Re-opening of the Primates National Parks
Re-opening of the Primates National Parks: Early this year after the outbreak of the COVID 19 pandemic, Uganda went on lockdown including the tourist attractions most especially primates national parks. The Uganda Wildlife Authority suspended primate tourism, relating to research, filming and subsequently closed all the parks in month of April. The savannah national parks were however re-opened in the month of July while the primates park still remain closed until September when the primates national park were fully re-opened of tourism activities.
The Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities decided to officially launch the re-opening of tourism activities in all the national parks after it was decided to re-open the primates’ parks as well. This launch was spearheaded by the Minister Col Tom Butime who is the current Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities. In his words he said that the suspension of tourism as a result of the pandemic was very painful for the tourism sector of Uganda especially in the Uganda Wildlife Authority Revenues however very necessary to do for purposes of protecting wildlife, primates and the people from possible infection of the pandemic. It is studied that Gorilla tourism accounts over 70 percent of the Uganda Wildlife Authority revenue, some of its operations had to be scaled down to provide priority to wildlife protection.
During the lockdown, a baby gorilla was born on August 27th 2020 and in honour of the minister of Tourism, wildlife and Antiquities Col. Tom Butime, the baby gorilla was named “Butime” after the minister during the launch of the re-opening of Bwindi Impenetrable national park, the minister was also able to trek the Rushegura group/family in Buhoma sector during his visit to Bwindi Impenetrable National park as part of activities for the re launch of primate tourism in Uganda.
During the re-launch of primates’ parks, the minister further shared that the suspension of tourism activities further affected the local people especially those living close to protected areas. Sighting that people living close to protected areas have been earning 20 percent of the revenue share from park collection fees and communities living around gorilla parks (Bwindi Impenetrable national park and Mgahinga national park), earned 10 dollars levy of every gorilla permit sold. Although this has negatively affected, there is hope for the better. Hence the Uganda Wildlife Authority Board of Trustees chairman, Dr. Pantaleon Kasoma sighted that re-opening of primates’ tourism is very important because it is a main drive for tourists to come back and visit Uganda since primates are the main tourism attraction.
Uganda was awarded the “Safer Tourism Seal” on account of the destinations recognition that the hospitality industry’s main role is the protection of its guests and those working in the industry. So then during the launch, the Minister Tom Butime, repeated the government’s commitment to provide safety of visitors who will be coming to Uganda confirming that the tourism sector has put in place adequate standard operating procedures that will help to moderate the spread of COVID 19 pandemic. The ministry of Tourism has then already put in place standard operating procedures for tourism sector that will enable restart of tourism activities in safe ways, particularly in safe guarding the visitors until they return home safely.
During the launch, the Uganda Wildlife Authority has put in place measures to support recovery such as a raft of incentives for both individual visitors and tour operators. Some of the examples for a recovery support includes for every 30 gorilla permits bought, the tour operator get two permits free and for any gorilla permit bought, a visitor is entitled to a free entry to Toro-Semliki Wildlife Reserve or Mount Elgon national park. Filming fees have also been reduced to help in creation of material marketing.
In conclusion thereafter, with the re-opening of Entebbe International Airport scheduled to happen on October 1st with the first flights landing on the land, the next course of action is to market Uganda post COVID-19 so that the country can attract people from different walks of life to come and visit the country.