By Edwin Muhumuza
Uganda Tourism Board(UTB) has with immediate effect banned Mushra Travel Agency located along Rubaga Road from conducting tourism business after its Managing Director Ahabwe Mugerwa Michael allegedly swindled close to 70m shs.
The cash was meant to facilitate four Australian and British tourists, now stranded in Queen Elizabeth National Park. The suspect was apprehended by tourism police in an operation led by commandant of tourism Police Frank Mweigwa after he was tricked to have lunch with a friend at a restaurant in Lubowa, along Entebbe Road this afternoon.
The tourists had planned for a stay of 15 days at Murchison falls National park, Queen Elizabeth, Bwindi National Park, and Gamba Chimpazee sanctuary.
The head of quality assurance UTB, Samora Semakula says the operation to rid the industry of fraudsters has began and all offenders will face the law following a surge tourism related crimes.
‘Mushra is a reknown operator that has caused a lot of pain to the country, a lot of insanity and tourism being fragile is so sensitive’,when a clients pays their money it has to be costed according to the itinerary in place’ he added.
It was revealed that Mugerwa has had a number of unfortunate cases with several clients over the years, involving a one Catherine King who was a client around the Month of October.
Mugerwa says they were supposed to visit Uganda and Tanzania but came to Kampala ,did three days of Gorilla tracking before they crossed to Arusha did a safari in Tanzania where they had a complaint with a ground handler and their safari in Tanzania ended, and there after complained to the Association of Tour Agencies.
In one of the documents, the tourists say they are well traveled and have been at it for 15 years around the world but their experience by Mushra Travel Agency headed by Mugerwa Michael who has been in the business since 2016 is the most horrible.
On the latest case of tourists, between December 2018 and January 2019,Mugerwa says he was fleeced by another local tour company an issue Samora rejected while insisting that the contract was between his company ,Mushra.The suspect has since accused another tour company, Gorillas and Beyond headed by one Wycliff Rushaju for hving fleeced him of 3300 dollars.
It was reported also that when clients got to him he promised to deliver ‘heaven on earth’ and when they went tracking he told them that he did not have money and so had to foot their own bills. But when the Uganda Association of Tour Operators(AUTO) was contacted a deal was signed to ensure that they refund their money.’They gave us 6 months and would pay 6 installments’, Mugerwa said.
The Four tourists allegedly paid over $4200 for Queen Elizabeth, Murchison falls National Park; flying from Pakuba Lodge and then to , Bwindi , do water Rafting, visit Gamba then end their trip all on a budget of 18,000 dollars. The suspect claims to have lost $3200 and an extra $9400 on his way to Nairobi to pick clients.
It has also emerged that Enganzi Game lodge in Queen Elizabeth National Park used its own money to pay for tracking and accommodating the tourists in a bid to save the name of the country.
The suspects, when tasked by Semakula, to get the money said his company did not have it. Samora said the actions of Mushra, were shameful and ‘killed’ the country’s image and thus ceases to be a company adding that the cases accumulated by this company would be handed over to authorities for investigations and prosecution.