By Edwin Muhumuza
The Uganda Wildlife Education Center (UWEC) is appealing to Ugandans to visit the National Zoo again following the resumption of business.
This latest development comes following the launch of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) in a bid to ensure safety of visitors, wildlife and staff at the Center in the wake of the Corona Virus Pandemic.
Among the SOPs include; washing hands, disinfecting shoes and vehicles accessing national parks at every entrance and maintaining distance of two meters between visitors queuing up at all entrances.
During their launch, Minister of Tourism, Wildlife& Antiquities Col. Tom Butime Ateenyi, said that the move is a revelation of the health plan for tourism enterprises through coherent and well coordinated guidelines supported by well coordinated medical evidence to manage the pandemic.
The tourism industry has recorded fast growth rate in Uganda and generated 1.6bn in foreign exchange earnings in 2019 and the sector contributed 9% to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and at least 1 in every 10 jobs globally was related to tourism prior to the pandemic.
The loss in tourism business occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in the loss of jobs, capital flight, failure to meet obligations and fees, coupled with deterioration of properties.
“In response we have consulted widely and developed business continuity and sustainability plan to address some challenges strategically and action areas to include, the health and safety plan, financial recovery plan and thirdly the enhanced destination marketing to signal the reopening of our tourism” Butime said.
In the case of UWEC, it was an opportunity to improve and innovate on the product offer for the past four months.
According to the Executive Director ,UWEC ,James Muhanguzi, prior to the pandemic, money had been released to put in place the required infrastructure, to revamp the facility.
In 2019, a record 370,000 people visited the zoo, majority being Ugandans but that has not been the case this year since the lock down in March this year.
The chairperson Board of Trustees, UWEC, Hon. Flavia Kabahenda, noted that the center is a hub for domestic tourism and Ugandans are so excited and looking forward to associate with the wildlife again and bring nature back to them.
The Assistant Commissioner in charge of quality assurance, Liaz Vivian appealed to all managers of tourism enterprises to establish COVID 19 task force committees led by a team leader and for larger ones to have departmental focal points to help them in ensuring that the COVID 19 task force activities are adhered to, a management plan, mobilize resources so as to buy sanitizers, social distancing masks, hall markings, infrastructure ,document people with varying temperatures, training and availability of information for both customers and staff.
In attendance were tour agencies, associations, hotel owners, freight forwarders, performing arts among other stakeholders.