UGANDA (eTN) – The Uganda Permanent Secretary (PS) in the Ministry of Tourism, Ambassador Onen, has spoken out on the sectoral development, which in the recent past was marred by discontent and squabbles between the public and private sector. While admitting that lack of sufficient funding was to blame for much of the woes of the Uganda Tourist Board, he nevertheless focused on the future and promised to have a new edition of the country’s tourism master plan launched later this year.
The master plan is to address key and long overdue issues like marketing, human resource development, and product development and refinement. Regarding human resources, there is still no law that covers for the country’s sole public sector hotel and tourism training institute since being suddenly removed from the education ministry in 2008. While speaking to the media, the PS admitted that while tourism earned an estimated US$660 million last year, services should be improved, which depended on training of staff working in the industry.
A recent global tourism report had stated that Uganda’s ranking had slipped further, with Rwanda being on top of the leader board in the region. This was attributed to government’s failure to go beyond lip service to the tourism industry and make it a priority sector of the economy by allocating sufficient funds and protecting them in ways similar to other key ministries when cuts are affected. While the tourism sector for the current financial year was officially allocated some 1.2 billion Uganda shillings, the real disbursement of funds is thought to be considerably less, leaving key institutions struggling to even meet recurrent expenditure and leaving little if anything for marketing, product development, or the upgrade of the HTTI at the Crested Crane Hotel in Jinja.
In a related conversation yesterday with a former trade association head, mention was also made about the sorry state of tourism trade associations and the apparent need – in his own words – to fundamentally overhaul both the private and public sector institutional framework to lay a new foundation on which tourism in Uganda could finally thrive. He, though wishing to be unnamed, also called for the immediate operationalization of the tourism development fund levy and to ensure that the funds are remitted directly to a body independent from the finance ministry’s general fund, so that the sector can have the full amount collected available to run the industry.