UGANDA (eTN) – When news broke yesterday that Rwanda’s tourism sector’s competitiveness had risen to now top their standing within the East African Community, more squabbles were reported from within the sector in the New Vision of today. Predictably, as was the case with the previous CEO of the Uganda Tourist Board (UTB), attacks were launched at the current office holder, by sectoral stakeholders ever ready to engage in mudslinging and character assassination rather than seeking lasting solutions and addressing the core reasons and root causes of the sector’s less than optimal performance.
One senior stakeholder in regular contact with this correspondent said: “…funding remains the biggest problem for UTB. The ministry is seen as not capable of fighting in cabinet for our industry, not able to make an impact on the ministry of finance when it comes to allocating the annual budget. They even failed to protect the budget they were given because whenever government discovers financial needs somewhere else, tourism is always finding fund transfers cut down. We also suspect that there are forces within the ministry not happy with the tourism policy and the new tourism act and are hindering the implementation of the levy.
“It is high time that the law is operationalized and the levy introduced to secure regular funding for UTB and other intended beneficiaries. One thing is clear though, we cannot let government collect and keep that money, because experience tells us we would not get value out of it; they’d keep much of it and not use it for the intended purpose. So collection methods, administration of the fund, etc. need to be safeguarded to avoid another UWA [Uganda Wildlife Authority] story in a few years when someone discovers there is money and they can get rich from it.
“Now about UTB’s staffing, unless there are funds to attract the brightest marketing minds this country has, and there are some very good people out there who have exceled in branding their companies, there is only so much that office can do so it is not fair to blame individuals working there for collective failures, which start with our government and our ministry.”
Many of the major developments over the past 15 years in the tourism sector were driven by funding from development partners but the only significant program presently underway is USAID’s STAR project, which is aimed at promoting sustainable tourism and biodiversity in the Albertine Graben but does not have the comprehensive brief previous European Union-funded programs had.