Exploit Uganda’s Tourism Potential [editorial]

Tourism has overtaken remittances by Ugandans working abroad as the country’s top export earner, according to Bank of Uganda’s monetary policy statement for August 2014.

The sector raked in $1.4bn in the 201314 financial year, up from $1.1bn the previous year, eclipsing remittances, which fetched $800m, and coffee, which came third with $415m. With the ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities launching the tourism master plan in Kampala yesterday, and Uganda celebrating World Tourism day in Mbale this Saturday, it’s an opportunity to ponder on the importance of tourism in Uganda’s development trajectory.

Uganda is by all counts a very beautiful country with amazing scenery, cultures and people, as well as rich flora and fauna, all of which combine to make it a discerning traveller’s paradise. Many apathetic Ugandans tend not to recognise this blessing but seasoned travelers do, including popular travel magazine Lonely Planet, which ranked Uganda the world’s number one destination of 2012.

Yet in spite of the natural endowment and recent rise in revenue, what Uganda earns from tourism pales when compared to what a country such as Kenya earns. Bridging the gap requires more effort, more investment in the sector. At the moment, the government invests relatively little in marketing the country and cultivating innovative new products, compared to competing African countries.

While the Shs 3.2bn increase in the marketing budget last financial year must be acknowledged, it is still small, given what is at stake. Besides, paying particular attention to niche areas such as culture and history would make Uganda more competitive. For instance, it has been argued on this page before that a museum dedicated to former President Idi Amin would be a master stroke.

However, threats to this lucrative industry abound too. Ill-conceived legislation such as the now-annulled, but soon-to-be revived, anti-homosexuality law the threat of terrorism resulting from Uganda’s military involvement in Somalia the uncertainty about political succession poor infrastructure and inadequate promotion could easily undo the gains so far made and even stifle future growth.

On the other hand, if these threats are kept in check, Uganda’stourism has the potential to rival oil production as the country’s most important source of revenue in the coming decades.

Source : The Observer

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