President Yoweri Museveni has said the revival of the national carrier, Uganda Airlines, will further facilitate tourism by opening direct flight routes to Uganda for tourists.
Tourists from around the world will nolonger have to suffer the inconvenience of making stopovers in cities like Dubai, Addis Ababa Nairobi and Kigali on their way to Uganda once the airline has began making longer routes, the President said.
He was Tuesday speaking at Entebbe international airport where he presided over the official arrival of the first two aircrafts that will carry the Uganda national flag.
The two jetliners, both Bombardier CRJ900s, touched down at Entebbe airport on Tuesday morning bringing to an end close to two decades of waiting for the revival of Uganda Airlines whose operations stopped in 2001.
“Tourist numbers have been increasing in spite of the inconveniences they go through with stop overs in Dubai, Addis Ababa, Nairobi and Kigali. That means they (tourists) still love Uganda in spite of this inconvenience,” President Museveni said.
He said that once Uganda has acquired the two Airbus A330-800 Neos which are scheduled to launch long haul flights in December 2020 and January 2021, there will be direct flights from cities like London, Guangzhou and Amsterdam. This, Museveni, says will make it more convenient for international travelers.
Uganda received a total of 1.7 million tourists in the year 2018, up from 1.4 million registered in 2014. The country is popular for its variety of attractions including physical features and wildlife. Uganda is home to more than half of the world’s mountain gorillas. It also has the source of the world’s longest river (River Nile) among other scenic natural attractions like Murchison falls and Mount Rwenzori.
The President however used the same occasion to condemn the encroachment on forests and wetlands by Ugandans which he said is harmful to the nature that Uganda is gifted with.
In making a case for the viability of the national airline, Museveni said that the vast Ugandan diaspora and the business community are low hanging fruits that can provide the much needed traffic.
Ugandans spend USD 400m annually in travel, President Museveni revealed.
“This is a lot of money. We are going to reduce foreign exchange expenditure. Ugandans will be spending on our local airline,” Museveni said.
Uganda will be expecting another delivery of the remaining two Bombardier CRJ900s in July and September this year, according to the Uganda Airlines chief executive, Ephraim Bagenda. These will be flying across the regional routes on the continent.
Speaking at Tuesday’s event, the Vice President for Commercial Aircrafts at Bombardier, Jean Paul Boutibou said “first deliveries are always a cause for celebration especially when it comes to welcoming a new operator”.
“We are deeply appreciative that the Uganda Airlines chose our aircraft for the revival of it’s national flag carrier,” Boutibou said.
Like Museveni, the Bombardier Vice President for Commercial Aircrafts spoke fondly of Uganda’s tourism describing it as a fabulous country and Africa’s “best kept secret”. He said the airline if well utilized can be used to promote the country’s tourism.
“Thanks to the rebirth of Uganda Airlines. Your team will be promoting and advertising Uganda as a destination of choice for tourism. I have been walking with gorillas in Bwindi, the chimpanzees in Kibaale, I climbed Margherita in Mt Rwenzori. This country is magic,” Boutibou said.
Uganda’s Minister for Works and Transport, Monica Ntege Azuba told reporters that the air traffic through Entebbe has been growing steadily from about 1 million passengers in 2014 to about 1.8 million currently.
Uganda Airlines will be facing competition from regional airlines like RwandAir and Kenya Airways (KQ) which too are looking to open direct air routes from major tourism source markets.