Fourth Tourism Board charged with fast tracking post COVID-19 recovery

By Edwin Muhumuza

The Uganda Tourism Board has pledged to embark on branding the entry and exit of Entebbe Airport among other activities in an aggressive drive to revive the country’s tourism sector in its post COVID-19 recovery plan.

This is according to the Chairman of the Board, Daudi Migereko who made the remarks during the inauguration of the 4th Board of Directors whose terms of office have been renewed by cabinet.

Chief Guest Colonel (Retired) Tom Butime said that the task ahead of the board now is to ensure they lead fast tracking the sector recovery from the impacts of COVID-19.

“The pandemic has more or less leveled the ground for competition and it is now our duty to claim our due share of the market as all destinations struggle to rebuild themselves from COVID-19 pandemic.” Butime noted.

“We must with no further delay brand destination Uganda, there is no way we can position ourselves without branding the destination and every citizen must appreciate and promote the brand and in this way we shall turn all Ugandans into destination ambassadors,” he added.

The chief guest also agreed to plans to involve heads of cultural institutions in branding destination Uganda under category, traditional tourism to encourage, persuade and remind traditional leaders of their role in boosting the ‘Tulambule’ domestic tourism campaign.

“You can imagine the king of the Alur crossing the Nile as an event amidst the Agwang dance cultural tunes while in Fort Portal’. That has the same tune as ‘Amankondere traditional dance of the Tooro Kingdom.” said Butime.

On his part, Board Chairman Migereko, appealed to the government to increase the pace with which they tend to critical issues pertaining to the transformation of the country.

‘We must change because the world is not waiting for Uganda, we must render our sector competitive by investing in product development, sights improvement, so that when people come they are ready to spend time in Uganda albeit paying competitive rates, but that will not be possible if we take so long to make decisions.’

Uganda‘s tourism flourishes when other sectors of the economy are doing the same. Key to note is Uganda has been peaceful for the last thirty years courtesy of the Museveni-led NRM government and such the industry contributed 1.6 billion dollars to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product in 2018/19.

However the growth of the economy has seen new challenges in the transport sector more so the heavy traffic during rush hours, a trend that has put the government on the spot to expand roads as well as constructing alternative routes to the airport and to major tourist sites to the East, North, West and South.

In the wake of the resumption of tourism in the country the tourism board wants the Ministry of Works and the Uganda National Roads Authority to hasten the expansion and construction of the Mukono –Namanve-Kinawataka-Kampala while heavy trucks can be diverted to utilise the Nytil-Nyenga-Buikwe-Katosi-Mukono University road, in a bid to avoid inconveniencing tourists which would in turn affect the industry.

Concerns were also raised to government to rein in on commercial banks that have made it a habit to foreclose on businesses yet they are aware that the same companies were not making any money in the past six months due to the lock down. Stakeholders warned that a majority of tour businesses may be affected by this behavior of commercial banks.

Representing the United Nations Development Program(UNDP), Sheila Ngatia, the Deputy Resident Representative in charge of Programme and Operations in UNDP noted that the pandemic presents an opportunity to build better and it is important that the tourism board considers how to really implement the post COVID-19 tourism recovery plan to advance creative interventions to support businesses and to cater for critical operational expenses necessary to protect jobs, restore confidence among travelers as well as social protection of communities that benefit from tourism.

Another Calf rhino, Jabali has been born

By Patricia Osman

It is yet another score for the tourism industry following the birth of a baby Rhino at Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary.

Speaking to Capital Radio, Angie Genade the executive director Rhino Fund Uganda, says the male called Jabali was born last night to Bella who has had six babies now adding that the great news only pushes them closer to their goal of re-introducing Rhinos to the wild.

The baby is extremely strong, he is already running around and playing with his two year old brother, the excited Angie said.

Bella is the female that had the first calf at the sanctuary in 2008 unfortunately it was a still birth.

Just two weeks ago another Rhino Laloyo gave birth to a female baby Rhoda. Today the sanctuary boosts of 32 Rhinos.
The Uganda Wildlife Authority and the Rhino Fund Uganda are planning to take Rhinos back to the wild by 2022.

This is what it takes for a rhino to be re introduced into the wild;

A Feasibility study should be done to see which national park or area would be best featured to receive the white Rhinos. Then, a genetics report of the Rhinos is a produced before splitting them bearing in mind which ones move and which ones stay for purposes of continuity of the breeding process.
The rhinos should be at least four and a half or five years old because then they can fend for themselves.

