The ministry of finance recently made it public that they will be reducing on the government ministries’ budgets so that they can clear the increasing budget deficit that the country is facing. This is something that is really frightening to the tourism stakeholders because the prosperity of the industry highly depends on how good the government invests in it which is very evident in Rwanda. There was a signification increase in the amount allocated to the tourism sector in this financial year which ends in June 2016 and this was done to help the Pearl of Africa widen its markets so that we can receive more visitors. The more dollars flowing into the country, shows how good the sector is performing.
Unfortunately in Uganda the tourism budget is not untouchable like that of the defense ministry or any other ministry that is considered fundamental to the smooth running of the country. This kind of attitude towards the tourism industry may be very destructive since it will eventually lead to a reduction in the number tourists visiting the country and weaken the industry.
Stakeholders in the industry try really hard to market Uganda’s products like through this recent successful WTM in London but it this won’t be possible with a smaller budget. More marketing strategies have been established, like the upcoming second Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo which will be held at Serena hotel in Kampala and there are so many buyers and fellow tourism boards as well as the media invited.
While the government thinks tourism industry is not important, it’s actually very important that the tourism budget is not cut because it will make it impossible to execute so many activities that were planned to be done. We should be able to use the Pope’s visit to Uganda which will be about three weeks from now to promote the pilgrimage tourism in the country and in the same way, we should also be able to influence the world using the honors received from the Lonely Planet and National Geographic as the must visit place in Africa. We can only tap into external markets to boost tourism if we have the money to use. And we cannot relax because in tourism business, you have to use the present situation to your benefit since you can’t be sure such an opportunity will ever return.
It is disappointment to have tourism budget cut and yet it is the tourism industry that brings in most of foreign exchange, it is one of the country’s best performer which means that if tourism is not doing so well, then the deficit will even increase. It is therefore important that they understand how important it is to allocate a big sum to the tourism industry.
After the Pearl of Africa tourism expo, the Uganda Tourism Board will carry out 3 familiarization tours across Uganda, the participants will be the media people and the hosted buyers and it is intended to showcase our different attractions. During this fam trip, places like Kidepo Valley, the popular Murchison Falls national park, the only rhino sanctuary Uganda has called Ziwa, then to Queen Elizabeth and last visit Bwindi impenetrable for some gorilla tracking. Such familiarization trips are organized to remind us of what we are wasting if we do not invest and market our tourism sites and products most of which are really unique that are hardly found anywhere else.