Following pressure from tourism stakeholders, the Immigration Department in Kampala has apparently changed tack and extended the period of issuing visa on arrival at Uganda’s international airport in Entebbe and the various land border points.
An earlier letter sent out by the Uganda Tourism Board (UTB), that the granting of visa on arrival will only apply for the month of July 2016, after which all visa applications shall be online, has subsequently been overtaken by event.
Pressure on immigration, however, continues to come out with a clear statement for how long the dual process of both e-applications and granting visa on arrival will continue and their statement that they will at “an appropriate time” inform stakeholders has been met with some incredulity given the controversy their silence has caused in past weeks and the urgency to create certainty among both potential visitors as well as the tourism industry here in Uganda.
It was also noted that their latest statement has removed the word “lies” used in an earlier publication, which was far from the truth, given the level of information available in the public domain, primarily based on the letter for immediate release by UTB dated July 8, 2016.
Kenya, two years ago, halted the issuance of visa on arrival after a brief transition period, causing thousands of potential visitors to opt for other destinations, including Uganda at the time, when the e-application process proved flawed and responses often took weeks. Intense pressure from the Kenya Tourism Board and the Kenyan tourism private sector eventually led to President Uhuru Kenyatta conceding that the development was not in the best national interest and during a State Visit to Italy then rescinded the measure. Since then, Kenya has continued to issue visa in advance via their e-application platform but maintained a manual visa issuance regime at the airports of Nairobi and Mombasa and the land borders with Uganda and Tanzania. This has according to Kenyan sources allowed the country to continue receiving tourists deciding at the last moment to visit Kenya, a significant market segment, for that matter, given the many special deals available for “last minute” travelers.
Other countries in the East African region, like Tanzania, continue to issue visa on arrival, as do Uganda’s competitors further down south like Zambia, Zimbabwe, and others, all waiting to take advantage of this situation should Uganda insist that only e-applications will eventually be allowed, as and when the department finally makes up its mind to give a clear answer when that will be the case.