In the event that rhinos are younger than the above age, then they should be moved with their mother who will then take care of them.

UWEC resumes business as government eases lock down

By Edwin Muhumuza

The Uganda Wildlife Education Center (UWEC) is appealing to Ugandans to visit the National Zoo again following the resumption of business.

This latest development comes following the launch of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) in a bid to ensure safety of visitors, wildlife and staff at the Center in the wake of the Corona Virus Pandemic.

Among the SOPs include; washing hands, disinfecting shoes and vehicles accessing national parks at every entrance and maintaining distance of two meters between visitors queuing up at all entrances.

During their launch, Minister of Tourism, Wildlife& Antiquities Col. Tom Butime Ateenyi, said that the move is a revelation of the health plan for tourism enterprises through coherent and well coordinated guidelines supported by well coordinated medical evidence to manage the pandemic.

The tourism industry has recorded fast growth rate in Uganda and generated 1.6bn in foreign exchange earnings in 2019 and the sector contributed 9% to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and at least 1 in every 10 jobs globally was related to tourism prior to the pandemic.

The loss in tourism business occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in the loss of jobs, capital flight, failure to meet obligations and fees, coupled with deterioration of properties.

“In response we have consulted widely and developed business continuity and sustainability plan to address some challenges strategically and action areas to include, the health and safety plan, financial recovery plan and thirdly the enhanced destination marketing to signal the reopening of our tourism” Butime said.

In the case of UWEC, it was an opportunity to improve and innovate on the product offer for the past four months.

According to the Executive Director ,UWEC ,James Muhanguzi, prior to the pandemic, money had been released to put in place the required infrastructure, to revamp the facility.

In 2019, a record 370,000 people visited the zoo, majority being Ugandans but that has not been the case this year since the lock down in March this year.

The chairperson Board of Trustees, UWEC, Hon. Flavia Kabahenda, noted that the center is a hub for domestic tourism and Ugandans are so excited and looking forward to associate with the wildlife again and bring nature back to them.

The Assistant Commissioner in charge of quality assurance, Liaz Vivian appealed to all managers of tourism enterprises to establish COVID 19 task force committees led by a team leader and for larger ones to have departmental focal points to help them in ensuring that the COVID 19 task force activities are adhered to, a management plan, mobilize resources so as to buy sanitizers, social distancing masks, hall markings, infrastructure ,document people with varying temperatures, training and availability of information for both customers and staff.

In attendance were tour agencies, associations, hotel owners, freight forwarders, performing arts among other stakeholders.

Uganda’s tourism sector set to thrive

By Edwin Muhumuza

“Uganda is really a safe destination because out of all the numbers tested, none has died and nearly almost all of them have been discharged.”

These were the remarks of Minister of State for Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, Godfrey Kiwanda, while kicking off the inspection of hotels to ensure compliance of the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) put in place by his ministry.

The SOPs are meant to revive confidence in Uganda’s tourism that has badly been hit by the Corona Virus following the cancellation of flights and the shutdown of nations of the world.

“The hospitality business is ready for Ugandans as of now because we have not yet opened for the region, the continent and the rest of the world but Ugandans first of all should come and enjoy their hotels because they have been home long enough.” Kiwanda rallied.

Susan Muhwezi , the chairperson of the board is optimistic that this drive will kick start a sector that has been under lock down as well.

“Gyms, saunas, and the airport remain closed though but there is a move to ensure that there will be a stimulus package for the sector. ” Muhwezi said.

“Tourism cuts across the entire value chain, be it agriculture, industry and so as government focuses on reviving agriculture and industry, it should always bear in mind that we are the ones that buy those things ,among the largest employers, so we are the people that use ICT.’’ she added.

Most Hotels are still closed and those still open are experiencing lack of occupancy and the concern raised by some of them has been the cost of implementing the SOPs.

As The inspection exercise traverses the whole country, starting with Kampala City and Entebbe town this week, hotels are being urged to be prepared and not be found wanting.

UTB Deputy CEO, Bradford Ochieng, noted that the Board would continue to ensure quality assurance across all tourism facilities and ensuring implementation of the SOPs as a key strategy in the revitalization of the sector and ensuring safety and confidence of the visitors which has become a key decision making factor in travel, going forward.

