STATE HOUSE, ENTEBBE: President Yoweri Museveni pledged more support to the tourism sector in the country and noted that jumpstarting the sector needs three factors including; Security, where there is no war and crime, this will attract tourists.
Infrastructure like roads and more airports close to the tourism destinations or sites. This, he asked that the tourism strategic plan be aligned to the NDP III to tackle the issue of upgrade and construction of the Kasese/Kisoro/Kidepo and Kihihi airports/airfields.
And thirdly, promoting the conservation of wildlife and the environment and control of poaching.
“Tourism returns are faster than those of coffee. For instance, coffee fetched close to US$500m in 2019/20 while tourism fetched US$1.6bn. The budget cuts are temporary. The tourism sector will be supported to grow,” he said.
President Museveni recently met with the Chief Executive Officer of the Uganda Tourism Board Ms. Lily Ajarova who had prior briefed him on the state of the sector during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The meeting was also attended by Uganda Tourism Board members represented by Ms Suzan Muhwezi (Representing Hoteliers) and Mr. Elly Kiriya (Representing Tour Operators).
According to UTB, tourism sites in the country registered 77% decline in tourism volumes. For Uganda’s National parks, this has been a very big blow as it compromised the collection of revenue that is much needed for sustainable management and maintenance of Uganda’s treasure of Wildlife Protected Areas.
The President said that what must be addressed is twofold – the scenario when covid-19 in under control and the second scenario is with covid-19 pandemic.
On fears by hotel owners and other service providers in the sector about business foreclosures over taxes and other fees, the President promised to communicate on possibility of having the taxes suspended in the period when business is low. He also asked that better and speedy measures are adopted at the airport to facilitate the tourists while picking their covid-19 samples.
On acquiring land around tourists’ sites for development, the President supported the idea and said government must acquire the identified sites for proposed development.
While presenting the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities performance brief on the Tourism on behalf of the ministry Ms Suzan Muhwezi, acknowledged the President’s efforts towards the fight against the COVID19 pandemic that led Uganda to be recognized by the medical journal as one of the top 10 countries to suppress Covid-19.
She commended him for keeping the tourism sector open this time round, as there’s a possibility to recover some of the lost revenue.
The performance report focused on key achievements of the sector in the 4 years 2016 -2019. It however noted the need for more budget allocation.
The Tourism sector budget has cut from Ushs 197.45 billion that was approved in FY 2020/21 to Ushs 178.922 billion that is approved for the next FY 2021/22. This they said would affect a number of activities that were lined up especially with local tourism and promoting Brand Uganda.
Key challenges, highlighted were – Land acquisition, unfair taxes that are paid by the sector; close to 20 different taxes, especially now with low traffic.
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