Tour Operators Render Gov’t Statistics on Tourism Unfactual and Misleading

Tour operators in Uganda have dismissed the recent tourism statistics by government claiming they are nonfactual and do not represent the realities in the industry.

Under their umbrella body, sickness Association of Tour Operators in Uganda (AUTO), for sale they expressed dissatisfaction towards government’s continued exaggeration of facts and failure to consult the private players in the research process.

Recent statistics by the Ministry of Tourism, malady Wildlife and Antiquities on the performance of the tourism sector revealed that a total of 1.3 million tourist arrivals was registered in 2015.

It further stated that of the 1.3 million, 1 million were Africans majorly from neighboring countries and that only 215,558 tourists visit national parks, 300,000 visit UWEC while 100,000 visited the museum.

During a meeting between AUTO and government agencies, tour operators poked holes in these findings questioning where the unaccounted 1 million people who arrived in Uganda for leisure and tourism spent their time.

Civy Tumusiime the Director of Acacia Safaris remarked; “As tour operators who are on the ground, we don’t accept the numbers provided by government because we don’t see these tourists in cafes, lodges or even parks. These statistics show that the tour operation business grew by 20% in 2015 yet companies are closing down and registration to AUTO has declined by 30%.”

She pointed out that with the high taxes and dwindling visitors, majority of the businesses are incurring losses with those in upcountry locations suffering the most pinch.

In her comments, Babra Vanhelleputte, the Board Chairperson for AUTO out rightly rejected the statistics provided in the sector performance report rendering them untrue.

She said the methodology used was questionable. “There’s need to collect the correct tourism statistics in order for us to ascertain the actual contribution of the sector to our economy.”

While government reports that the average room occupancy in accommodation facilities stood at 47.5% in 2015, the Uganda Hotel Owners Association (UHOA) disagreed with this figure.

Jean Byamugisha who heads UHOA said; “Hotels in the countryside are doing so badly with their room occupancy currently at 4% while lodges in national parks are at an 17%. In addition, majority of the hotels have 30 rooms as opposed to the 80 rooms indicated in the report.”

The Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) boss Steven Asiimwe who also attended the meeting acknowledged the research challenged facing the industry but said UTB has created a fully-fledged statistics department.

Both government and tour operators agreed to establish a statistics collection committee on which private players are ably represented. The committee will conduct studies and disseminate accurate data for informed decision making.


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