Uganda has lost over 550 tourism related jobs between 2013 and 2015 due to a slowdown in business, the Ministry of Tourism Wildlife and Antiquities recently announced.
“Thirty two companies laid off between one to 9 employees during this time and 13 companies were forced to completely close doors due to unviable business within the sector in the same period,” Alex Asiimwe, Principal Policy Analyst at the Ministry Tourism Wildlife and Antiquities said.
He was briefing private sector players in the industry about the ‘Status of Tourism Business Today’.
He said during the same period, Uganda lost Ush200 billion (about $60 million) because a number of tourists cancelled their bookings to Uganda.
Asiimwe said 90% of companies registered cancelation of bookings from tourist which amounted to about 41.7% cancelations registered by the sector in the said period.
Ebola outbreak in West Africa, terrorists threats and attacks within the East African region, unstable exchange rates of the dollar, and the announcement of Marburg outbreak by the Ministry of Health were cited as the major contributing factors which slowdown tourism business in Uganda let alone the high production costs.
However, the Chief Executive Officer, Uganda Tourism Board (UTB), Stephen Asiimwe, said, “This is not the time to rant or play blame games. We should look for the way forward to address these challenges and restore the glory of tourism.”
He said it is time to start looking inwardly by stretching the line to create incentives and network in order to attract tourists locally.
He said UTB has earmarked 60% of their total budget this financial year to marketing and promotion of Uganda’s tourism sector.
Raymond Engena, Uganda Wildlife Authority’s (UWA) Director Tourism Development and Business Services, said “From now to 2016 tourism will face a challenge and we forecast likely declines in all business aspects related to tourism.”
He said Uganda is a very expensive tourism destination and argued tour and travel companies to reduce on the associated cost in order to boost their business. “I charge only $5 for someone to enter Murchison National Park, but you charge $90 or more, what is the reason for that he asked.”
Engene announced that UWA will not change their prices in the next financial. For example he said they will charge a standard fee for park entry amounting to about $40, fees for promotional permits stay at $400 to $450. This he said is aimed at helping business operators and tourism sector at large regain its boom.
Stephen Asiimwe said a half a billion US dollars has been allocated to secure a firm that will ensure a permanent presence of Uganda’s tourism in the United States and Canada drive traffic flow to Uganda.
He said, he is ready to work with the private sector players in the industry and encourage them to contribute ideas and strategies that government should undertake in order to better their operations and the tourism sector at large.