By Andrew Masinde, New Visions | June 19, 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on tourism industry due to the travel restrictions as well as a slump in demand among travelers.
The United Nations World Tourism Organization estimated that global international tourist arrivals might decrease by 20-30% in 2020, leading to a potential loss of US$30-50 billion.
At the East African Community (EAC) level, a recent study by the East African Business Council (EABC) says EAC Partner States will potentially lose about 6.2 million tourists and receipts of upwards of $5.4b for the year 2020; due to COVID-19 and the associated inevitable restrictions.
In Uganda, tourism has been the leading foreign exchange earner, accounting for $1.6b. The sector has been contributing approximately 8% of the GDP and supported 667,600 jobs directly and 1.6 million jobs indirectly.
Therefore, the sector’s growth has had a tremendous impact on our economy. However, with COVID-19, it has trickled-down effects that have already started to be felt in the tourism sector.
To help support the tourism industry, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Uganda has donated sh20m to Rhino Fund Uganda with the aim of supporting the Rhino sanctuary during this COVID-19 crisis.
Rhino Fund Uganda was formed as a non-governmental organization (NGO) in 1997 with the aim of repopulating Uganda with wild rhinos in the future. Both rhinoceros breeds, black and white, are globally endangered.
Angie Genade, the Executive Director for RFU said most of the funds that run the sanctuary come from tourists. Hence the closure of the tourism market means no salaries to pay rangers who are supposed to ensure day to day safety of these animals.
“The donation will help to bridge our funding gap caused by circumstances beyond our control, so that rhino conservation can be maintained for the benefit of the local communities and the people of Uganda,” he said.
David Duli, Country Director for WWF stated that COVID-19 is having an impact on wildlife. He explained that great apes, of which seven species are already threatened by extinction, are potentially vulnerable to this new virus.
He explained that the lockdown and the loss of tourism revenue also create challenges for protecting wildlife.
“Conservationists are now calling on the Government and private businesses to invest in Expanding existing protected areas and improving their management as well as establishing new protected areas,” he said.
Particularly, for the Rhinos, Duli emphasized the need to improve security monitoring to protect rhinos from poaching and the need to improve local and international law enforcement to stop the flow of rhino horn and other illegal wildlife trade items from Africa to other regions of the world
“Rhinos have been an integral part of the natural world for tens of millions of years, and humankind is causing dramatic declines in just a few decades. We can change the outcome,” he revealed.
A report indicates that in recent decades, people have increasingly encroached on the natural world, resulting in escalating levels of contact between humans, livestock and wildlife.
As a result, the frequency and number of new zoonotic diseases, originating in animals and transmitted to people, has risen drastically over the last century.
Every year, around three to four new zoonotic diseases are emerging. These new diseases pose a grave threat to human health, causing deadly pandemics including HIV/AIDS, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), and most recently COVID-19.