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Duty Free Shops At Entebbe Airport Decry Low End Of Year Sales

The duty free shop managers and attendants at Entebbe International Airport are not as merry as expected due to low sales at the end of this year.

They were expecting to make at least 500 sales a day in the last two weeks of the year. However, they say they are making less than 200 sales daily. Even Christmas and Boxing Day sales were not more than 250.

hough Uganda Civil Authority – UCAA records show an increase in the number of passengers in the last three months, duty free shop keepers at the departures section say few of these travelers are buying items in their shelves.

UCAA figures show an average of 2,000 people travel every day up from 1, 800 in January 2021. These figures are still low because before March 2020 when COVID-19 hit Uganda, an average of 5,412 passengers would travel daily through Entebbe International airport.

Due to the newly discovered Omicron variant, countries keep changing their travel restrictions. As a result, the December figures are also affected by these measures which include testing, quarantine among others.

Wadri Bosco, a salesman at Uganda Duty Free shop says travelers are shopping less to ensure they have liquid cash when air-bound. “Things keep changing every now and then so travelers are not sure if they will not be affected by new or revised restrictions such as COVID-19 tests and quarantine. So they would rather not buy the non-essential duty free items and have some money for unplanned requirements,” says Wadri.

As a result, he says less than 200 travelers have been buying items daily in the last two weeks. Yet over 1,300 passengers depart every day.

“Before COVID-19, our festive season was crazy. We would make over 400 sales daily and have at least seven staff per shift to handle customers and sometimes we would even work longer hours when there were many people,” he noted.

He however says the shop, that aims at promoting Ugandan products such as coffee, spirits and sweets, has reduced prices for some items to try and boost it’s sales until the new year.

It’s the same narrative at the Transit Duty Free shop. The shop, one of the oldest at the Airport opened in 1986. One of its salesmen says sales are still low despite an increase in the number of departing passengers.

He says most of the items in the shop are made in Europe. But it has been difficult to get supplies in time for Christmas and the New Year celebrations. This is due to low production of several items like perfumes, beverages and wines in Europe resulting from the negative impact of COVID-19.

The salesman who declined to provide his identity but allowed to be interviewed says sales are below 50 percent compared to over 80 percent in 2019 and other festive seasons before the outbreak of COVID-19.

The shop has at least 30,000 items that include books, travel bags, perfumes, beverages, soft drinks, wines, sweets and souvenirs. The salesman, just like Wadri, say prices have been reduced for most items so as to attract customers.

Shop attendants told our reporter that most passengers are buying sweets, alcoholic drinks and perfumes. One of the shoppers, who hopes to reunite with his family in Rwanda bought chocolates and a gift for his spouse.

Wadri says most of the departing passengers are migrant workers who rarely shop. Some of the migrant workers, destined for Saudi Arabia, say they cannot afford the items in duty free shops. But hope that they will in the future after earning money abroad. Though they wanted to celebrate the festive season with family, the workers said the labour companies insisted that they had to travel over the Christmas weekend.


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