By Moses Mulondo
The minister for trade, wildlife and antiquities, Maria Mutagamba has said poaching by armed and organized criminal syndicates that fuel contraband wildlife trade especially of ivory and rhino horn is one of the major challenges the ministry faces.
The challenges were contained in the report the minister presented to the parliament Trade, Tourism and Industry committee on Thursday.
The other challenges the ministry faces, according to Mutagamba, include encroachment of national parks by the communities, human-wildlife conflicts arising from increased human and wildlife population.
The ministry report shows that the number of tourists coming to Uganda reduced from 207,000 in the year 2011/2012 to only 182,000 in the 2012/2013 financial year.
She attributed this to the general economic downturn in the world, negative security advisories on Uganda by the source markets (UK, USA, Australia and European Union), the war in Eastern DRC and last year’s outbreak of deadly diseases like Ebola and Marburg.
But she assured parliament that more efforts have been undertaken to increase the number of tourists to Uganda in the current financial year. Some of these efforts include active promotions and creation of awareness for tourism products on website, TVs, radios, newspapers and talk-shows.
In order to encourage and increase domestic tourism, UWA has refurbished and operated 3 bungalows and 10 cottages and a canteen in Mweya.
The minister reported that despite the setbacks, Uganda received top accolades as top tourist destination in 2012 from Lonely Planet, 2013 Certificate of Excellence about Queen Elizabeth National Park from Trip Advisor and inclusion of Kidepo National Park in CNN’s 10 best National Parks in Africa.
Bufumbira East MP Eddie Kwizera appealed to government to increase on the 20% share of the tourism charges given to the local communities.