Prior to the Pandemic, tourism was Uganda’s largest contributor to revenue but when the world shut down, including Uganda, the effect could clearly be seen and felt.

However with most parts of the world opening up, the tourism sector which was number one tourism earner will thrive again and once SOPs are followed Uganda will be promoted and tourists will flood the country as they have always done.

Ajarova urges hotel owners to improve their facilities during this period

By Annah Nafula

Uganda Tourism Board CEO Lilly Ajarova has called upon Hotel and lodge owners to utilise the break aimed at stopping the spread of COVID 19 to improve their facilities.

While speaking to Capital FM, Ms. Ajarova said this was a global crisis whose duration is uncertain. She said this while in the break hotel owners should explore ways to improve their services while they follow the stipulated guidelines given by government.

“I wouldn’t expect hotel owners to just sit and wait for the end of this period but rather organize to make necessary repairs if there any needed. In the vent that some have no money to do repairs, this is a good time for them to take stock for their businesses and also conduct one on one trainings for the staff members.” Said Ajarova.

According to Ajarova, UTB is continuing to reinforce the government guidelines on personnel directly working in the tourism sector. She continues to urge all these people to stay safe and take all the necessary precautions during this period.
Uganda Tourism Board is working tirelessly on a strategy that will be used to market Uganda after the crisis she added.

Visiting Uganda guarantees value for money -Museveni

By Edwin Muhumuza

President Museveni has told tourism stakeholders to take advantage of the peace and stability the country is enjoying to realize high revenue returns from tourism. This during his speech to the delegates attending the 5th Pearl Of Africa Tourism Expo at Speke Resort Munyonyo .

The expo, is running under the theme, ‘Promoting Intra-Africa Travel’ in a bid to raise awareness about the untapped potential presented by emerging African travel markets.

The president noted that the government had restored Uganda Airlines to attract tourists to Uganda through the many planned direct routes where, tourists and business people alike will have faster and more affordable travel to the pearl, making Uganda a competitive destination.

The 5th Annual Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo (POATE) 2020, running for three days pits business to business and business to customer engagements amongst key Ugandan and regional tourism players with selected tourism wholesalers from Africa and other overseas tourism markets.

Museveni also commended UTB for the intra-African outlook saying that it was time to focus on intra-African business owing to the big market of 1.2 billion people .

The minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, Col(rtd) Tom Butime said that Uganda offers, probably one of most abundant investment incentive regimes in the sector including Start-up costs spread over the 4 years ,25% per annum, Scientific research expenditure at 100%,Training expenditure of 100% ,Initial allowance on hotel buildings at 20% ,Subsidized land to investors in the 4 priority sector s (ICT, Agro-processing, Tourism & Minerals processing); Exempt of Motor vehicles for transport of tourist of which have to be specially designed and built for transportation of tourists, Stamp duty exemption on instruments for mobilizing funds for tourism development and 100% profit repatriation.

Over 57 international hosted buyers, 140 domestic and regional tourism operators as well as international and domestic media are in the country to market destination Uganda, courtesy of the ministry of Tourism.

In his address to them, Tourism State Minister ,Kiwanda Ssubi said, “You have another home called Uganda and that the destinations that we want you. Do not sell Uganda to only Egyptians, Tanzanians or Zimbabweans. You are selling Uganda to whoever comes to your destination, please add the pearl of Africa on your menu.’’

Speaking on behalf of the private sector, the President, Uganda Tourism Association (UTA) Mrs Pearl Hoareau Kakooza, called upon government to invest more in industry capacity building, new product development, capital investments and facilitating access to affordable financing adding that access to more affordable financing would translate into a broader tax base and by extension, more tax revenue.

Lilly Ajarova, the Chief Executive Officer of Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) told the delegates that Uganda was full of abundant tourism opportunities characterized by the richest tourism attractions portfolio, best value for money for investors and tourists alike and therefore healthy returns on investment.

“We have the richest and most diverse range of human, natural, cultural, religious and historical attractions complemented by a warm tropical climate, warm people, great accommodations and great food, she said.

During the event the Uganda Tourism Board signed a memorandum of understanding with Uganda airlines.

