The Minister of Tourism, Prof Ephraim Kamuntu has described the tourism sector as a “powerful force” that fuels economic growth.
He equally said that as the leading earner of foreign revenue at USD 1.5bn annually, the sector has the potential of delivering Uganda into the middle income status.
The Minister said that over the years, the sector has managed to replace agricultural products like coffee, tea, and cotton which were traditionally the lead exports. “Ten percent of Uganda’s GDP is contributed by tourism,” he added.
“Uganda is at the brink of economic take off and tourism is a powerful transformative force fueling economic growth of this country, propelling it to become a middle income country,” the Minister said.
He was speaking at Sheraton Kampala Hotel during an event to bid farewell to Stephen Asiimwe and John Ssempebwa who have been the chief executive officer and deputy at Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) respectively.
“The numbers are very clear. We are not talking about thousands of tourists. We are talking 1.5m tourists arriving and tourism contributing 23.6 percent of the total exports of this country”.
“I can tell you tourism is shaping the future of this country”.
Minister Kamuntu lauded the outgoing leadership of UTB for their role in transforming the sector and reminded the new executive of government’s plan to grow the number of tourists from 1.5m to 4m by 2020 saying the goal for the new team at UTB is already set.
“We are also talking about USD 1.5bn in revenue, we are saying by 2020, we need USD 2.7bn”.
He however spoke to the need for the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry as well as Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) to ensure the statistics regarding tourism are accurate.
On his part, the Chairman of UTB, Daudi Migereko said tourism is a highly competitive and challenging business, particularly in this digital era.
“We shall therefore have to work closely with Government, financial institutions and development partners to support the private sector to access financing; to invest and improve our tourism attractions, sites, accomodation, transport and supportive infrastructure.”
“These must be developed and presented at internationally acceptable standards,” he added.
He said standards would ensure that Uganda’s products and destination Uganda are both competitive and affordable.
“It is standards that will ensure sustainable growth of the numbers and earnings from the tourism sector,” Mr. Migereko explained.
Speaking at the event, Stephen Asiimwe made a case for increased private investment in the tourism sector. According to Asiimwe, it makes more business sense for joint ventures as opposed to individual investments that make insignificant turnover.
“Put your money together as a group of say 30 people and invest in tourism. This is because it is better for you to earn Shs10 million with one percent (of the shareholding) than own 100 per cent and earn only Shs one million,” he advised.
Mr. Asiimwe urged government officials to facilitate the tourism sector in a way that guarantees tourists a great experience in the country.
“For those of us in government, can we facilitate tourism in such a manner that will make tourists the biggest beneficiary? Also, can we add money in facilitating the budgets of the government tourism program?” he said.
On his part, John Ssempebwa, who is now the President of SwimSafe Uganda, said that among the tasks that remain unaccomplished is the issue of branding.
“If there is anything that the new team should do is to define what the Pearl of Africa (tagline for Uganda) means”.
The climax of the event was the launch of UTB’s 2018/19- 2019/20 Strategic Plan by Prof Ephraim Kamuntu that, Mr Migereko says, is aligned to the National Development plan.