tourism," Mr Kassim Musiige, a tour operator in the district, says.
In the 2019/2020 financial year, the tourism sector contributed Shs213 million of the Shs537 million revenue raised by the district.
Mr Rogers Munaawa, the chairperson of the Ssese Islands Tourism Development Association, says the money is always collected from hotel tax and other dues.
"With a smaller number of tourists coming, the sector will be affected further yet we are struggling to recover from the losses made during the Covid-19 lockdown," Mr Munaawa says.
The district chairperson, Mr Willy Lugoloobi, says for more tourists to get to Kalangala, the district's main route through Masaka on the MV Pearl and MV Ssese ferries should be efficiently utilised by tour operators since it is more flexible and reliable.
The route has two vessels, MV Pearl and MV Ssese, which are operated by Kalangala Infrastructure Services on behalf of the government. The vessels in Masaka make eight return journeys each on a daily basis.
"The vessels are free of charge. It is also great adventure for a tourist to get to Kalangala through the route," Mr Lugoloobi says.
Each vessel also carries 100 passengers per trip at half capacity.
It is, however, not clear why most travellers do not fully utilise the route.
"We must fully utilise such transport routes if hundreds of tourists are to get to Kalangala," Mr Lugoloobi adds.
Kalangala boasts of several tourism sites such as Luggo forest, which is home to Buganda's royal mace, and the Nanziri Water Falls.
Mr John Ekudel, the district senior finance officer, says Kalangala's tourism revenue has decreased by 82 per cent in the last seven months, with a paltry Shs16 million collected in the same period.
Mr Ekudel says they are working to improve the district's revenue sources, including the improvement of the water transport system to ensure easy movement of tourists, goods and services.
Kalangala District, a necklace of 64 habitable islands interspersed with lush vegetation, is a jewel in the crown for those seeking a holiday.
To the north, the island is bordered by Masaka District from which it was carved in 1989, Mpigi and Wakiso, Masaka, Kalungu and Rakai to the west, Mukono to the east, and farthest to the south is Tanzania.
The 2014 National Housing and Population Census estimates Kalangala population at 54,293.