Conservationists, tour operators detest government decision on Murchison falls

By Deo Wasswa
Stake holders in the tourism sector including tour operators, conservationists, civil society organizations and local communities have vowed to continue the fighting government’s decision to giveaway Uhuru falls, a section of Murchison falls towards the generation of hydro power.

On 3rd December 2019, a press statement by the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development indicated that the Government of Uganda signed a Memorandum of Understanding with M/S Bonang Energy and Power Ltd from the Republic of South Africa with its Norconsult and JSC Institute Hydro project to undertake detailed feasibility studies for a proposed Hydro power Project at Uhuru Falls located adjacent and parallel to the mighty Murchison Falls in Murchison Falls National Park.

While a team of over 200 people led by Everest Kayondo, chairperson Uganda tour operator’s body and journalists on 10th December toured the two falls , they established that there is construction of a tarmac road in the national park that will ease the ferrying of the construction material on the site.

Speaking to journalists, Kayondo urged the government to stop misleading the public that the project will be executed at Uhuru falls because the said falls are seasonal and depend largely on the Murchison falls.

Kayondo adds that the top of the falls also hold important cultural and historical regalia of great significance to the host communities from the many districts surrounding the park.

He noted that almost 70% of tourists who visits this National Park come to see these two waterfalls.

However, latest reports indicate that parliament has summoned minister Irene Muloni to explain these new developments.

UWA gives back to communities neighboring protected areas

By Gloria Nakiyimba

Uganda Wildlife Authority –UWA has today handed over cheques worth UGX 4,479,575,644 to communities surrounding Bwindi Mgahinga Conservation Area.

While handing over the cheque to the district leaders of Kisoro, Kanungu and Rubanda at the Bwindi Conservation Area under the revenue sharing scheme , Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities Prof. Ephraim Kamuntu appealed to the communities and leaders to support efforts of fighting illegal activities in protected areas.

“We are giving this money in recognition of the important role that communities play in our conservation efforts; we believe that we cannot effectively conserve wildlife without the support of the communities. I want to use this opportunity to thank you all for rallying behind UWA in conserving the two gorilla parks. It is my humble appeal to you that you continue with this support to conservation and ensure that all forms of illegal wildlife activities, are eliminated” he said.

The money will be used to finance a total of 76 projects: 17 in Kisoro, 24 in Rubanda and 35 projects in Kanungu. Four community camp sites will be funded in Bujengwe, Mpungu, Ruhija Sub County and Karangara.

One community Resource Center in Mukono Parish, Kayonza Sub County will also be set up using some of the cash and once completed, the community tourism camp sites will generate more revenue from the increasing tourism business to the community.
Prof. Kamuntu noted that government appreciates the contribution of communities neighboring protected areas in the conservation of wildlife in Uganda.

According to minister Kamuntu,the money disbursed under the revenue sharing scheme keeps on increasing because of the ever increasing number of tourists who visit the parks to track gorillas and urged them to work closely with the park management by ensuring that wrong elements do not infiltrate parks so that visitor numbers keep on swelling.

“The revenue share to the Districts will continue to increase, in response to the increasing number of tourists who come to our protected areas. I would like to appeal to everyone to play their role to ensure the parks and their surroundings do not get infiltrated by wrong elements that can cause insecurity” Kamuntu reiterated.

UWA Executive Director Sam Mwandha emphasized the benefits to the community from wildlife conservation saying, “today is very historic moment when we celebrate another important milestone in our effort for sustainable wildlife conservation. In line with the UWA mission, I am pleased with the release of yet another sum of these funds which include 20% park entry fees and $10 per gorilla tracking permit sold in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park,”

He said this money will improve the livelihoods of communities and alleviate poverty. He called for adequate monitoring of the fund so that they are put to good use. “With adequate monitoring, it is our hope that the funds will be put to good use and be spent in accordance with the approved projects so that the benefit the intended people” he said.

UTB partners with golfers to promote golf tourism

By Edwin Muhumuza
The Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) has launched a partnership with the Uganda Gold Union(UGU) in a bid to position Uganda as Africa’s premier golf tourism destination.

This partnership begins with the sponsorship of the Uganda Gold Open Tour set for the 30th March until the 14th of September 2019.

Outgoing UTB, CEO, Steven Asiimwe says the signing of the agreement is to highlight the impact that the sport has on tourism directly and indirectly.

