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UTB advocates for direct flights to tourist destinations.

UTB advocates for direct flights to tourist destinations.

(courtesy photo)

This is aimed at streamlining travel for tourists

In an effort to enhance the visitor experience, the UTB is currently in discussions with the Immigration department to enable international tourists to fly directly to their desired tourist sites, bypassing the need to land at Entebbe International Airport and endure immigration clearance before embarking on their exploration.

The proposed change is poised to save both time and money for travelers, significantly improving convenience. Currently, all international arrivals are mandated to touch down at Entebbe International Airport, a process that involves going through immigration clearance before continuing their journey to explore Uganda’s diverse attractions.

Ms. Lilly Ajarova, the CEO of UTB, underlines the pivotal role of improved air connectivity in the growth of the tourism sector. She pointed out that international travel trends have evolved, with tourists increasingly seeking to minimize transit time and maximize their time immersing themselves in the destinations they visit.

Furthermore, Ms. Ajarova highlighted the grievances lodged by regional tour operators, who have experienced delays and increased operational costs due to the existing travel procedures. She expressed concern that despite Uganda’s distinction as home to the largest population of mountain gorillas and its competitive permit rates, the country has not fully capitalized on this tourism opportunity. This shortfall is primarily attributed to the logistical challenges posed by long distances and inadequate road infrastructure leading to the tourism sites.

Ms. Ajarova asserted, “We are losing a significant portion of our revenue from Gorilla tracking. Over the years, despite the demand for Gorilla permits, we have never reached 100 percent occupancy. This initiative is essential for fully realizing the potential of our tourism sector.”

In the first half of 2023, Uganda’s international tourism numbers showed strong signs of recovery, with 842,429 international passengers recorded at Entebbe International Airport. Notably, this figure surpassed the pre-Covid-19 levels recorded in the same period in 2019.

Nonetheless, to further stimulate tourism growth, UTB is urging the immigration department to extend visitor clearance to other aerodromes throughout Uganda. This would permit tourists to fly directly to their destinations and complete clearance at those points of entry.

Mr. Herbert Byaruhanga, the chairperson of the Uganda Tourism Association advocates for the creation of facilities that allow tourists to land anywhere in the country and undergo clearance at their points of entry, without being confined to Entebbe Airport.

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