The Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities has appealed to Parliament to waive taxes in the sector due to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Doreen Katusiime, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry and other officials appeared on Tuesday before Parliament’s Committee on Tourism, Trade and Industry. The committee is currently inquiring into the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the tourism and business community.
Katusiime said that at least 30 percent of jobs in the tourism sector had recovered by March 2021 and that non-resident visits increased from 3,577 to 7,318.
Katusiime asked parliament to reconsider the different taxes, fees and licenses in the sector to enable it to recover from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. She said that the waivers will enable the sector to recover faster.
She specifically appealed for a waiver of Value Added Tax –VAT on accommodation to 30th June 2022.
The Ministry officials also told Parliament about the different losses incurred by the economy since the Covid-19 outbreak. The Minister of Tourism Tom Butime told MPs that the sector brings in US Dollars 1.6 billion in the country, 8 percent contribution to the Gross Domestic Product –GDP with over 500,000 jobs and that all this was reversed following the outbreak of coronavirus.
Katusiime noted that foreign visitors to the country dropped by 69.3 percent in 2020 to 473,085 from those recorded in 2019 totalling 1,546,629.
By June 2020, at least 70 percent of workers in the tourism sector had lost their jobs and 91 percent of the tourism enterprises had downsized their workforce due to the pandemic.
The Ministry officials also said that different agencies in the sector had also registered a reduction in revenue from the 130.075 billion collected in 2019 to 31.261 billion collected in 2020. The agencies include Uganda Wildlife Conservation Education Center (UWEC), Uganda Hotel and Training Institute, Museums and others.
The Committee Chairperson Mwine Mpaka tasked the Ministry of Tourism to furnish his committee with evidence of companies that benefited from the funds injected in the Uganda Development Bank –UBD to support the sector.
Elijah Mushemeza, the Sheema South MP also inquired about the beneficiaries of the UDB money from the tourism sector.
Rita Atukwasa, the Mbarara City Woman MP asked the Ministry to revise its relationship with the communities around tourism sites and also change the trend of charging in dollars for domestic tourists.