By Charles Etukuri
The introduction of the new wildlife smartcard by Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) has seen tourism revenue in parks increase by over 150%, the body’s director, Dr. Andrew Seguya, has said.
The wildlife card offers cashless access to national parks and all its services, which include online viewing and booking systems for gorillas. These services had been restricted to locally registered tour operators, and a concessions module for the hotels and lodges in the national parks.
Dr. Seguya said the cards were acquired through a United States Agency for International Development (USAID) grant.
The wildlife card has an embedded microchip used by UWA for electronic cash payments.
Seguya said the system had been piloted in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park for a period of one year before it was rolled out to the other national parks and game reserves.
Tourists enjoying a spectacular view of a herd of buffaloes at Kidepo Valley National Park
This hippopotamus having a dip in the cool waters inside Kidepo
The parks include Mgahinga, Lake Mburo, Queen Elizabeth, Kibaale and Murchison Falls.
“In the first quarter of its introduction in Bwindi, the park revenue increased by 150% (over sh2b), over and above the year-on-year collection,” Seguya said.
The card system controls and deducts the different fees for services and records information about visitors, including time of entry and exit.
It also records and reports overstays, which data is transferred to the central database and generates statistics.
The card also detects anomalies in the field and may allow hot-listing of cards held by individuals and tour operators who flout rules and regulations. In addition, it provides safety to users because they avoid travelling with a lot of cash.
Sources who preferred anonymity, however, said some tour operators were opposed to the card because under the old system, they could cheat UWA.
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