UGANDA TOURISM BOARD AXED IN MOVE GOVERNMENT MAY COME TO REGRET
(Posted 14th September 2018)
When in the early part of the century the Ugandan government came up with a scheme to merge the Uganda Tourism Board and the Uganda Investment Authority, was the combined tourism private sector under the umbrella of the Uganda Tourism Association – then with this correspondent as its President – standing up to oppose the move.
When ordinary government channels failed to produce sympathetic hearings and results did UTA then move to request a meeting with President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni to present their case to have UTB retained as a stand alone marketing unit for the country.
Following two such meetings was the merger scheme then quietly buried to the relief of the industry at the time.
Since then has UTB been under constant scrutiny and repeatedly under the spotlight, subject to at times harsh critique by the private sector. Changes at the helm were projected to improve efficiencies and give the board a new strategic direction, but to the disappointment of the tourism private sector did no fundamental change take place.
After the former Minister of Tourism, Hon. Migereko, was last year appointed as chairman of the board of trustees, were hopes high that things at UTB would change until earlier in the week the hammer fell on the organization as it did on other similar public bodies which now find themselves under the legal roof of the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities.
Now also hangs in the balance the formation of a Uganda Convention Bureau after much effort was invested to create a foundation, since the new UCB was to be established under the roof of UTB. With the roof now gone or rather the ministry now forming the roof – equally seen as under capacitated – is it anyone’s guess right now what will happen to the new bureau. Aimed to tap into the rich MICE market, after Rwanda ran away with the regional business, is Uganda and Kenya the only leading East African tourism destination without a dedicated convention bureau after Tanzania launched theirs at the end of last month.
A total of 71 government authorities and agencies are said to be affected across all sectors of the economy.
Tourism stakeholders in mails and messages expressed both dismay as well as optimism, some saying that this might be the hour for the private sector to step up and coordinate tourism marketing for the country, clearly having misgivings on the capacity of the ministry to assume organizational control and show immediate results for the better.
There is little indication at present that government has widely consulted with the tourism industry and taken their recommendations and opinions on board, leaving one regular contributor to moan: ‘Will they ever learn‘. Literally all comments doubted that much money will be saved by the move vis a vis the tourism sector and that current initiatives by development partners may be slowed down or halted while government sorts out locations and staffing of the affected bodies.
A similar situation twice affected the release of major financial assistance to the Jinja based Hotel and Tourism Training Institute, when it was first moved to the Ministry of Education and Sports, voiding a massive financial injection under the World Bank’s PAMSU project. HTTI then fell victim again ten plus years later when the institution in an overnight cabinet decision was returned to the Ministry of Tourism, again instantly voiding the release of major funds for the institution arranged under the education ministry but no longer qualifying for the funds release when the home ministry again changed.
Also affected are the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre and the Uganda Wildlife Authority among others