Tour companies in the country have reported unrelenting pressure to refund advance payments that had been made by clients who later canceled their trips over the Covid19 pandemic.
Herbert Byaruhanga, the Managing Director Bird Uganda Safaris and the Vice President Uganda Tourism Association (UTA) speaking to our reporter on Sunday, said many companies are struggling because they had already used some the advance money to prepare for the trips that never happened.
UTA is an umbrella organization that brings together tourism trade associations in Uganda. With over 7000 members, the body is made up of tourism professionals, like operators, travel agents, accommodation facilities, tour guides, and community-based organizations and arts and crafts.
“Some of them (clients) have cancelled trips to Uganda and want their money back, while others have postponed their trips till coronavirus is over” Byaruhanga said.
According to Byaruhanga, most tour operators in Uganda had booked hotels, vehicles and other related services for the tourists before the pandemic, and therefore have no monies to refund to them.
“You receive the money, organize the trip, hire vehicles, pay hotels and they don’t come because of the pandemic which isn’t their problem. But now they are demanding their money back. Where do we get it from?”
Byaruhanga, also revealed that some his own clients succumbed to the Covid19 especially those from Italy, one of the worst hit countries.
Before COVID-19, the Uganda’s tourism industry had had a relatively good 5 years with visitor arrivals growing by 19% from 1.27 million in FY2014/15 to 1.5 million in FY2018/19- on average by 4% every year.
The number of leisure visitors to Uganda was growing nearly twice as fast- by 41.4% from 220,219 visitors to 311,335 in the same period at a compounded annual growth rate of 7.1%.
Tourism is Uganda’s leading foreign exchange earner.