As Uganda continues to reap big from her tourism industry, Uganda Tourism Board (UTB), the government agency responsible for marketing and promoting Uganda both in the region and internationally, has in the past three months registered a tremendous performance, projecting more development for the sector.
This has Tuesday been revealed by the UTB Chief Executive Officer, Lily Ajarova while addressing journalists on the Board’s performance report on key result areas such as quality assurance of tourism facilities, product development and destination promotion in the first Quarter of the final year 2019/2020.
The Quarter includes months of July, August and September.
Besides promoting and marketing Uganda across the region and internationally, UTB is mandated to promote quality assurance in tourist facilities through training, grading and classification as well as promoting tourism investment, and acting as a liaison for private sector in tourism development.
It is also responsible for increasing tourism earnings and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and as well improve on Uganda’s competitiveness as an international tourism destination.
According to Ajarova, in the first Quarter, the agency scored highly as far as quality assurance is concerned, in relation to their role of regulating the tourism industry in the country.
The regulation is done through registering all tourism enterprises in the country including tour guides, travel agents, tour operators, accommodation facilities and and restaurants.
Through its department of quality assurance, UTB was in the first quarter able to develop a system of e-registration and licensing.
“We can not do a lot by paper work, we are supposed to register everyone from across the country. So, for the first time, UTB was able to establish e-registration and licensing system and we have already made some progress in registering accommodation facilities, tour guides, travel agents and some of the other enterprises in the industry,” Ajarova said.
“This system is supposed to not only make it efficient for us to manage the e-registration and licensing of these enterprises, but it should be able to help us and track better records,” she added.
From July to September this year, UTB registered 150 travel and tour companies, 2,066 accommodation facilities with 578 from Eastern Uganda, 603 from Northern Uganda and 885 from Central Uganda (Kampala and Wakiso).
Ajarova says registration for other parts of the country is “work in progress”.
The agency also registered 358 tour guides.
UTB is further mandated to inspect and monitor performance of the tourism enterprises, something Ajarova says is intended to ensure that companies do not defraud tour operators.
“We are talking about quality, we are trying to ensure that there is quality in the service that we are providing in the sector. If somebody is going to be a briefcase operator and parade themselves on the internet to be worth so many millions, that will be wrong,” she noted.
“This is why we as the regulators have to inspect the offices and be sure that what the companies are portraying is exactly who they are,” she added.
As such, UTB fully inspected all the registered 2,066 accommodation facilities to ascertain their existence and quality of the services they provide as well as inspecting 385 tour and travel companies in the same quarter.
UTB also licenses all the tourism enterprises and in the past quarter, UTB licensed 150 tour and travel companies.
It also trains and assesses the performance of the tour guides in the country.
Ajarova says: “UTB in conjunction with other partners have embarked on an exercise to train and develop an up-to-date assessment of tour guides in the country.”
She says only training of tour guides has so far been made with assessment and licensing to be done in the subsequent months.
On promoting and marketing destination Uganda, Ajarova says at the domestic level, the Board has undertaken a nationwide outdoor campaign aimed at “showcasing the country to Ugandans so that we can have more Ugandans visiting their own country.”
Here, she cited Billboards showing the Visit Uganda Campaign which have been spread in the different spots of the country showcasing different tourism products of the country like culture, scenery, wildlife.
“The billboards are one of our efforts to promote domestic tourism. We put them there to attract the interest of the people of Uganda,” Ajarova noted.
She said in the first Quarter of this financial year, UTB was in position to support and identify with some private sector initiatives like Rolex festival, Ekyooto which showcased the Ugandan culture, Uganda fashion week and miss tourism.
The other product to promote domestic tourism developed by UTB in the first Quarter is the MICE (Meetings Incentives Conferences and Events) where hotels like Serena, Sheraton have offered meetings and conference facilities.
“Just like what happened in the Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference recently, UTB was a key partner with the Parliament to ensure the success that we saw. We were able to promote different tourism packages which saw some of the participants going to Kagulu hills, the Equator, source of the Nile and other places,” she said.
On regional and international scene, UTB participated in a number of expos including Magical Kenya. She said 69% of Uganda’s foreign tourists come from Africa and 29% of these are from Kenya.
As such, Ajarova reveals that UTB is highly focusing on the African market, considering products which attract specific tourists in the country such as the Uganda martyrs for the case of Nigeria.
Performance of the tourism industry in 2018
Statistics show that tourist arrivals grew from 1.2 million in 2017 to 1.5 million in the year 2018.
The foreign exchange earnings grew from USD 1.45 billion in 2017 to USD 1.6 billion in 2018.
The tourism sector contribution to the Gross Domestic Product in 2018 stands at 7.7%.
Tourism contributed 667,600 jobs in the year 2018 amounting to 6.7% of the total employment in the country.
Hotel occupancy for 2018 was at 50.9% and 1613 tourism service providers trained in service standards in 2018.
This performance according to Ajarova, shows growth and gives an opportunity to UTB to aim at increasing these numbers.