Upcoming grading worries hotel pretenders


KAMPALA, Uganda (eTN) – Would be “hoteliers,” often people who found the money to get into the sector but lack qualifications to run hospitality establishments (and in addition often employ unqualified labor), are getting increasingly worried about the implications of the recently passed tourism bill.

The new law is set to shift licensing, monitoring and enforcement from the Ministry of Tourism to a reconstituted Uganda Tourism Board, a new function besides the generic marketing of the country.

Under the auspices of the East African Community a catalog of criteria for grading and classification, declared by the EAC as binding for member states, was developed in past years but implementation has been lacking. Although ahead of the Commonwealth Summit in 2007 some classification and a short-lived effort to impose grading on participating hotels were started, the full exercise is only going underway once the tourism bill enters the implementation phase.

Sections of the hotel owners have long been accused to exploit the absence of enforcement in the sector to award themselves utopia star ratings, which do not at all reflect the reality on the ground. Hence, several such hotels and lodges in Kampala and across the country mislead potential customers with words like ‘luxurious’ without understanding what it takes to actually create such an environment for guests.

Uganda’s neighbors Kenya and Tanzania are more advanced in setting and controlling standards for hotels, resorts and safari lodges and Uganda will now have to catch up with them, in order to eventually offer matching descriptions and standards under the commonly accepted regional star rating. However, the present glut of hotel rooms in Kampala has already led to a general rate reduction across the board, offering customers now more value for money, besides more choices of where to stay.