The Minister for Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, Prof. Ephraim Kamuntu has said that violent protests as those recently witnessed in Arua and Kampala pose a threat to the country’s tourism sector, the biggest foreign revenue earner.
Kamuntu said this Thursday while announcing plans for this year’s commemoration of World Tourism Day.
This year’s celebrations are scheduled to take place on September 27 in Jinja district and will be presided over by President Yoweri Museveni.
While the Minister together with other officials sector reported a spike in arrivals of tourists particularly from the American market, he cautioned that these gains could be watered down by political violence and negative publicity.
Kamuntu advised against uncalled for protests like the recently witnessed scenes in Arua likely to affect tourist numbers.
“Tourism remains to be Uganda’s leading foreign exchange want with about USD 1.35 billion as per statistics in 2015 with remittance of USD 1.1 billion,” Prof Kamuntu said.
“This should be guarded jealousy because tourism is everyone’s business. It involves us and so let’s work towards the good publicity of Uganda,” he added.
He further stated that tourism contributes to about 10% of Uganda’s GDP totaling to about Shs 7.3 billion (2015) while about 8% of the populace have been employed across the value chain.
The Minister attributed this to the favourable political climate.
When the political chaos broke out on the last day of campaigning in the Arua municipality by-election earlier this year, some of the embassies in Kampala including the American one were quick to issue travel advisories warning of politically motivated protests and demonstrations in areas of Arua, and Kampala.
Such advisories have the potential of discouraging potential travelers destined for Uganda.
John Ssempebwa, the Deputy Executive Director, Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) revealed that whereas there was a significant drop in the number of visitors coming in from the UK, there was a pick up in arrivals from the U.S and Germany.
“We used to register about 50,000 arrivals from the U.S., but this has gone up by 17%,” Ssempebwa said.
On his part, Stephen Masaba, the Director for Tourism and Business Services at Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) noted that domestic tourism too is on the rise with more Ugandans visiting attractions within the country, especially Murchison Falls, Queen Elizabeth national parks as well as tracking gorillas.
In 2017, CNN listed Uganda among the world’s top five tourism destinations to visit. Another recent article by CNN Travel recommended Kidepo National Park among the top safari destinations in Africa.
Several other global travel guides like Rough Guides and InterNations have given Uganda good publicity and subsequently contributing towards positioning it as a preferred destination.