Hotel owners and Managers have been encouraged to embrace standards if they are to improve the country’s competitiveness as a destination as well as attract more travelers.
This was one of the conclusions that were drawn up during a Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) and Uganda Hotel Owners Association (UHOA) training and sensitization workshop on registration, inspection and licensing of accommodation facilities held at the Imperial Royale Hotel in Kampala on May 15, 2019.
In his remarks, Bradford Ochieng, the Deputy Chief Executive Officer, UTB noted that classifying all tourist facilities in the country would enable Uganda not only enforce standards in the hospitality industry but also improve the country’s competitiveness and ability to attract visitors.
“Close to 90% of the experience of a traveler is down to an accommodation facility; be it airport shuttle service, in-land travel, conference facilities, among others. We thus view you as key partners in the tourism chain. However, we also have to remember that we are competing for the same travelers with our neighbours. Therefore, we have to critically look at our competitiveness, in terms of pricing, hygiene, standards. Potential travelers look at these and many other things before zeroing in on their preferred destination,” he said.
Adding, “That’s why as UTB, we are at the forefront of ensuring that standards are enforced in this industry. This can only be done when we know the people who are in this business and the available facilities; whether hotel, lodge, guest house, so as to plan better for the sector.”
Majority of the hotels in the central region of Uganda generally offer acceptable services to their clients while those in protected areas such as parks are perceived as good but expensive with less variety.
Suzan Muhwezi, the Chairlady of UHOA said that the process of registering, licensing and classifying accommodation facilities in the country is aimed at helping Uganda compete favorably with other hotels in the East African region and also internationally.
“As you might know, we are also positioning ourselves as the MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Exhibitions) destination of choice in East and Central Africa. We have therefore partnered with UTB to embark on a countrywide sensitization campaign so as to empower our members meet the expected standards by both the domestic and international market,” remarked Mrs. Muhwezi.
She also clarified that despite an earlier classification and grading exercise carried out by UTB, they were starting process afresh given that proprietors of the facilities had said they weren’t properly sensitized on what was needed of them at the time.
Muhwezi also revealed, “All tourism operators; hotels, guides, airlines, tour operators will now require a license from UTB to operate. A tourism license will be levied on everyone involved in the sector so as to have uniformity across. We shall thus sensitize all our members regarding this issue as well.We didn’t want UTB to start charging for this license before sensitizing members what it was about.”
Richard Kawere, CEO of the Uganda Tourism Association, while addressing the participants urged them to instead focus on upgrading rather than debating minimum standards.
“We should remember that, while we are still debating on the minimum standards, the world is not waiting for us. This is a very competitive industry and standards, are one of the benchmarks of measurement for people to come and visit us. Whereas we are in the same region, we are competing with neighbours for travelers, yet they already had these discussions and committed to the standards,” he said.
He however added that all hope was not lost noting that the minimum standards are coming on the backdrop of an industry that had been in existence without proper regulations or standards.
“Some people put up their properties without guidance. The question therefore is, how do they fit in? On the minimum standards, let us sure that going forward, any established that is being set up has these standards so that we no longer have to debate minimum standards but rather talk about upgrading.”
According to UTB, if a hotel establishment is given a star rating, it eases its marketing and guests will be given the right information about the establishment thereby reducing disappointments. As a result, the hotel industry will flourish because of delivering as expected, leading to guest satisfaction, repeat business, and customer loyalty among others.
The star grading system is used to rate the quality and standards of services of hotels and they vary from country to country. The hotels can be graded from one-star to five-stars based on a number of factors such as facilities, service level, location, and staff professionalism among others.
Registration and licensing of all tourist facilities by UTB is currently ongoing.