‘Today was the culmination of the discussions that started four years ago. We want the golfers to go beyond the golf course and go have an experience in every tour that they go. Golfers do not travel alone, they are people of influence ,who travel with their families, and if they(UGU) went beyond the 18 holes they could influence other holes.’ he said.

The Uganda Golf Union has always wanted UTB to sponsor some of their tournaments but UTB demanded for the benefits beyond mere sponsorship to include marketing Uganda as a top golf tourism destination.

According to Asiimwe, Uganda is uniquely placed for both the domestic and international golfer and in every town, golf courses are within the vicinity of an experience. In Mbale , one is in eye distance shot of Wanale and Mt. Elgon, rich in many waterfalls. In Kihihi, there is even an airfield next to it, among others.

‘We want to attract many golfers from neighboring countries, we are fortunate to be in some of the shortest travel distance for golfers’, Asiimwe added

The Uganda Golf Union President ,Innocent Kihika noted that golf and tourism do move together because when one goes out for a round of golf, they have to travel, find accommodation, buy meals, locate where to get refreshments, and where to lounge again and all these have economic impact on the communities.

The agreement is expected to last three years and for the first year the Golf Union will receive fifty million shillings.

According to statistics an estimated 5 to 10% travel worldwide with the sole purpose of playing golf and this number is steadily increasing and on a global scale, golf contributes about $20billion annually and by itself is able to attract millions of holiday makers across the world and Uganda is properly located, with friendly weather all year round to accommodate such visitors.

The Uganda golf championship will see golfers visit Mbale, Namulonge, Jinja, Entebbe, Mbarara, Fort Portal among other locations.

UTB, tourism police crack down another fraudster

By Edwin Muhumuza
Kampala, Uganda. February 2, 2019. In another operation with the aid of Tourism Police, Mr. Didan Atukunda from Mamba Gorilla Safari has been arrested for declining to pay back an erroneous payment made by a tourist.

Mr. Atukunda was arrested in a bar in Kabale at 2am by the Tourism Police Regional commandant- Kigezi region, ASP Tinka Emmanuel. The tourist erroneously paid $30.000 instead of $3000 for a trip to trek Gorillas and Mr. Atukunda declined to make the $27,000 refund; forcing the tourist to contact the Uganda Tourism Board. Prior attempts by UTB to discuss and agree to a payment plan between Mr. Atukunda and the touris proved futile leading to the involvement of Tourism Police in a crackdown for Mr. Atukunda’s arrest.
He is currently enroute Kampala from Kabale and will be detained at Jinja Road police station awaiting hearing.

The Uganda Tourism Board through its Quality Assurance department is taking strong interventions to curb crime in the sector.

According to the UTB, Quality Assurance Manager Mr. Samora Semakula, UTB has set up a Tourism security committee consisting of Tourism Police, MTWA and representation from the Association of Uganda Tour Operators with the let aim of tactfully handling fraud and any cases reported by tourists.
Tourism is Uganda’s number one foreign exchange earner. We can not continue to let rogue operators destabilise the growth that we are seeing in the sector. Most importantly we want tourists to enjoy their stay in Uganda. Our role is to ensure quality standards are met in the sector.” Mr.Semakula said.

This brings the number of rogue your operators so far arrested this year to two. In a separate operation, Tourism Police and UTB cracked down and arrested Mr. Mugerwa Ahebwa who
defrauded American tourists of over $18,000. He is currently detained at Jinja Road police station awaiting hearing.

“We shall continue to crackdown rogue operators,”Mr. Semakula reinforces . The tourism industry currently contributes 10 per cent to gross domestic product, making it Uganda’s leading foreign exchange earner. The industry contributes more than $1.4b (Shs5.1 trillion) annually and is projected to earn about Shs10 trillion ($2.7b) by 2020.

About the Uganda Tourism Board
Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) is a statutory organisation established in 1994. Its role and mandate was reviewed in the Tourism Act of 2008. The Board's mandate is to promote and market Uganda across the region and internationally, promote quality assurance in tourist facilities through training, grading and classification, promote tourism investment, support and act as liaison for the private sector in tourism development. The broader goals of the Board are to increase the contribution of tourism earnings and GDP; improve Uganda’s competitiveness as an international tourism destination; and increase Uganda's share of Africa's and World tourism market. UTB aims to create inclusive opportunities for the tourism sector through market transformation.