Minister Kamuntu Unveils Strategic Plan to Grow Tourism Industry

Players in the tourism industry have Thursday launched their five year strategic plans aimed at positioning the sector to earn more foreign revenue and draw more visitors into the country as well as diversify the tourism products.

The Minister of Tourism, physician Wildlife and Antiquities Prof. Ephraim Kamuntu presided over at the event at which the four bodies that bring together; tour operators, pharm hotel owners, community tourism, travel agents and safari guides all unveiled their four year agenda. The plans developed with the support of United Nations Development Program (UNDP) through Uganda Tourism Board.

The individual bodies intend to improve their capacity to enhance professionalism and better service delivery which is critical in the sector. While the number of tourist arrivals in Uganda has grown gradually, the sector still grapples with; ‘unfair’ tax regimes, inadequate human resource capacity, less innovative marketing and limited products among others.

Speaking on Thursday at Golf Course Hotel, Minister Kamuntu welcomed the development which he said will add value to the industry. Among the new products set to be introduced, he mentioned introduction of cable cars in the Mount Rwenzori ranges, developing the Uganda Martyrs sites and improving the Uganda museum.

“Product diversification and development is critical in an industry which has for long been nature based. Increasing the range of our tourism products will pull our visitors to stay longer and spend more,” Kamuntu said.

He said the sector, which is currently the biggest source for foreign revenue will be a significant link in the country’s economic development.

“I attended the ITB travel fair in Berlin and while I visited our Uganda stalls, I noticed that everyone was only selling gorillas. But we have much more to offer including the martyrs day event that draws in multitudes of pilgrims,” he added.

The sector is planning to increase the number of annual tourist arrivals from the 1.3 million in 2015 to 4 million in 2020. “It’s a tall order that puts everyone of us on task,” Kamuntu told tour operators.

Bonifence Byamukama the President of Uganda Tourism Association (UTA) asked government to address the taxation issue which he said is limiting occupancy rates (now at 17%) for accommodation facilities in upcoutry locations. He also reiterated the need to revive the defunct national carrier (Uganda Airlines) which will facilitate the growth of the sector.

Another key action the hoteliers and tour operators intend to undertake is collecting data regarding the critical aspects of the sector in order to inform decisions.

For many years, Uganda’s tourism has not had reliable and accurate statistics that depict the realities in the sector. Some of the operators believe the statistics often quoted by government exaggerate the growth in Uganda’s tourism.

Minister said the plea by hoteliers to have their taxes waivered would be considered by Cabinet. He however challenged them to adopt international standards especially in customer service saying hospitality is the heart of tourism.


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