Unlocking Uganda’s Tourism Potential
Madam Speaker, Uganda as we should be aware, offers a highly compelling combination of wildlife safaris and primate tracking, combined with the continent’s highest mountain range, the source of the Nile, and African Great Lakes. Tourism adds US$ 2.5 billion to our GDP and approximately USD 1.5 billion in foreign exchange earnings annually. This translates to 9% of national output and 26% of export earnings. In the recent past, Uganda has hosted several tourism promoting events including the visit of His Holiness Pope Francis last November, and the Barcelona Football Club legends to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Murchison Falls National Parks. These events, among others, have for sure boosted Uganda’s international image.
Madam Speaker, despite these developments, the Tourism sector still faces serious challenges. Uganda ranks low in terms of leisure and holiday visitors, as a result of weak targeted destination marketing. At a regional level, security threats and disease outbreaks such as Marburg, lead to negative media and adverse travel advisories. Other challenges include poor air transport and inadequate hospitality industry skills. Consequently, tourist visitors to key tourism locations has declined. For instance, despite the increase in visitations to National Parks from about 203,000 visitors in 2014 to 216,000 visitors in 2015, there has been a 13% decline in the number of foreign non-residents over the same period.
Madam Speaker, Government will continue to implement the 2015-19 Tourism Development Plan. The Plan aims to diversify tourism products, aggressive promotion, nature conservation, skills development, infrastructure development and the regulation of the sector. Key interventions next year include the following:
i. Participating in international tourism fairs and expos, and implementing the single East Africa Tourist visa;
ii. Upgrading heritage sites such as the Namugongo Martyrs Shrine; promoting cultural theme events, and developing regional tourists circuits in Buganda, Bunyoro, Toro, Ankole and Kigezi, Busoga, West Nile, Acholi, Rwenzori, Ssese Islands, Teso and Karamoja.
iii. Skilling tour operators, hoteliers and tourism industry workers to deliver world class hospitality services;
iv. Grading of an additional 200 hotels and restaurants, and increasing inspection of tourism enterprises in Wakiso, Kabarole, Jinja, Mbale, Kabale, Mbarara, Masindi, Jinja, Gulu and Lira; and
v. Developing strategic tourism infrastructure with emphasis on tourism roads to improve visitor experience, and attract private investment in tourism.
I have allocated Shs. 188.8 billion to the sector next financial year up from Shs. 158.5 billion in Financial Year 2015/16.