Uganda Tourism Board Pushes for Direct International Flights to Tourist Destinations

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The Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) is currently in discussions with the Immigration department to allow international tourists to fly directly to tourism sites, bypassing the need to land at Entebbe International Airport before proceeding to their final destinations.

This proposed change aims to save time and money for tourists while making it more convenient for them to reach their chosen destinations. Currently, all international arrivals must first touch down at Entebbe International Airport to go through immigration clearance before they can continue their journey to explore the country.

Ms. Lilly Ajarova, the CEO of UTB, highlighted the importance of improving air connectivity to enhance the tourism sector’s growth. She emphasized that international tourism trends have evolved, with travelers seeking to spend less time on transit and more time exploring destinations.

Ms. Ajarova also mentioned receiving complaints, particularly from regional tour operators, who have experienced delays and increased costs due to the current process.

According to her, Uganda, known for having the largest population of mountain gorillas with competitive permit rates, has not fully capitalized on this tourism opportunity due to the challenges of long distances and poor road infrastructure leading to the tourism sites.

She explained, “We are losing a lot of revenue from our Gorilla tracking. For all these years, we have been earning in Gorilla tracking, we have never reached 100 percent occupancy where we sell all our Gorilla permits.”

Ms. Ajarova emphasized the need for direct flights to destinations like Bwindi or Kisoro, rather than tourists having to go through Entebbe Airport before taking local chartered flights.

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This initiative aims to streamline the travel process for tourists, boost tourism arrivals, and increase the country’s tourism earnings.

Uganda’s international tourism numbers have been steadily recovering, with 842,429 international passengers recorded at Entebbe International Airport from January to June 2023. This figure surpassed the pre-Covid-19 levels recorded in the same period in 2019.

However, to further enhance tourism growth, UTB is urging the immigration department to extend visitor clearance to other aerodromes in Uganda, allowing tourists to directly fly to their destinations and complete clearance at those points of entry. This change would eliminate the need for additional flights from Entebbe to regional tourist destinations and reduce both costs and travel time for visitors.

Mr. Herbert Byaruhanga, the chairperson of the Uganda Tourism Association, supported this move, advocating for opening up facilities to enable tourists to land anywhere in the country and undergo clearance at their points of entry, not limited to Entebbe Airport. He also suggested extending this policy to the entire East African region to facilitate direct flights for tourists from neighboring countries.

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