NEW TOURISM MASTER PLAN IN THE OFFING
The Permanent Secretary 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 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, addressing key and long overdue issues like marketing, human resource development – notably here there is still no covering law for the country’s sole public sector hotel and tourism training institute since being suddenly removed from the education ministry in 2008 – and also product development and refinement. While speaking to the media the PS admitted that while tourism earned an estimated 660 million US Dollars last year, services should be improved which however 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, and this was attributed to government’s failure to go beyond lip service to the tourism industry, make it a priority sector of the economy, allocated sufficient funds and ‘protect’ them 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 operationalisation 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. Watch this space.