KAMPALA (Reuters) - Uganda will lose $1.6 billion a year in earnings from tourism as visitors stay away due to the impact of the coronavirus, President Yoweri Museveni said.
Tourism is one of Uganda’s economic mainstays as the east African country attracts visitors to see a range of game including lions, giraffes, buffalos and others that roam its savannahs.
Others are drawn by the mountain gorillas in forest in the southwest of the country on the border with Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda.
“Already Ugandan will lose 1.6 billion dollars per annum from the loss of tourism,” Museveni said in a speech late on Monday referring to the impact of COVID-19 on the economy.
The president did not say what time frame he was referring to. Latest available data from the country’s statistics’ office shows Uganda earned $2 billion from tourism activities in 2017, up from $1.7 billion the previous year.
The International Monetary Fund said last month that Uganda’s tourism earnings were expected to fall 54% in the 2019/20 (July-June) fiscal year, and decline 52% in the next year.
Museveni said the economy would also lose a substantial chunk of the $1.3 billion sent home each year by Ugandans working abroad as many would be out of work due to the global economic downturn following the pandemic.
Uganda has so far recorded 458 cases of COVID-19, with no deaths reported.
Stringent measures implemented to curb the virus’s spread including bans on both public and private transport, temporarily shutting nearly all businesses and closure of borders has wiped out much of economic activity.
The IMF last month nearly halved its forecast for economic growth in Uganda for the financial year ending in June to 3.3% and projects 3.7% growth in the following fiscal year. In the year ended June 2019, the economy grew 6.5%.
(This story has been refiled to fix typo in headline)
Reporting by Elias Biryabarema; Editing by George Obulutsa and Susan Fenton