The recent Kampala City twin bombings and the ever-changing global travel restrictions because of the COVID-19 pandemic affecting the hotel bookings in Entebbe municipality this festive season. Entebbe municipality is home to close to 800 hotels, guesthouses, and lodges. Most of the facilities have 40 to 70 rooms and conference facilities due to their rich historical, socio-political and cultural heritage and attractions.
The attractions include Entebbe International Airport, natural sand beaches, botanical gardens, zoo, equator, reptile village, Mapeera, and Brother Almans’ monument in Kigungu among others. However, Raul Patidar, the chairman of Entebbe hoteliers, says that the bookings that had reached 90 percent in the same period in 2019 currently stand at between 40 and60 percent at most hotels.
Patidar, who is also the managing director of Saffron Beach Bistro and Cottages along Bambi Road in Manyago village, says that the big hotels with over 70 rooms such as Lake Victoria, Protea Hotel by Marriott, Imperial Botanical Beach Hotel, Imperial Golf View Hotel, and Imperial Resort Beach Hotel are busy because families and groups love staying in Entebbe during Christmas and the new year.
“So most of the hotels are busy from December 23rd to 27th with occupancy rates above 40 percent,”Patidar said.
He says that medium and small-sized hotels and guesthouses like his are fully booked until the new year. Saffron Beach Bistro and Cottages has seven rooms and they are all booked until December 28.
Our reporter visited some of the hotels such as Protea, Anderita, Imperial Resort Beach and found that most of them were fully booked for the Christmas weekend for accommodation, parties, and wedding receptions. At Protea, a salesperson said the hotel is fully booked from December 25 to 30.
” We have 78 rooms and they are fully booked or occupied at the moment. But we have ten rooms available on December 31, 2021, and January 1st, 2022,”the salesman said.
To increase its bookings, the salesman, said that the hotel is charging US$ 145 (approx. UGX 513,000) and US$ 210 (approx UGX 707,000 for single and double rooms respectively for those who will spend more than one night and US$ 160 (approx. 566,000 and US$ 300 (approx. 1,061, 696) for one night for the same rooms.
A salesman at Anderita Beach Hotel said that 30 percent of their 12 rooms are booked this season. It also cut the prices for rooms from between Shillings 180,000 and Shillings 220,000 to Shillings 120,000 and Shillings 150,000 respectively because of the low volume of business. Patidar says the average price for rooms in Entebbe is now US$ 100 (approx. 356,000) down from US$ 200 (approx. 707,000) before the COVID-19 outbreak.
He attributed the low bookings to the recent bombings in Kampala, bomb threats in some parts of the country, and the ever-changing travel restrictions aimed at containing the spread of COVID-19 and its variants. The Omicron variant has cast a shadow over the holidays as countries consider new measures namely lockdown and quarantine.
Patidar and other hoteliers are praying for a full re-opening of the economy and an end to the COVID-19 pandemic to allow the hospitality and tourism industry to fully recover. Full recovery will imply that foreign and domestic guests can book and stay in hotels for holidays, meetings, and parties.
He says that currently, their potential clients have stayed away from beach hotels and restaurants in Entebbe due to curfew. They even don’t come to Entebbe because most of the beaches are underwater,” Patidar explains. The beaches were submerged early last year following the increase of the water levels in Lake Victoria.