In a bid to ensure standards in the hospitality industry and Uganda’s competitiveness on the global tourism market, Uganda Tourism Board (UTB), the government body responsible for promoting and marketing Destination Uganda, has embarked on classification and rating exercise for all Tourism Facilities in the Country in line with new East African Community (EAC) standards.
The exercise kicked off this week with a two-day refresher course for the 12 EAC-certified hotel assessors at Protea Hotel, Entebbe. The refresher course is to improve their skills ahead of the exercise that starts in May 2021. UTB will also embark on a massive stakeholder sensitization exercise.
While addressing the assessors and media at Protea Hotel, Mrs Susan Muhwezi, the UTB Board Vice-Chair and Chairperson of Uganda Hotels Owners Association (UHOA), commended UTB for working with the private sector members, such as UHOA in the grading and classification exercise, that she said, was very vital to the recovery of Uganda’s tourism sector.
“Most tourists especially foreigners value the stars of the hotel they book and always look forward to experiencing the standards of the indicated star of a particular hotel,” she said, urging the assessors to be diligent in their work and to follow the set procedures and standards.
Muhwezi pledged her support during this exercise as both the UTB Board Vice-Chair and the Chairperson of the Uganda Hotels Owners Association.
The East African Community standards criteria for classification of hotels, restaurants and other tourist facilities were gazetted in 2009 to encourage and maintain quality standards in products and services being delivered to tourists in East Africa.The standards were institutionalized under the Tourism Regulations 2008.
The standards include, classification Criteria for Lodges, criteria for Motels, Classification Criteria for Restaurants, Criteria for Guesthouses, Classification Criteria for Tented Camps, Classification Criteria for Town hotels, Classification Criteria for Vacation Hotels, Classification Criteria for Villas, Cottages and serviced apartments
The exercise was last conducted in 2017.
According to Lilly Ajarova, the Uganda Tourism Board Chief Executive Officer, due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the resultant lockdown measures, the next round of assessment which was scheduled to commence from the end of FY 2019/20 was postponed to FY2020/21.
“The star-rating we give during the grading and classification has a life span of 2 years meaning that all facilities that were graded can no longer identify themselves with the star rating they were awarded with because it expired, and this means that currently Uganda does not have any graded facilities. Due to Covid-19, a number of facilities’ standards have gone down, so this exercise is important for safeguarding the standards in the sector and the competitiveness of Destination Uganda,” Ajarova said.
“UTB’S decision to conduct classification envisions transforming the tourism sector into “one of the top long-haul tourist destinations that offer a high-value, diverse and distinct visitor experience,” she added.
Uganda’s generated about 940 million USD in 2017, corresponding to 4% of the country’s GDP or 20% of total goods and services exports. This was twice as much as earnings from coffee, the country’s traditional export cash crop.
It also employs a growing number of workers in relatively high-productivity jobs, around 270,000 people directly and around 400,000 people indirectly, together accounting for about 6.7% of total national employment.
Relevance of classification
The star grading system is used to rate the quality and standards of services of hotels and this varies from country to country. Hotels are graded from one-star to five-star basing on factors such as facilities, service level, location, staff professionalism, among others.
Government, through Uganda Tourism Board, plays a watchdog role to grade and classify as part of its mandate to regulate both the travel and tour businesses and the commercial accommodation in Uganda.