The spread of Covid-19 across the globe in the last 3 months has left the tourism industry heavily ravaged by its resulting consequences. Currently about 97% of the countries worldwide have been affected by the pandemic with cases of Covid-19 patients.
In the fear of masses falling sick and losing their lives, governments across the world responded by declaring lockdowns stopping people from moving from one place to another in order to control the spread of the virus.
The tourism industry is all about people traveling from one place to another to discover and enjoy new experiences and since people currently cannot even move freely in their home countries, international travels are now left in limbo.
International travels are on a hold and individual countries have gone on to declare travel bans to foreigners especially those coming from countries that have been severely hit by Coronavirus like the U.S, UK, China, Italy, Spain, France, among others. Unfortunately to the local tourism industry, these are the very countries where majority tourists were coming from.
Another move to control the spread of Covid-19 especially regarding to wildlife, all national parks and game reserves were temporarily closed to outside visitors to ensure that humans don’t spread the virus to animals.
The good news is that so far, no animal has been reported to have contracted Coronavirus thanks to the fast move to block human entry into the parks. This gives hope that at any point when free travel will be permitted, wildlife lovers will be able to find their favorite animal species safe waiting to see them.
The suspension if tour activities has led to dire consequences faced by majority of the beneficiaries of the tourism industry including operators of hotels and lodges, tour operators, tour guides, and those who were employed to work within the national parks. Currently majority of them are not doing anything meaning that they are not getting any income and this means living a difficult life.
Unlike in other sectors where people are hoping to resume their activities as soon as the lockdowns are lifted, those in the tourism industry cannot clearly tell when they will be able to work well again. The fear is based on assumptions that countries will be lifting their lockdowns at different intervals something that will continue to limit international travels. Secondly, it is not yet known when the government will allow foreign travelers including tourists to come into the country again even after when the pandemic has eased.
Measures to protect wildlife from Coronavirus
In addition to the restrictions put up by the government to control the spread of Covid-19 in Uganda, the Uganda Wildlife Authority also went ahead to close all wildlife protection centers to outside visitors including national parks and game reserves. Other measures include limiting the number of field staff that monitor endangered animals like mountain gorillas on the daily basis. The number of hours spent by such staff in the presence of animals is also restricted. The field staff is also tested for any symptoms of Covid-19 before they set of to meet the animals in addition to practicing other measures like washing hands, wearing gloves, face masks and social distancing.
How tourism in Uganda was faring before the Covid-19 lockdown
Prior to the outbreak of Coronavirus which eventually led to lockdowns across the world, Uganda’s tourism industry was flourishing well with popular tour activities like gorilla safaris leading the way. Gorilla trekking had become the most popular tour activity in Uganda attracting thousands of travelers from across the world to see the amazing endangered mountain gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park where these great apes are found. Other popular safaris in Uganda include game drives in several savannah parks like Queen Elizabeth National Park, Murchison Falls National Park, Kidepo Valley National Park, and Lake Mburo National Park. A variety of game species can be seen while on a game drive in these parks including lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant, giraffe, zebra, antelopes, rhinoceros, warthogs, among others. Other activities including birding where you can see over 1000 bird species, primates tracking to see chimpanzees, monkeys, baboons, among others. Boat cruises, white-water rafting in the Nile, mountaineering, nature walks, cultural tours are among the other tour activities tourists have been enjoying in Uganda. Hopefully, this fun will soon return after we have together defeated the Covid-19 pandemic.