By Aloysious Kasoma
Tourism sector, Uganda’s top foreign exchange earner has potential to economically transform but it is being held back by limited creativity, investment and connection, a top industry player has said.
Tourism contributed nearly US$7.3bn to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the financial year 2015/2016. This translates into 9 per cent of the country’s GDP.
Speaking the opening ceremony of the 3-day Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo (POATE) at Sheraton Hotel gardens on Friday, Pearl Hoareau Kakooza, the President of the Uganda Tourism Association said: “Tourism is private sector driven. In Uganda, we need to invest more; we must improve on connectivity domestically and regionally and must be creative to work on the negative perceptions.”
Kakooza pointed out that there is lack of political will and commitment to disburse and support tourism budget from domestic to regional and international markets.
Players argue that money is needed 10 times more than what it is currently allocated to the sector if Uganda is to attract more visitors.
In Financial Year 2015/2016, the sector received $1.3m (Shs4.5b) for marketing but also borrowed more $1.5m (Shs5.2b) from World Bank.
Total tourist arrivals have since grown to 1.7m in 2017 from 1.15m in 2011, with Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo accounting for 71 per cent of 1.7m visitor arrivals.
However, Prof. Ephraim Kamuntu, the Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and
Antiquities challenged tourism players to be more creative and tap into this virgin opportunity.
The minister said Uganda is very well positioned, noting that it is the onus of the players to put good use of the available resources.
“About 23% of all foreign exchange coming from the private sector, 6% has links to tourism. Uganda Tourism Board will help the sector to utilize the sector very well,” he said.
Positively, a number of players are joining the sector to tap into the unexploited gaps.
Mestil Hotel & Residencies is one of the new entrants in the market. It’s about two month old.
According to the General Manager Sven Saint-Calbre, the new place is targeting internal, regional and international corporate market.
“We are prepared; our market is unique. We offer the tourism industry the best in Uganda, East Africa and the world at large,” he said at the sidelines of the ongoing tourism expo.