KAMPALA – Uganda Tour and Safari Guides under their umbrella associations have today received cash donations to the tune of shs 17.2million to help them during this time when the tourism sector has been hard hit by a number of restrictions placed on travel by governments world over as they try to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The cash donations were officially handed over to the different association representatives on Thursday, May 28, 2020 by Lydia Nandudu, the coordinator of the Tourism Private Sector Task Force. Nandudu was accompanied by the Executive Secretary of the Greater Virunga Transboundary Collaboration (IGCP), Dr. Andrew Seguya, Denis Ntegge of Raft Uganda and Isa Kato from Pristine Tours.
Speaking during the handover at Uganda Museum, Ms. Nandudu said the cash donations are a contribution from a number of tourism friends and players who appreciate the role of tour guides both in the good and tough times.
“Tourism has been the most hit sector during the COVID-19 pandemic- forcing many lodges and Tour companies to close business,” Nandudu said.
“When lodges and Tour Companies lost business, the most affected were tour guides –the backbone of tourism business,” she added.
Nandudu who also runs Nkuringo Safaris & Lodges revealed that when government came up with a number of restrictions that included lockdown, many guides not only lost sources of income but a livelihood. This led some concerned guides to approach her and afew other sector players who then mobilized resources to help the ‘foot soldiers’ at this point of need.
Among those who benefited are the Uganda Safari Guides Association who received shs 3,200,000; the Freelance and Jinja Rafting Guides shs 4,500,000 and the Tour Guides Forum Uganda (TGFU) who got shs 9,500,000.
Africa Tembelea has also learnt that TGFU, a nonprofit making association that advocates for tour guides welfare and working conditions has in the past weeks written letters to Uganda’s Tourism minister Rtd. Col. Tom Butiime highlighting the plight of the safari guides amidst the lockdown but are yet to hear from him.
Most tour guides are freelance whose livelihoods depend not only on regular work but also on tips from appreciative tourists. They are unlikely to have any benefits enjoyed by many salaried workers.
“I have no work. I’m worried about rent bills and food for my family,” one guide told Africa Tembelea.
The companies that employ these guides are deeply concerned, too.
“We have had no new bookings other than cancellations,” says Isa Kato, CEO of Pristine Tours.
“The most difficult thing is not knowing how long this is going to last,” says Denis Ntegge, CEO of Raft Uganda.
On his part, Dr. Andrew Seguya thanked the task force for coordinating the efforts but also more importantly he said those who contributed needed to be appreciated.
According to The World Travel & Tourism Council, some 50 million jobs in travel and tourism may be at risk due to the pandemic. With Tour companies and touristic attractions closed and governmental restrictions placed on travel not just in Uganda but across the globe, tour guides – original ambassadors of Uganda end up as the major casualty of this sharp and sudden industry downturn.