Following the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) issued notice to stakeholders on minor changes in the rescheduling of tourism activities in UWA-managed and protected areas.
UWA Executive Director Sam Mwandha issued a press statement on March 10, 2020, which was then presented by the Chairman of the Uganda Tourism Board, Hon. Daudi Migereko, to industry stakeholders at Kampala Sheraton on March 11, 2020. The Uganda Wildlife Authority Director was unable to attend the briefing due to an engagement at the Presidential Investors Round Table (PIRT).
This rescheduling is causing concerns by tour operators and their overseas agents, many of whom have made bookings and are faced with the prospect of cancelations, refunds, and insurance claims.
The UWA statement reads: In a bid to strengthen Uganda’s level of preparedness in the fight and containment of the new coronavirus (COVID19), the Ministry of Health has advised that travelers from high-risk countries will have to undergo a 14-day self-isolation and avoid contact with others to prevent the spread of the virus.
The Uganda Tourism Board has further recommended that travelers to Uganda from other countries maintain their bookings but delay their travel until a later date when the disease is globally contained.
The Uganda Wildlife Authority is cognizant of the fact that due to the above measures, some tourists may find it necessary to change their travel plans. The Authority has, therefore, reviewed its reservations, booking, and cancellation guidelines as follows:
- Any request for cancellation will follow the existing cancellation policy/procedure.
- All late reschedules will not be charged for clients whose travels are affected by the coronavirus as long as the request is made before the tracking date. However, no more than 2 reschedules will be allowed for any one activity.
- All permits should be fully paid for at least one week to the tracking date.
- All discounted permits can be similarly rescheduled without any fines.
The above provisions will be in effect until March 31, 2021, unless otherwise changed after a review process. The provisions will be reviewed from time to time especially based on the progress of handling the coronavirus outbreak. [end of statement]
Pressed to put a hold on the proposed increment of gorilla permits from US$600 to US$700 with effect from July 1 in order to accommodate rescheduled permits due to the pandemic, the Chairman promised to request further engagement with UWA and UTB at a later date.
In contrast, similar measures have been issued by Rwanda and the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo).
The Rwanda Development Board (RDB) waived 30 days’ notice required of travelers, and allowed tourists to postpone bookings including gorilla permits, due to cancellation of flights, at no extra cost for up to 2 years, subject to availability.
The release from DRC’s Parc National des Virunga reads: “If people do not wish to travel at this time, we will honor a postponement for a period of one year. If people wish to cancel their trip, we will honor our normal cancellation policy. At this time, our tourism operation is continuing as normal, and we have in place the proper protective measures as suggested by the WHO (World Health Organization).