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Uganda to open new airfields to allow international flights to land direct in its National Parks

Lilly Ajarova, the CEO of the Uganda Tourism Board, engaging with various attendees and stakeholders. at the final day of POATE 2023.

Country’s President announces four airfields to be upgraded so jets can land direct in Kasese, Kidepo, Pakuba and Kisoro to quickly view the wildlife. Move will cut out need to go through immigration facilities in Entebbe and permit flights to come direct from locations such as Kenya, Dubai or Europe.

KAMPALA – A major expansion to Uganda’s tourism was announced at the country’s Peal of Africa Tourism Expo when the government told delegates four airfields in some of its most iconic National Parks will shortly be able to handle international visitors.

The announcement by the country’s Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities Tom Butiime means that, rather than having to go through immigration and customs in Entebbe airport, visitors will be able to go land surrounded by a landscape rich in elephants, antelope and other wildlife.

The minister told attendees at the tourism expo staged in the country’s Kampala that four airstrips will be tarmacked and coded and immigration posts established in Kasese, Kidepo, Pakuba and Kisoro National Parks.

Hailing the news as a “game changer”, Mr Butiime said the improvement had been ordered by the country’s President, Yoweri Museveni, and the directive given to the country’s cabinet. He said this would enable tourists from Dubai or Frankfurt to fly directly to these destinations on their private jets.

Previously the only airstrips at the locations were ‘bush’ airstrips, thereby requiring visitors to enter Uganda via Entebbe near the country’s capital Kampala and then find alternative transportation such as a caravan aircraft or to travel by road to visit the locations.

The announcement was made during Uganda’s four-day Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo staged by the Uganda Tourism Board, which started Tuesday and ended Friday at the capital’s Commonwealth Resort Hotel. Around 150 exhibitors and 5000 trade buyers were present at the event, which is now in its seventh year and includes tour operators, travel agents, hoteliers and other tourism experts.

Visitor numbers to Uganda have bounced back strongly in 2023 after the Covid pandemic with numbers expected to be back at pre-pandemic numbers next year. There are presently around 1.5 million visitors a year, contributing 7.7 per cent to the country’s GDP.

Lilly Ajarova, the CEO of the Uganda Tourism Board, said: “This year’s expo not only points to our recovery but also highlights to our readiness to host the tourism community once again.

“The expo has grown to become a signature event for Uganda’s tourism. That way, Uganda will receive more travelers and its associated benefits included increased tourism revenue and employment.”

She said Uganda was targeting responsible and sustainable tourism as a new trend. Sustainable tourism has been defined by the World Tourism Organisation as tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities, Ms Ajarova said.

“We will promote the use of recyclable materials, reduction of waste but also promote the conservation of the environment while respecting the host communities.”

Uganda is home to 10 national parks, including the famous Bwindi Impenetrable National Park which is home to the endangered mountain gorillas. Uganda is also home to the source of the Nile, the world’s longest river, and has a rich cultural heritage that is characterized by diverse ethnic groups, languages, and traditions.

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