Tourism was allocated a full ministry this financial year. As the minister in charge, how do you plan to awaken the great potential in the sector that has been neglected for years?
We are planning to boost marketing of Uganda in major source markets, offer innovative tourism products and promote small scale businesses in the sector such as handicrafts to ensure that we get more dollars from tourists. With the recognition of traditional and cultural leaders, we will develop cultural sites into tourism products. In the product mix, we are planning to make tourism a major source of employment by promoting community and faith-based tourism as well as in national parks and game reserves.
Uganda is naturally endowed but much of this beauty remains unknown to the outside world due to insufficient marketing funds. How will your mnistry utilise the meager resources to ably promote Uganda as the preferred tourism destination in Africa?
Unlike our neighbours like Kenya that invests about $23 million in marketing its image annually, $10 million for Tanzania and $5 million for Rwanda, Uganda spends only $330,000. And the figure was not changed with the new ministry after all the budgeting processes for this financial year had been completed. So we are a ministry operating on a departmental budget. However, we only have to efficiently use the little funds we have but we will ask for a supplementary budget in the course of the financial year.
What is the sector’s contribution to the national coffers?
Tourism brings into the country about $662 million in foreign exchange earnings annually and contributes nearly 9.2 per cent to GDP. The sector employs over 153,000 people.
How many tourist arrivals are you expecting this year?
We have been getting between 800,000 to 900,000 arrivals but we expect grow that to over 1.2 million. However, to achieve that, Ugandans should appreciate that staging riots and demonstrations scares away tourists, who would have brought in dollars to stabilise the Shilling.
How will you ensure protection of the endangered wild species in the face of increasing poaching in the country?
Uganda is part of the regional concerted efforts to conserve endangered species such as elephants, rhinos and lions. I have also instructed Uganda Wildlife Authority to increase their surveillance capacity to curb poaching in the country.
Inadequate skilled human resource and infrastructure challenges are major constraints to the sector, how do you plan to handle them?
We will emphasise public-private partnerships to invest in skills development so as to transform the sector. Access roads, airports and power infrastructure challenges have to be addressed by the government. However, we also have to change the mindset of Ugandans to stop looking at tourism as a pleasurable activity for foreigners seeking leisure but as something they can also actively participate in.
How do you plan to boost domestic tourism?
We have to develop products that are attractive to the Ugandans and they should be relatively priced so that they are affordable to all Ugandans. We are also going to design programmes where communities neighbouring national parks and game reserves share into revenues derived from tourists visiting these endowments. For tourism to be rooted in the Uganda Social fabric, we will ensure that wildlife clubs are introduced in schools to interest the young generation to visit tourism sites.
In Kenya, tourism is a multi-billion shilling industry and is also the main foreign exchange earner. Has Uganda studied the Kenya tourism industry and could you mention some lessons that you have drawn from there?
Kenya has had a full tourism industry for a long time while Uganda’s was just a department until June this year. But we have already mapped out a strategy, which we will use to make Uganda a competitive tourism destination in the region.
The Shilling has depreciated rapidly against the dollar, what impact has it had on the tourism sector?
People with dollars now get more Shillings, which they can use to enjoy more services as opposed to people with Shillings.
How much revenue has the sector collected for the period between January to June 2011 compared to the same period last year?
We collect figures for a whole year but that for half year is not yet noticeable.