Queen Elizabeth National Park is reporting a surge in the number of domestic tourists since the lifting of the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions in Uganda.
The sector was badly hit by both local and international lockdown restrictions that included a ban on inter-district movements and suspension of international flight after the outbreak of COVID-19.
Data obtained from the national park shows that the last three months have been the busiest with more than 100 local tourists visiting the tourist attractions, the highest number registered during the same months, over several years.
Queen Elizabeth National Park, the most popular savanna park in Uganda, is the best place to see lions and prides in a great diversity of habitats that include: lakes, savannah grasslands, forests and wetlands that serve as home to the biggest variety of large mammals in the country.
Stephen Nyadru, the Assistant Tourism Warden at Queen Elizabeth National Park attributes the increase to incentives that have been extended to local tourists upon the lifting of the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions. The incentives include a reduction of park service fees by 50 per cent.
Nyadru also told URN that the pandemic which also pushed the tourism business to their canvass has to channel efforts into domestic tourism.
Raymond Kato, an ecologist at Queen Elizabeth National Park says that the absence of vigorous tourism business had allowed wildlife to recolonize their original grazing zones in the park. This means the number of the species has greatly increased, a benefit to those who are touring the park.
Marion Ninsiima, a local tourist who has spent two days at Mweya says she opted to visit the park after receiving intensive social media messages about its attractions. However, she says there is still a need for the tourism sector to advance awareness on why Ugandans need to tour and discover what they don’t know.
Ian Rubahamya, another Ugandan tourist acknowledges that many Ugandans don’t know their country and the vast natural resources around them. He wants national parks to offer incentives so that locals can be attracted to visit.
Gideon Tawebya, a neighbour of the park, says the rise in tourists has equally beefed local businesses that are linked to tourism. He says businesses such as craft shops and entertainment have relatively much more money in the last three months compared to the last two years.