he Covid-19 Business Info Hub spoke with Richard Twesige, the managing director of ATACO Country Resort, to learn how the Stanbic Business Incubator helped his business overcome the challenges caused by the pandemic.

Ernest Wasake: Describe your business and tell us a bit about yourself.

Richard Twesige: My name is Richard Twesige. I’m the managing director of ATACO Country Resort, which is a hospitality industry business that is located near the Tooro Kingdom Palace. We offer services like accommodation, and conference services.  Next year, we will have been in business for 20 years.

Ernest Wasake:  Why did you decide to participate in the training from the Stanbic business incubator?

Richard Twesige: I decided to participate with in the business incubator training because I believed the quality training that would help us at ATACO Country Resort transform itself from a purely family business to a more professional, structured hospitality business in the region. The class offerings were very precise and that’s exactly what we wanted.

Ernest Wasake: What were the main learnings from the Stanbic Bank Incubator Training that you have integrated into your business?

Richard Twesige: The entrepreneurial attitude training at the Stanbic Business Incubator helped us start planning and implementing more innovative ideas at work. We were able to look at our business with another set of eyes and implement dynamic skills that made us more fluid in comparison to our previous rigid business models.

Ernest Wasake: Are there any specific learnings from the training that the business incubator offered you that have helped you cope during COVID?

Richard Twesige: The financial literacy training helped us become dynamic with our finances in terms of how we spend, how we invest as well, and keep the business afloat.  So without those learnings, it would have been difficult for us to try and think outside the box.

Ernest Wasake: How has your business been affected and how have you coped during COVID?

Richard Twesige:  Some of the changes and decisions we had to make as a business were to cut as many costs as possible to maximize the income, that little income that we could get. For example, as a hotel, we could still deliver packed lunches. However, you still can’t have full occupancy. We have to leave a few rooms unoccupied because just in case you have a COVID patient or someone that we suspect has COVID, the guidelines require us to have some rooms vacant.

Because of these challenges, we really needed to cut as many expenses as we could. It was a good thing that we had done these trainings with the business incubator. We looked at different ways of leveraging what little we had and investing it into implementing sustainable strategies and technologies to help reduce on our utilities.

Unfortunately, we also had to let some of the staff go and keep others on a temporary basis. As we recovered and implemented more changes, we are slowly able to bring people back. However, right now, the changes are still in effect and we’re hoping to get back on track.

Ernest Wasake: What do you think the future of the tourism sector looks like in terms of what needs to be done to help the sector revive?

Richard Twesige: When all the borders were locked down, we still had our local tourists now to serve. We need to improve the road networks so that at least the local people can get to the natural places. Payments are also changing to entirely cashless. I believe the industry will revive faster because we have had digital payments for some time.

Implementation by some of the big telecom networks is really good. And also some of the workings of the financial institutions is really great. But there is another level to go because sometimes actually what is going to happen is that when industries like us start to adopt to these other situations like covid, you have to do cashless payments, there are other places that are really thinking about. As ATACO we could use a token system – such that as a guest, as you check-in and spend you, end up accumulating these kind of tokens that could be transferred into monetary value. So we’re looking into things like this now. And that is where I feel that the industry would go and the industry will revive faster because we have had digital payments in Uganda for some time.