CLOSING THE MAIN ROAD TO UGANDA’S INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT SEEN AS MAJOR ECONOMIC CHALLENGE
(Posted 31st May 2016)
‘Visa fees at one hundred US Dollars, the most expensive in the whole of East Africa and those who still come to visit they then get stuck for endless hours before they can reach their hotels in Kampala? Meanwhile others missed flights home, that cannot continue if tourism is to prosper‘ ranted a regular Kampala based tourism source when sharing his anger over the renewed closure of the main road to Entebbe.
The visiting South Korean President Park has meanwhile flown to Kenya for a State Visit, where notably no roads were closed for her arrival in Nairobi. ‘Of course traffic in Nairobi is always a big challenge but even with this State Visit it was not much worse than usual. The motorcades zap by, the road just temporarily cleared by police to let them pass and that is that. I pity you guys for all the troubles you had with these road closures of late. Whoever invented those should consider that my company for instance, instead of sending people to track gorillas in Uganda, I send them to Rwanda. I cannot risk people to get stuck in traffic or miss their flights, so the decision is really a simple one. I opt for the least risk and I know many other Kenyan safari operators think along the same lines. The silence from your tourism associations and tourist board is also telling its own story because if they do not stand up and tell what bad publicity that gives you, who else will‘ added a regular Nairobi based tourism stakeholder when asked to comment.
More road closures are now in effect for the State Visit of the Turkish President Erdogan, causing yet more havoc with traffic to and from Uganda’s only international airport.
According to media reports from the Monitor, a leading daily newspaper in Uganda, has the business community taken a serious hit as a result of road closures. Business sources quoted there decried the lack of alternative tarmac roads, while on social media pictures airline passengers were seen pulling their own luggage along closed roads or riding on the back of so called ‘Boda Boda’s‘, a description of moped or motorbike transport, in a desperate effort to reach the airport and avoid missing their flights.
Airline staff at Entebbe International Airport, without giving specific figures, confirmed that they had many no-shows with passengers turning up after the flights had been closed for check in or left.
Added another Ugandan tourism stakeholder, again on condition of not being named: ‘Only last week did Uganda spend a lot of money to pay for PR consultants who are supposed to help us promote Uganda. Now with such problems like just reaching the airport in time, or get to a hotel after a long flight, they will first have to fight this negative impression the international media is painting. Why do we have to create our own problems, problems we do not need. We have enough challenges with low occupancies as a result of the VAT on lodges and safari camps. The election cycle cost us a lot of visitors already and now this. If at least the big business associations could seek audience with the President and explain what big damage this does to their members businesses, but they all just keep quiet. And believe you me, our neighbours are using such issues to siphon our business to themselves, claiming they do not have such problems and their roads are always open‘.
Admittedly, when President Obama visited Kenya in July last year, were sections of Nairobi out of bounds for regular traffic but detours were clearly advertised in the local media. In fact did some Kenyan officials blame the road closures then on demands by the Secret Service and making it clear that this was a one off case due to the special circumstances.
To access the full article by the Monitor click on the following link: http://www.monitor.co.ug/News/National/Road-closures-leave-city-in-tears/-/688334/3225686/-/item/0/-/jpuevw/-/index.html