By Moses Mulondo
Members of Parliament on the Trade, Tourism and Industry committee have appealed to government to increase the budget for tourism promotion to match the competition in the regional and international markets.
Appearing before the committee, the Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) Chief Executive Officer Stephen Asiimwe and the head of marketing Edwin Muzahura told the MPs that Uganda is lagging behind in the region as far as investing in the tourism sector is concerned.
“Whereas in this financial year Kenya has allocated 35m dollars and Rwanda 17m dollars on promoting tourism in their countries, Uganda has allocated only 700,000 dollars,” Muzahura said.
Asiimwe said since Uganda had signed a tripartite agreement with Kenya and Rwanda to jointly market their countries as tourism destinations, Uganda needed to raise its budget to the tripartite level.
Justifying the need for more money, the UTB officials gave the example of Malawi whose tourists increased four times when the budget for tourism promotion was increased to 10m dollars.
Asiimwe however commended government for increasing the budget for the Uganda Tourism Board whose leadership he assumed this year in February.
“Government has increased UTB budget from 350,000 dollars to 2m dollars. This is an increment of almost 5 times. This is very commendable,” he explained.
Lyantonde woman MP Grace Namara, who is also the vice chairperson for the committee, said, “Increasing money for tourism promotion is a commitment which government has to do. You cannot milk a cow which you don’t feed.”
Namara said with dismal funding, it would be very hard for Uganda to be competitive in the global market.
Makindye East MP John Ssimbwa said, “It is unfortunate that government is giving lip service and has left the tourism to the mercy of the private sector. Since tourism contributes so much to our GDP, government should inject more money in marketing tourism so we can get more revenue.”
The Buliisa woman MP Beatrice Mpairwe said, “Tourism is a business. The more government will invest in it, the more revenue it will get. More money injected in the sector will help us compete with other countries.”
Referring to studies which have ranked Uganda the top most tourism destination, Bufumbira North MP John Kamara Nzeyimana passionately said Uganda has so much tourism potential which if well utilized can enable government to fund the national budget without depending on donations from outside.
Bulamogi County MP Kenneth Lubogo and the committee chairperson Flavia Kabahenda (Kyegegwa MP) commended government for increasing UTB budget five times.
“It is good that government has started increasing the budget. If each financial year the same amount or more is allocated to tourism, we shall be moving in the right direction. UTB should also promote domestic tourism,” Kabahenda elaborated.
The Kyegegwa woman MP expressed concern that the quality of Uganda’s tour guides and managers still leaves a lot to be compared if the quality of their services is compared with others in the region.
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