Uganda’s who is who in the tourism and hospitality industry have left little doubt what they thought of the budget proposals made yesterday, when Finance Minister Maria Kiwanuka presented the 2013/14 budget estimates to parliament. Understandably concerned to remain anonymous, several regular sources let fly over what they unanimously termed ‘a lot of hogwash and a pile of broken promises‘.
Compared to last year was the budget allocation for the Uganda Tourism Board again reduced, exposing the lipservice government produces year in and year out towards the sector. ‘Let her not talk of those tourist roads because we have been hearing those promises for 15 years and nothing has changed. Let her produce those roads and then we shall see‘ ranted another while yet more agreed that ‘… even Rwanda spends 20 times as much for tourism marketing and I cannot even compare what Tanzania and Kenya pour into marketing their countries. Last year tourism produced over 800 million US Dollars in revenues and THAT is what we get in return? Shame on Finance to treat us like outcasts but taking the fruits of our labour with both hands‘.
The Daily Monitor published a relevant piece reproduced here below for the benefit of the readers, also expressing a few choice opinions of how tourism once again feels neglected to the point of utter despair.
Budget falls short of tourism industry’s expectations
Zebras at Lake Mburo National Park. Tourism Industry players want more money allocated to the sector. File Photo
By FARIDAH KULABAKO
Posted Friday, June 14 2013 at 01:00
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Despite highlighting that some key tourism roads will be rehabilitated next financial year, the biggest wish of tourism entrepreneurs to increase its budget allocation did not come true in the Budget read yesterday.
Industry players had hoped that government would increase funding to the sector, which is one of the country’s leading foreign exchange earners, to facilitate activities of marketing Uganda as a premium destination in key tourism source markets.
However, in a move that dismayed industry players, Finance Minister Maria Kiwanuka announced a cut in the sector’s budget from Shs10.9b in the 2012/13 financial year to Shs10.761b.
Apportionment to the Uganda Tourism Board – a body charged with marketing and branding Uganda as a preferred tourism destination – was slashed to Shs1.4b from Shs1.8b in the previous (2012/13) financial year.
Reacting to the budget cuts, industry players said not much can be achieved with such meager funding.
Mr Amos Wekesa, the proprietor of Great Lakes Safaris, a tour company told this newspaper the successes registered in the sector in the past years was by God’s grace because the government “doesn’t care about the sector.”
“The entire region is prioritising tourism and allocating more resources to boost their respective sectors but Uganda is instead reducing allocation to the sector yet it has more potential than any other country in the region,” Mr Wekesa said.
He said the funds allocated to UTB will only pay salaries but not promote Uganda as a premium market, adding that Uganda’s budget is consumptive – prioritising education and health which don’t generate revenue.
The sector fetched the country $805m (about Shs2 trillion) in 2011, according to available statistics.
UTB executive director Cuthbert Baguma said with a budget cut, a number of activities that had been lined up to be executed next year may be halted due to financial constraints.
Some of the activities that might be affected include the hotel classification and grading exercise, stimulating of domestic tourism, research and the sector’s ability to promote the country’s tourism potential in emerging source markets such as China, Japan and the Middle East to boost the sector’s competitiveness.
Failure to prioritise the tourism sector has also seen the country move a step back in the World Economic Forum’s Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index 2013 to 116th position out of 140 countries from the 115th in the 2011 ranking.
The country ranked 109th in the prioritisation of travel and tourism sub index and 121 under the business environment and infrastructure index.
According to Vision 2040, Uganda has potential to reap more than $12b from the tourism sector annually if promoted well to become among the leading top 10 tourism destinations in the world.
Ms Kiwanuka, however, said government commits to improve accessibility to tourist sites by rehabilitating tourism roads including Kidepo, Ishasha – Katunguru. She added that contractors for the Kisoro-Mgahinga, Kyenjojo-Hoima-Masindi and Kabwoya – Kyenjojo roads are being procured.
She said government will support the Tourism ministry to develop a comprehensive Tourism Sector Development Action Plan which will then form a basis for future funding to the sector.
She also committed to support hotel, tour and guide businesses to provide world-class hospitality business.
The insufficient resources from government, however, are to be supplemented by the implementation of a tourism development levy that is expected to generate at least $9m (about Shs22b) annually, according to Tourism Minister Ms Maria Mutagamba.
• Shs10.76b – Tourism sector allocation 2013/14 financial year, down from Shs10.9billion
• Shs1.4b (about $255.800) – allocation to Uganda Tourism Board to market Uganda (down from Shs1.8b (about $300,000)
• Kenya allocated $23m for marketing
• Tanzania allocates $10m
• Rwanda allocates $5m