The event was themed “Leveraging the Tourism Industry as a Pivot for Economic Recovery through Sustainable Investment, Improved Market, and Visibility.”
The Chief Guest of Honor was Gen. Kahinda Otafire, Minister of Internal Affairs and Tourism Minister Emeritus, who presided over the event rallied for increased funding towards the tourism sector and urged Members of Parliament present to always support the tourism cause as a way of attracting more tourists to the country. “Tourism is about recommendations and standards,” he noted, adding, “As a sector, you must maintain and upgrade quality assurance standards if you are to attract serious tourists.” Hon. Kahinda Otafiire re-echoed the importance of a disciplined populace that exercises patriotism and love for the country to gain trust from tourists.
In his preamble, Tourism Minister Maj. Tom Butime stated that the report is an important instrument of accountability on how the program is delivering on its National Development Program (NDP) goal of increasing Uganda’s attractiveness as a preferred tourist destination.
“This performance report highlights both the financial and physical performance of the program during the financial year including the revenues generated by sector departments and agencies.”
“It also highlights the achievements at output and outcome levels in areas of marketing and promotion, infrastructure, product development and conservation, and regulation and skills development.
He reported that the financial year 2022/23 was a recovery year in the tour industry that was greatly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Full opening up of the economy created an opportunity for Uganda to reposition itself as a global tourism destination.
The program, he added, continued to register significant recovery and further growth in domestic tourism, tourist arrival foreign exchange earnings, contribution of tourism to GDP, employment, and tourism business as well as the population of key wildlife species, among others.
These successes are attributed to the combined efforts by various stakeholders including the ministry, its agencies, other government ministries, the private sector, civil society organizations, development partners, and the current NRM (National Resistance Movement) government that have provided a conducive environment and partnerships to develop the tourism industry to such heights.
The honorable minister pledged to enhance efforts in the implementation of interventions to promote domestic and inbound tourism; increase the stock and quality of tourism infrastructure; develop, conserve and diversify tourism products and services; and develop a pool of skilled personnel along the tourism value chain.
Uganda’s tourism sector continued on a positive trend and generated US$729 million by end of FY 2022/23 and contributed 4.7% to the country’s GDP. International tourist arrivals increased by 58.8% from 512,945 in 2021 to 814,508 in 2022 while domestic tourists increased to 1.42 million in 2022/23.
The goal of this program is to increase Uganda’s attractiveness as a preferred tourism destination through promoting domestic and inbound tourism; increasing the stock and quality of tourism infrastructure; developing, conserving, and diversifying tourism products and services; developing a pool of skilled personnel along the tourism value chain and ensuring decent working conditions; and enhancing regulation, coordination, and management of tourism.
In line with NDP III targets, the program’s key targeted results to be achieved over the 5 years (FY 20/21 to FY 24/25) are to increase annual tourism revenues from US$1.45 billion to US$1.862 billion; to maintain the contribution of tourism to total employment at 667,600 people; to increase inbound tourism revenues per visitor from US$1,052 to US$1,500; to maintain the average number of international tourist arrivals from the US, Europe, Middle East, China, and Japan at 225,300 tourists; to attract 2.1 million tourists to Uganda in 2025; to increase the proportion of leisure to total tourists from 20.1% to 30%; and to increase the number of direct flight routes to Europe and Asia from 6 to 15.
Outcome performance against NDP targets were measured with mixed results with 67% accessibility to tourist goods and services, 57% improvement in wildlife ecosystems, 100% increased employment/job creation along the tourism value chain, and 100% improved compliance to tourism service standards.
Tourism receipts, however, fell short of the 75% NDP III target attaining 25%, among other shortfalls occasioned by challenges and actions undertaken from inadequate resources, low levels of product development to keep the tourists much longer and spend more, and lack of land for the development of tourism sites such as the Entebbe Convention Centre, Kayabwe equator point, Regional Uganda Wildlife Education Centre (UWEC) centers. Other hindrances included encroachment on wildlife and cultural heritage sites, lack of land titles for most of the cultural heritage sites, inadequate staffing and skills across the sector, human – wildlife conflicts, poaching and illegal wildlife trade, wildfires, invasive species, non-competitiveness, and the LGBTQ bill, to name some, which counteracted destination marketing and revenue generation efforts.
Recommended Action Plan
The Recommended Action Plan to resolve these challenges include to establish tourism consulates in tourist source markets abroad to do tourism work, to enhance tourism marketing initiatives in source markets, to increase tourism marketing and promotion funding, to involve all leaders at various levels including key public figures to get involved, to advance the entire visa regime due to delays in processing and clearing, to enhance efficiency (ICT infrastructure, human resources), to make attractive product packaging to enhance the visitor experience, to undertake applied research to solve conservation issues by putting more measures to minimize human wildlife conflicts around protected areas while providing incentives to communities that host wildlife and tourism, to jointly develop a shared strategy to develop/promote tourism, and to continue with capacity building of tour guides and operators through critical assessment and identification of skills gaps for specific tourism products/sites by the owners.
The event was closed by the Tourism State Minister Honorable Martin Mugarra Bahinduka who introduced the Members of Parliament on the Tourism Committee on Trade and Tourism who were present, namely: Honorables Kuluo Joseph, Olobo Joseph, Aleper Margaret, and Apio Eunice.
He commended panelists Jackie Namara, Chartered Marketeer; Dr. Jim Ayorokeire, Lecturer at the Department of Tourism Makerere University; James Byamukama, Executive Director of the Jane Goodall Institute; and Hon. Daudi Migereko, Uganda Tourism Board Chairman; along with other Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) for work well done.
He encouraged participants to continue doing their best and pledged that the ministry would also do its best. He then invited participants for a well-earned cocktail to wind up a full day of deliberations.