Ugandan authorities believe that the upgraded airfields will contribute to a major tourism boom at its national parks. But they still need to make more infrastructure improvements to see the visitor surge they envision.
Travelers looking to visit several Ugandan national parks will soon have easier access to the popular tourist attractions. Uganda’s government recently announced that airfields at four national parks will be upgraded and equipped with immigration posts, making them better able to welcome international visitors.
“The move will enable rich tourists to fly directly from their countries to regional airports without having to stop at Entebbe International Airport (which serves the capital Kampala),” Tom Butime, Uganda’s minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, said at the recent Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo.
The country’s national parks had previously been home to “bush” airstrips, which forced visitors to enter Uganda at Entebbe and then find a way to reach their desired destination. The initiative has been welcomed by Ugandan tourism executives who believe the move will boost the sector. Uganda’s national parks attracted nearly 270,000 visitors during the 2021-22 fiscal year, more than double the number recorded during the previous fiscal year.
“If the visitors …. have a lot of time at the destination, then more people will develop more products that visitors can partake (in),” said Uganda-based tourism consultant Ivan Kakooza.
Daniel Irunga, the senior marketing officer at the Uganda Tourism Board, sees potential for the country’s tourism officials to take advantage of the upgraded aviation infrastructure. He said the agency aims to develop products with the Uganda Wildlife Authority, citing canopy walks and glass bridges in Murchison Falls National Park as one example.
And Kakooza believes other East African countries will benefit from the upgraded airfields at Uganda’s national parks, noting that when travel authorities market Uganda’s attractions, they also do the same for Kenya and Tanzania.
Meanwhile, Diana Persis Kisakye, the marketing manager of the Four Gorillas Lodge in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, is confident she’ll see a tourism boost from the improved aviation infrastructure. But she believes her park faces challenges to make that a reality.
“The roads … are affected in the rainy season due to mudslides,” Kisakye said. “There’s also a challenge when it comes to communication … (since) cellular networks (are) limited and greatly hindered by changes in weather.”
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Photo credit: Uganda believes it's poised for a major tourism boost after upgrading airstrips at its national parks. Source: Harriet Akinyi. Harriet Akinyi