By Rogers Wanambwa
KIU, Main Campus - In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic that has left almost the whole world's economy paralyzed, tourism has been one of the most devastated sectors, Uganda's notwithstanding.
According to a Daily Monitor report, during the 10th Annual Tourism Sector Review Conference at Hotel Africana last year, the Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, Prof. Ephraim Kamuntu said that the tourism sector employs over 660,000 people in Uganda, which is 6.7% of the workforce.
He also added that in the 2018/2019 financial year, the sector brought in $1.6bn (UGX5.8trillion) which made up 7.7% of the country's GDP, which is a significant contribution.
On May 4, during the first-ever, fully-fledged national e-conference organized by the Private Sector Foundation of Uganda (PSFU), Mr Amos Wekesa, the founder and CEO of Great Lakes Safaris and Elephant Plains, a major player in tourism, said that “the tourism sector is in the Intensive Care Unit” and that over a million jobs are being lost in this sector daily, all over the world.
However, he said that all was not lost and he gave some insights on what he believes will bring back the sector after this pandemic.
Firstly, he said that tourist operators and the Ministry of Tourism plus all other players in the sector should start looking at domestic tourism. He explained that over 220,000 Ugandans travel to Kenya annually and incur an average of $2,000 per person in tourism-related expenditure, amounting to $400million
He added that over 36,000 Ugandans visit Dubai and around 30,000 visit South Africa every year. This means that we spend so much money outside our borders which could be spent here if we adopted good marketing strategies.
Secondly, he said that since our education system teaches Ugandan children about foreign places like the Canadian prairies, they grow up with dreams of exploring these places. This can be countered by teaching Ugandans more about our own places.
Wekesa also said that Ugandans need to build more infrastructure in the form of accommodation for tourists. Apparently, there are 128,000 hotel rooms available in East Africa and 80% of them are in Kenya, followed by Tanzania, with Uganda and Rwanda lagging further behind.
Tourism has the potential to earn the country around $12bn a year if harnessed well. It still remains a big sector to exploit and this starts with investment in infrastructure, advertisement and service delivery.
The 0.6% that was allocated to it in the 2020/2021 budget is probably a raw deal for a sector that not only earns us much-needed foreign currency but can improve the country’s image significantly and open up opportunities for other sectors like transport and hospitality.
Picture credit: Internet photo