UTB UNDER RENEWED SCRUTINY AS MARKETING MANAGER LEAVES THE ORGANIZATION
(Posted 23rd March 2016)
The performance of Uganda at the recently concluded ITB in Berlin has by some participants been described as ‘lacklustre’, and given the fact that Uganda dropped in the rankings for best African exhibitor to tenth position may be an indicator that both UTB and the Ministry of Tourism have their work cut out for them.
A sharpish article posted a few days ago in the Daily Monitor asks the question what is killing Uganda’s tourism, and insiders, as several times before, again point fingers at the Uganda Tourism Board, described by several regular commentators as ‘uninspired, stuck in the past and out of touch with markets and the private sector‘.
The suggested downturn in business last year is hard to establish in the absence of arrival data for 2015 being published, another bone of contention between private and public sector, in the past and again in the present too.
Lodge occupancies upcountry were recently described as very low by someone close to the Uganda Hotel Owners Association, further expressing concerns how businesses can remain financially viable under such circumstances while also taking aim at government for imposing a Value Added Tax of 18 percent on upcountry hotels and lodges at a time of business downturn.
UWA’s park receipts are reportedly down from a previous high in 2013 by some 24 percent in 2014, but crucial data for 2015 are still not available, hindering an accurate response by the private sector to the trends of last year.
True enough, the downturn of business in Kenya over the past years had its effect on Uganda too, as did the Ebola crisis in West Africa, which, courtesy of reckless reporting by sections of the international media, scared potential visitors to the East African safari countries away.
Two major activities, and expense items, also caught the eye of the media again, both already questioned here in the past too.
A relatively unknown starlet from Hollywood, with few even remembering her name at this stage, was hyped up as a major promotional breakthrough by ‘official Uganda‘ at the time. One Marlina Moreno came and went, and the country has little to show for but the expense. Similar sentiments were expressed when players of FC Barcelona were invited to Uganda late last year, and once the temporary hype had gone with the wind, again little lasting promotional value for Uganda’s tourism industry has been registered.
Uganda in past years, between 2012 and 2014, was singled out by serious travel publications and guide books like the Lonely Planet Guide, National Geographic and even CNN’s travel programmes as a premier global and African destination, but building on such accolades seems to have been difficult, as far as constant an sustained marketing activities go.
Now news have emerged that these circumstances have claimed a first scalp from among the UTB management, with the marketing manager leaving the organization earlier this month.
Reports about the appointment of PR companies in Europe and America, which reached the public domain, did also little to calm the nerves of the private sector, especially when the cost became known, prompting a series of calls and messages to this correspondent questioning the process of selection and more important, what measurable targets were given to these PR firms to ensure Uganda will get value for money.
Be it as it may, the article in the Monitor goes to some length to cast doubt over strategy and activities. Change will not likely come before a new government is formed by President Museveni, who needs the approval of the Parliamentary Appointments Committee for his nominations for ministerial posts. Office holder and personally highly respected Dr. Maria Mutagamba, will be leaving politics when a new cabinet is appointed after she did not stand for reelection in her Rakai constituency during the February general elections.
Which direction the new minister will take only time will tell but for many players in the private sector it is a ‘now or never‘ situation to come up with a new team, taking Uganda finally to greater heights and recognition in the international tourism arena.
Read the Monitor article by clicking on this link.