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Uganda’s Tourism surpasses $1bn Milestone in Earnings

Uganda’s tourism industry is on the path to recovery, with projections indicating a return to pre-pandemic levels by the end of the year. The sector witnessed a remarkable 83.4 percent rebound, buoyed by a surge in tourist arrivals, according to the newly released Tourism Trend and Statistics Report 2024.

In 2023, Uganda’s international tourist receipts surged by an impressive 48.5 percent, amounting to $1.025 billion. This represents 83.4 percent of the pre-pandemic figure of $1.6 billion recorded in 2019. The resurgence is largely attributed to a surge in arrivals from Africa and key overseas markets, including the United Kingdom, the United States of America, and India.

Over the past three years, Uganda has been actively promoting its tourism destinations, particularly in southern and western Africa. Additionally, the national carrier, Uganda Airlines, has expanded its African network, introducing new routes to facilitate travel to and from the region.

Kenya, Rwanda, and South Sudan remain Uganda’s top African source markets, collectively accounting for 80 percent of all arrivals from Africa in 2023.

Doreen Katusiime, the Tourism Permanent Secretary, lauded the collaborative efforts of the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife, and Antiquities, along with private sector stakeholders, in driving the industry’s recovery. She noted that international arrivals have surged to an impressive 82.6 percent of pre-pandemic levels.

The report also highlights a significant uptick in domestic tourism, which grew by 25.3 percent in 2023. More Ugandans are now exploring national parks and other recreational centers within their own country.

Tourism stands as one of Uganda’s key sectors, contributing approximately 4.7 percent to the country’s GDP. Before the pandemic, it was the largest foreign exchange earner, generating around $1.6 billion annually and employing over 620,000 people directly or indirectly.

With the current growth trajectory, direct tourism revenues are expected to surpass 2019 levels by the close of 2024. However, industry stakeholders emphasize the need for increased government funding to expedite this recovery.

Last year, the government faced criticism after announcing a significant reduction in the tourism budget. Experts argue that greater funding is imperative for activities such as site upgrades, maintenance, and redevelopment, participation in international events, implementation of national tourism marketing strategies, and the development of new sites and products.

Globally, the tourism sector is witnessing a resurgence toward pre-pandemic levels, with Asia and Africa leading the recovery, as reported by the World Tourism Organization. International tourism receipts reached $1.4 trillion in 2023, equivalent to 93 percent of the earnings recorded in 2019.

As Uganda’s tourism industry continues its upward trajectory, sustained investment and strategic initiatives will be crucial in unlocking its full potential and cementing its position as a premier tourist destination in Africa.

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