“Set up tourism fund” Bankers say as industry explores tourism at annual meet
With travel bans now lifted, and both foreign tourist arrivals and domestic tourist movements expected to grow in coming months and years, the annual Uganda Bankers Association (UBA) annual banking conference has turned its focus to the tourism sector as a potential driver of Uganda’s post Covid-19 recovery.
Reports from the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) indicate that due to the restrictions on movement of people during the Covid-19 lockdown, there had been a slowdown in the tourism sector with knock-on effects on hospitality industry with low occupancy rates.
In an effort to unleash the potential of the sector, Uganda’s bankers met at the Serena Conference Center and hotel to explore solutions to accelerate the tourism industry’s recovery.
In 2019, tourism revenue was estimated at $1.6 billion, which saw a hit by 90% during the Covid-19 lockdown. To mitigate this, the European Union availed loans & grants to different players in this sector to help cushion the hit.
Speaking at the conference, Luis Lechiguero, a Spanish national and tourist said that Uganda has full potential because it has nature, wildlife, cultural diversity, the weather, the food, music, handicrafts and a fully English proficient welcoming and friendly population. “Uganda only needs some investment,” he said.
Stephen Asiimwe, executive director of the Private Sector Foundation Uganda pointed out that a tourism fund similar to one started in Kenya during the President Mwai Kibaki era is necessary to accelerate tourism related investments.
“Give Uganda Tourism Board (UTB), tourism related agencies and the ministry and Uganda’s missions abroad a bigger budget to sell Uganda,” Asiimwe said.
He added: “We are not exploiting our national airlines as a marketing tool. Most countries use their national airline to push the brand. Going forward Uganda airlines should be given that space to push our national brand.”
Asiimwe also pushed for skills development and training.
Lilly Ajarova, the Uganda Tourism Board Executive Director noted that the “Explore Uganda, the Pearl of Uganda” destination brand campaign was recently launched.
Explaining the brand campaign, she noted that like a pearl, Uganda is rare and precious.
“All that is in the African continent is also found in Uganda. Uganda has it all, that is our uniqueness. We cannot only single out a single product, this makes Uganda a value destination,” Ajarova said.
She pointed out that one can see the mountain gorillas, the big five wild animals, experience culture, agro-tourism, faith based tourism and climb the mountains without travelling to other African countries. She noted that of recent, UTB is promoting domestic tourism.
“We need every Ugandan to be an ambassador of Uganda as a destination,” she said.
Basil Ajer, director of tourism at Ministry of Tourism said that the Tourism Act is being amended to recognize the financing options for the tourism sector. “A cabinet memorandum is being worked on and we shall have views coming in from the private sector,” he said.