Entebbe’s growth remains in the double digits


(Posted 22nd July 2013)

Data received from the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority confirm what top managers told the recently held Routes Africa aviation conference in Kampala, namely that the airport continues to see double digit growth over past year’s passenger numbers.

Details show a 14 percent rise in numbers of passengers for the first 6 months of 2013 over the figures in 2012, which at the end of last year stood over 1.2 million passengers arriving, departing and transiting at Entebbe. This amounts to around 38 percent of all arrivals into Uganda, the balance coming across the land borders from Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, South Sudan and Congo.

Aviation observers are now speculating if the CAA, owners and managers of Uganda’s primary international airport, will speed up the relocation of the cargo facilities near the main terminal to create the space to expand arrival and departure lounges. With more airlines expressing interest to fly to Entebbe and the existing airlines adding more flights or using larger aircraft, the four departure lounges, reached through only two security gates, and the space in the passenger check in area are getting tighter all the time.

A masterplan for the expansion of Entebbe has of late been updated and CAA sources during  Routes Africa confirmed that they are planning to invest over 400 million US Dollars to modernize systems, expand the terminal building, create added parking areas and relocate all cargo operations to the ‘old airport’.

Unknown to many has Entebbe also become the United Nations’ largest aviation and logistics base in Africa, from where peacekeeping and humanitarian emergency relief missions are organized. Said a regular source close to the CAA: ‘We know the airline operators have many issues with us. We are aware of complaints about the distance passengers must cover to reach the terminal from the parking and we are working on that. A new parking area is being constructed and will be connected to the terminal with covered walk ways. We are also looking at ways and means to provide cover for the staircase up to the departure level because when it rains our passengers are exposed to the elements. The security boys are stubborn however and want to keep all vehicles away from the terminal building but we are competing with other airports in the region where they do not have such restrictions. A compromise must be found between security and passenger convenience. You are right when you keep saying in your writings what is the check at the perimeter for when they then keep the vehicles away from dropping off passengers? If they do their job right at the perimeter they can let cars get to the terminal. It works in Kigali and even more in Nairobi. Those security boys of ours are just too stubborn and have no understanding of customer care and how to make an airport user friendly. But we have not given up hope. The problems with congestion at peak times and how to get to the terminal and out of the terminal are known and we are working on those’.

Tourism stakeholders in contrast voiced their concern however if these double digit growth figures can be sustained now that the government has added 18 percent VAT on tourism services like hotel bills, which were previously exempted, leaving tour companies with stark choices as several tour groups have reportedly cancelled their holiday plans for Uganda when asked to pay up the extra cost. Safari prices, once quoted, are considered to be firm leaving operators in the country with little option but to either absorb the added tax burden or else carry out business at a loss. Efforts however are underway to lobby parliament through the committee on tourism to have these proposals made by the finance minister in the annual budget presentation overturned. The Uganda Tourism Board recorded an increase in tourists by over 20 percent last year in the wake of being named the Lonely Planet’s top destination and for 2013 has National Geographic put Uganda in their recommended top 10 destinations too.

Watch this space.

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