Uganda announces incentives to kick-start tourism amid COVID-19

Endangered mountain gorillas from the Bitukura family, play inside a forest in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in the Ruhija sector of the park, about 550 km (341 miles) west of Uganda’s capital Kampala, May 24, 2013. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

Uganda has announced incentives to kick-start tourism recovery amid the COVID-19 pandemic that heavily impacted on the sector that earns the country over 1.6 billion U.S. dollars annually in normal times.

The state conservation agency, Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), on Thursday announced price cuts to catalyze the resumption of tourism in protected areas like national parks.

The agency said for every 30 gorilla permits bought, the tour operator gets two permits for free, one for the company and the other for the Association of Uganda Tour Operators, an umbrella organization that brings tour operators together.

Mountain gorillas are Uganda’s prized tourist attraction, contributing a large share of tourism earnings.

Uganda hosts over 50 percent of the global population of mountain gorillas, according to UWA figures.

The UWA said for every gorilla permit bought, the tourist receives free entry to Mount Elgon National Park or Toro Semliki Wildlife Reserve, where there is vast flora and fauna.

The conservation agency said it will continue offering promotional permits to enable destination marketing and bring in agents and public relations firms from outside the country.

Filming fees in the national parks have also been reduced to enable creation of material for marketing.

These incentives come after the government on June 4 announced a stimulus package for sectors that have been drastically affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Tourism is one of the sectors that the ministry of finance highlighted as the most affected, especially by restrictive lockdown measures like a halt to international arrivals.

Tourism firms, according to the finance ministry, qualify for deferred payment of corporation tax or presumptive tax due between April and June 2020. The payment was deferred until September 2020. Payment of Pay-As-You Earn tax was also deferred to September 2020.