By Nellie Nakitende
Aviation business is still slow paced in Uganda as the year comes to an end, because airline travel worldwide came to a standstill when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
This saw the most airlines, including household ones like Uganda Airlines, Emirates Airways, Qatar Air, Kenya Airways, Ethiopian Airways and others come to a halt and many employees sacked.
When various experts, including those of the International Air Transport Association foretold 2020 to be the ‘worst year’ for the aviation sector, its magnitude of the pressure that COVID-19 had put to the industry was unprecedented.
The association further predicted in June that every day of 2020 will add $230 million to industry losses. In total, that’s a loss of about $84.3 billion, erasing more than a decade of growth.
In Uganda, Entebbe International Airport used to handle more than 120 flights a day, generating revenue of about Shs20 billion a month before the closure of the airport and other entry point in March. For 7 months, traffic at the airport was only limited to emergencies and cargo flights.
During the 7 months, Uganda’s revenue fell to only a billion shillings a month, which drastically affected all sub-sectors that were benefitting from this revenue, especially the Uganda Revenue Authority, the Civil Aviation Authority and others that failed to hit their target revenue this year.
The tourism sector was equally affected since it relied on foreign tourists who came to the country in plenty.
Before the closure of airports and borders, the airport handled 1.9 million passengers and an average of 160,000 passengers a month. As of December,2020 agents and airline officials are doubtful that the numbers could even hit 50,000 by the end of the year.
Travel agents headed by Irene Nalwoga, the Managing Director (M.D) Renewills Tours and Travel Ltd and Women Tours Uganda, attributed the slow resumption of travel to fear of contracting the Coronavirus and also the ever changing travel restrictions across the world.
In one of its statements, the International Civil Aviation Organisation projected that there will be an overall reduction in both international and domestic air passengers in a range between 59% and 62% this year. There will also be a decline in International tourism receipts of about 1.1 trillion dollars compared to the 1.5 trillion dollars generated in 2019 with 100% of worldwide destinations having travel restrictions.