By David Mugabe
Private sector on Thursday pushed for an end to the overdue challenge of low funding to tourism marketing saying it has held back a very powerful industry.
In a lively breakfast discussion at Hotel Africana, funding the marketing budget and marching what other countries in the region are spending to market their country was the central point in a packed room of private sector, donors and government leaders.
“We are not selling it right, tourism is a back banner somewhere, I can promise you if you gave this $5m to the right people, we could triple it just by just (marketing) in North America and a few states in Europe only,” intoned Kelly MacTavish, proprietor of Pearl Of Africa, a private tour firm.
In East Africa, Uganda has the lowest marketing budget currently at just about $300,000 a year. This is what some countries use to pay for a single stand in top global exhibitions like London’s World Travel Market.
The failure to raise the marketing budget in tandem with even smaller economies with less tourism offerings like Rwanda and Burundi has been one of the most puzzling concerns from the private sector. Rwanda spends $5m in marketing while Burundi spends $1.5m. Kenya spends in excess of $34m while Tanzania spends $12m annually in marketing.
Both private sector and government also called for an end to the acrimony on who does what among the different players. Amos Wekesa from Great Lakes Safaris said the priority should be on marketing.
The chairman of Uganda Tourism Board James Tumusiime called for unity saying there has been too much clutter, conflict and people fighting for prominence which needs to end immediately.
Stephen Asiimwe, the new chief executive officer of UTB said they are ready to push to change things around and help turn one of Africa’s most gifted country by natural diversity realize its true potential.